Potential spoiler alerts ahead.
Let me more or less agree with Coates’ view on season 6 of Mad Men, or at least the first few episodes, which can be summed up by the fact that Draper’s latest affair is not very interesting.
Except he’s lost something. Don is a beautiful philandering stud. That was always there but it was wrapped in so much more–his role as father to a young daughter (gone thus far), his role as a kind of father to Peggy (gone by necessity of plot), his relationship with Roger as some future image of himself (also gone), his relationship with Anna (gone to the grave), his fear of unmasking (seemingly also gone.) What’s left is a dude who makes adultery look beautiful. My impulse is to say that this Don Draper is lot less interesting. But I wonder if this Don Draper is all of what we actually came for. Did most of always think of the literature as gift-wrapping for the style?
Who knows. But I’d rather see the camera shift, and Don Draper give some scenes away to those characters who really are changing, not just relapsing. It’s true that in real life, real people relapse all the time. But stories are not real life. They have beginnings and ends chosen by their creators.
The season’s high points thus far have come when it has focused on the non-Don characters. Betty entering into hippiedom to find that runaway girl. Harry being a massive jerk in the last episode, especially toward Joan who is dealing with the fallout of her choice to prostitute herself for the company and her own personal advancement. Roger’s sessions with the psychiatrist. But Matthew Weiner continues to hold the focus of his show on Don and I don’t think it’s working very well right now. Cheating again makes perfect sense–a depressed serial cheater is very believable. But that doesn’t mean it is all that interesting season after season.
After a time, Deadwood moved away from Seth Bullock as the show’s central character. The Wire did the same with Jimmy McNaulty. Don Draper is far more compelling than either Bullock or McNaulty, but after 5+ seasons of focusing on Draper, there may not be that much else to say. Reading discussions of the great secrecy behind the premier of the show, it seems that the one secret Weiner really wanted to keep most hidden was Don’s new affair, suggesting that was Weiner’s big move for the season. But I think that was probably misguided and might be creating a trap for the show more difficult to get out of than Draper’s season-long depression in the 4th season that seemed to drag things along for awhile.
I’m still watching a well-crafted show with good writing, but so far I’m not watching a very compelling season of that show.
Of course, there’s still 9 episodes to go.