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By Jennifer Baldwin. I’ve never been to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland theme park. In fact, one of my biggest regrets was not visiting Disneyland while I lived in L.A. The very name itself – “Tomorrowland” – seems to encapsulate the streamlined optimism and chrome-shiny futurism of the mid-1960s. TOMORROWLAND! It’s the kind of name that promises all the greatness of tomorrow, none of the dreariness of today.

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In the season four finale, Don’s ready for Tomorrowland. It might be a little fake, a little false, just maybe a little too happy and sunny with optimism, but it’s The Future, it’s Tomorrow. Megan is Don’s Tomorrowland.

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She’s everything Betty is not: patient, warm, caring, easy-going, independent. She gets along with Don’s kids; she doesn’t freak out when the milkshake gets spilled. She even seems to bring out the Dick Whitman in Don (though I wonder if it’s really Megan who brings it out or if it’s really the freedom of that California world, which always seems to unleash the inner Dick Whitman).

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What I find interesting is that Megan doesn’t “know” all about Don’s Dick Whitman past and yet he seems to feel that she does know the “real” him. This is in contrast to the way Don acted with Faye. She knew his secret and yet he continued to put on a mask and play a part with her, the part of suave and damaged creative genius. I should have known Don and Dr. Faye would never work out.

Don & Megan.

With Megan – whether their relationship will last or not – Don does seem to be more boyish, more smiley and at ease (in other words, more like Dick Whitman). But as always with Don, I’m left wondering if this too isn’t an act, Don “playing” the part of Dick Whitman in order to fool himself. The last shot of Don, in bed with Megan in his apartment, looking out the darkened window suggests that Faye’s words to him hold some truth: Don only likes the beginnings of things.

But isn’t that true of all of us? Aren’t the beginnings always the best? When Tomorrowland first opened in Disneyland, it was new and exciting, a thrilling glimpse into a Disney-styled future. Over the years, Disney has tried to keep the park new and futuristic, with the underlying fear that if they’re not careful, Tomorrowland will become “Yesterdayland,” and who wants yesterday?

We all want something new, something fresh. That’s one of the first essentials of advertising, after all, as Don rightly pointed out in the first season finale. “New. It creates an itch.” We all have that itch, we all long for the thing that will satisfy our longings, the thing that will let us start over again, the thing that will take us into tomorrowland and a happy future. And isn’t that new thing just over the horizon? Isn’t it some new person who comes along, a new job, a new city, a new relationship, a new life we’ve always been looking for?

Unfortunately for us – and for Don – Tomorrowland will eventually turn into Todayland, and then Yesterdayland, but we keep itching for the New.

Joan & Peggy.

I’m as skeptical as Joan and Peggy about Don’s marriage to Megan. It smacks of the “boss marries his secretary” cliché that weaker men like Roger succumb to. This isn’t quite fair to Megan, of course, because she seems much more genuine, gentler, and deeper than vapid Jane. But she’s still a bit of a wild card in that she’s so new to Don, so new to us the audience, that who knows what will happen after the marriage and beyond. Will the shiny newness of Megan wear off and turn into the hard emptiness of Betty?

I imagine Betty was once that new and shiny thing in Don’s eyes as well, but now she’s a cold, bitter, emotionally stunted woman. I’ve gone from loving Betty as a character to hating her, but her final scene in this final episode of the season has made me kind of love her again. Here’s a woman who is so desperately messed up, it’s hard not to sympathize with her a little as she touches up her make-up in anticipation for her “accidental” run-in with Don. Poor Betty! She went for the “new” in Henry Francis, only to find that this “newness” gets old pretty fast. You can see it all on her face in that final scene with Don: “What if Don and I could be together again? What if things had been different? What if I made a mistake in marrying Henry? What if Don is still The One?”

Betty & Don.

I knew she still had feelings for him, but those final moments between the two of them (especially on her side) were filled with so much wistful regret, so much melancholy, I almost couldn’t watch. Beautiful acting by January Jones and Jon Hamm. I know it’s impossible at this point, but in my fairy tale head-version of the show, Don and Betty get back together after many long years of soul searching and maturing. They meet again when they are middle aged and reconnect – older and wiser now, they are ready to be together. It’s a fantasy, of course, and one the show is unlikely to fulfill. But isn’t that what we humans do? We wish for a fantasy that can never come true? In the future, just over the horizon, in Tomorrowland, things can start anew, we can find happiness.

