Mad Men 7×10 ‘The Forecast’: Somewhere to go

Mad Men 7x10 Cover

When we look at our lives, we see ourselves along a path.  Every facet of that path may not be absolutely clear to us, but we can see ourselves in a year, in five, in ten, or at least vague notions of what those versions of ourselves look like.  Being on a path is comforting; it assures us that, down the line, we’re going to be okay.  We’re going to accomplish what we set out to accomplish because we’re on that path.  We’re in control of our lives.  But the truth is that the path we create just doesn’t exist.  We might think that life is going to end up a certain way, but it never does.  Things happen to us, things outside of our control, and our lives move in trajectories we don’t imagine.  And, eventually, where we’re at is so far outside of the path we’ve created for ourselves that we don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing or where we’re supposed to be going.  Life doesn’t offer us a meaning or a singular path to take.  We’re always wanting, always searching, always trying to find the thing or the path that will make us happy and fulfilled.

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Source: AMC

“The Forecast” poignantly reminds us of these simple facts in each of its three storylines.  Joan’s is the farthest removed from the center of the episode, but it speaks to how Joan’s life has been shaped so far and how unforeseen events can inexorably change it.  The episode smartly reminds us of Joan’s past, how she has been through two divorces and has a four-year-old child.  Joan initially wanted to settle down with a nice man and have a couple kids, but the series has thrown so many obstacles in the way of that goal, not to mention how she has discovered that her own wants and desires didn’t align with the path she set herself on.  Joan has always been a very self-directed woman, to the point that she needed her job for her, not just for money.  And meeting a man who abused and raped her, as well as having a child with a man that romantically wasn’t right for her, pushed her away from that initial path and towards something else entirely.

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Source: AMC

In “The Forecast”, Joan travels to Los Angeles and meets Richard, an older, retired man who purposefully rid his life of responsibilities in order to find contentment.  He eventually finds out that she has a son, and when he finds that out, he steps back from her, emphasizing that his child-rearing days are over and it’s too much responsibility for him to deal with.  While this is happening, Joan is having trouble with the babysitter, who isn’t aligning her schedule exactly with Joan’s.  It’s a smart juxtaposition, as Joan’s wants and desires both include her work life, her romantic life, and her home life, and all of those aren’t going to align simply because she wishes it.  She doesn’t control how those fragments of her life intersect, and as a result, she lashes out at the babysitter and at her son because of that discontent.  It’s the same frustration that Don felt throughout his life, only Joan’s desires are a little more directed, since she knows that she wants to settle down but also wants her work life to be stable.  In the end, Richard tells her that he wants to be with her and her son, that he wants to be a part of her whole life and not just part of it.  Even for Richard, life doesn’t move in the direction that you think it will.  And it shows you that maybe there are more things that you want than what you thought you did.

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Source: AMC

Don’s storyline revolves around having to write a mission statement of sorts for McCann, where he has to talk about the future of the company.  It’s a pretty shameless way to have the characters considering the notion of the future, but it still works to show how Don has absolutely no idea what that future is supposed to be.  He talks to Ted and Peggy about that future, disguising the conversation because he doesn’t want people to see how afraid he is.  Ted can only think of new markets to break into, such as pharmaceuticals, which doesn’t impress Don.  Peggy, when thinking about her own future, only thinks about career moves or new ideas.  Don is unimpressed with this as well, not because they’re bad goals, but because he’s looking for something deeper, something that will fill the hole in his life.  Because, in essence, he’s trying to find some hidden meaning to his life (Peggy actually uses the phrase “meaning of life”), some reason for his existence and his suffering.  And there’s no easy answer to that.

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Source: AMC

This back half of Season 7 is mirroring Season 1 in terms of Don’s position.  He’s not married, but his career is almost exactly the same.  He has the job he had before.  He has security.  The real question here is: What has Don learned?  And Don certainly has learned more about himself.  He’s closer to accepting who he is, that he is both Donald Draper and Dick Whitman.  But is that enough to save him?  In atoning for his past sins, Don continually self-flagellates, to the point that he’s destroyed most of the relationships he has been a part of.  He has managed to save some of those relationships (the first half of Season 7 had him repairing relationships with Sally and Peggy, two of the most important people in his life), but there is still so much more work to do.  And as Don attempts to write that mission statement, he’s beginning to figure out that there’s so much time left, but there’s also little time left, and there’s much more work to do.

Mad Men 7x10-4

Source: AMC

The last storyline has Sally trying to define herself through her relationships with her mother, father, and Glen.  Glen has decided to enlist in the military and go to Vietnam, which has Sally furious.  Glen reveals to Betty that he flunked out of school and has to enlist, which goes to show how his life’s trajectory differed from what he thought it would.  But Sally thinks that Betty is flirting with Glen, when Betty clearly doesn’t want to reciprocate the emotions he has for her.  Sally also sees her father acting cozy with some of her friends before they go on a road trip; she thinks that he’s flirting with one of her more flirtatious friends.  This all causes her to become more disillusioned with her parents, but what she’s seeing is a lot different than what is actually happening.  She’s seeing all of this flirting and sexual behavior because she’s frightened that she will end up just like her parents, two people who she sees as aimless, but are both actually attempting to move forward with their lives (note how Betty says more than once that she’s going back to school).  When Don tells Sally that she’s more like him and Betty than she knows, there’s some truth to that.  Sally is just horribly afraid of what is to come next in her life, just like everybody else.

The end of the episode has Don finally selling his apartment to another couple, and as he exits that apartment, the door closed behind him, he stops to think.  It’s another chapter closed on his life, one step closer to death.  What did he learn from that chapter?  He got divorced again, made it back to the company to work the same job he worked at the beginning of the series.  Really, he has just moved in a huge circle.  But it means something that he stopped to reflect on the end of that chapter.  He knows, now more than before, that to revisit the past, to try to relive it, is only going to take him in another loop.  It’s what he did with Megan, trying to do marriage right after he messed it up with Betty.  But it’s as the realtor for his apartment says: The apartment reeks of failure.  And even though “a lot of wonderful things happened there”, there still was a lot of failure.

But now’s the chance for Don to move to a new chapter, to try to do something new instead of something familiar.  And maybe, in doing something new, he’ll find the answers he’s looking for.

So what did you think of “The Forecast”?  Do you think things are going to end well for Don?  Are you enjoying just how bleak these final episodes are?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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