Mad Men Season 6 Asks: What Is Happiness?

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“A moment before you need more happiness,” quips Don Draper to a quizzical Roger Sterling in the season six teaser. While it seems out of reach for the cast of “Mad Men”, something about their unending, quest for happiness makes for some of the best television of our era.

At the end of season five, we left Don at the bar, courted by two lovely young sirens who are beckoning him to slip back into his duplicitous ways. We’re left with one of the most powerful, yet understated, cliff hangers thus far.

Don’s Sink or Swim: On a persona level, each complex character will continue to wrangle their inner demons as they deal with a changing world and a changing professional ecosystem. Don’s torment over the suicide of his brother was only compounded by Lane Pryce’s exit– the mental anguish Don grapples with over the loss of a friend and cohort could prove to be too much to bear. Don’s life has already been paved in loss and lined with stoic chagrin. Megan was supposed to be an emotional elixir for his self-reconciliation process, but her independent streak is starting to cause cracks in his idealized notion of her, and his morose complexities may prove too corrosive for her to handle without losing a bit of that free-spirited joy we’ve grown to love about her.

Peggy: Pressure doesn’t begin to describe the rigors of daily life that Peggy deals with. Although, her final confrontation with Don, as she ventures out on her own, could serve as foreshadowing to a to a reversal of roles— will Don be scrambling to impress Peggy someday soon? As self-destructive and vain as he can be, the end of season five reveals that he hasn’t lost all humility yet, but he has lost Peggy. Will she flourish on her own, or will she be confronted with, and disheartened by the same suitcase of problems she faced on her ascension up the ranks at Sterling Copper Draper Pryce?

Pete: Here’s a funny one; Pete Campbell may be the least likable character on the series, yet he manages to keep himself in the mix with the “big men,” somehow. Pete is like the whiny contestant that still somehow makes it into the big race. His disinterest in those he is supposed to love, makes us think that it won’t be long until karma gives him a hit he can’t recover from. Mad Men has never sought to provide its fans with  gift-wrapped solutions, so we sure hope he doesn’t end up on top.

Joan: Joan found herself on the bottom last season. After grappling with a fragile elf-esteem, that wants nothing but to be respected and loved for the right reasons, Joan realizes that she must pick herself up again. Unfortunately, Joan is at risk of becoming a scorned woman, and the psychological damage that comes out of that mess won’t be nearly as pretty as she is. Happiness doesn’t seem like a realistic option for Joan any longer, but just how much will her misery cost her new partners?

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