But Tomorrowland is a façade. It’s not the future, it’s not a new beginning. It’s just pretend. It’s a theme park attraction masquerading as a real tomorrow. We’ll have to wait and see if Don’s new life with Megan will be a real future, a real tomorrow, or if it’s all just Tomorrowland.

Megan & Don.

Some final thoughts:

• It turns out I was wrong and my cousin was right: Joan DIDN’T have an abortion. She kept the baby and Greg thinks it’s his. I have to admit, I was not expecting that. Well done, all of you who guessed it!

• Poor Doctor Faye! I went from instantly disliking her to really loving her character, but it looks like Faye just wasn’t in the cards for Don. Oh well. I think she and Don could have been great together, but Don’s still looking for home and family (something he never had as a child), and Faye just wasn’t it. Once again, Faye has all the right insights. She said Don would be married by the end of the year, and so he is (just not to her).

• Is Bert Cooper gone for good? I hope not, since Robert Morse is a legend and a delightful presence on the show. Come back, Bert!

• Finally, I loved the call back to the first episode of the season – “Who is Don Draper?” – in Sally’s line to her dad, “Who is Dick?” when she saw the name painted on Anna’s wall. Don’s answer was interesting. He doesn’t really lie; instead, he admits that he is Dick, though he doesn’t tell his daughter the complete truth. But in finally admitting a small part of his Dick Whitman identity to Sally, I’m hopeful that Don will continue to integrate his Dick and Don sides, and eventually become a whole, complete person. I’m sure this development is way down the line (if we ever get there at all), but it was a nice way to bookend the season.

Who is Don Draper? He was a man who seemed lost and out of control for part of the season, a man adrift and despairing. He was also a man who began putting his life back together, who tried to find a new identity after his marriage. He tried to improve himself, began dating again, found some measure of happiness in a relationship with Faye (and now Megan). And in his California trip, even with Anna gone, Don seemed to become more like Dick Whitman, even if it was only for a week’s vacation.  As for whether this change, this integration of his two sides will continue next season, we’ll just have to stay tuned.

Posted on October 26th, 2010 at 4:57pm.

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7 Responses to “Mad Men Season Four, Episode 13, “Tomorrowland””

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mr. K, Libertas Film Mag. Libertas Film Mag said: "Mad Men" Season Four, Episode 13, “Tomorrowland” … See: http://bit.ly/dtteiq [...]

  2. Curtin/Dobbs says:

    Ms. Baldwin…Have loved your analysis of Mad Men and am looking forward to your take on next season. Any word on when next season will pick up? 1968?
    Re: Draper/Whitman, Do you know what the consequences would have been in the mid-60’s if it was disclosed to the government that he appropriated another soldier’s identity? Nowadays, it’d be no problem. He’d go on Oprah and get rich.

  3. Jennifer Baldwin says:

    Thanks, Curtin/Dobbs! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my Mad Men posts. :)

    I have not heard anything about which year they’ll set it in next season. If I had to guess, I’d say no later than ‘67, only because the “Summer of Love” was such an iconic time that I don’t think they’d skip over it. But who knows. ‘68 was tumultuous as well and would make for an interesting backdrop to the travails of Don Draper. I wonder if Weiner might take the show past the ’60s into the 1970s. He’s unpredictable, so anything is possible! :D

    As far as Don’s stolen identity and the legal/military ramifications back then versus now, I really have no idea. You’re right though that in today’s culture the whole thing would turn into a reality show circus.

    Thanks again for reading, it’s very much appreciated!

  4. Anton says:

    Poor Faye! She really loved and respected Don, but she is too “familiar” so we knew that would not work. Better the young, bright and beautiful symbol of “Tomorrowland.” The problem is, the earth is about shift as the 60s and 70s go full bore, and whatever bright future is promised, the old rules of the game-indeed almost all the rules of life-are about to be thrown out. Tomorrow will bring chaos and confusion, and there will be plenty of casualties…and like the Vietnam morass, this war will be televised.

    • Jennifer Baldwin says:

      I do wonder if Weiner will take the show into the ’70s, just to show how far the early ’60s promise of a bright future has fallen. Am I totally crazy for thinking Weiner will turn the tables on what we expect will happen with Don and Megan? That he’ll have Don be totally happy and faithfully in love and Megan will be the one to start stepping out?

  5. johngaltjkt says:

    Kudos to writers of this show. I’ve just finished the First Season and without a doubt it’s one of the most consistently insightful written shows of the past thirty to forty years. I mean that across all forms of filmed entertainment(television, ,movies,etc.). There’s some exceptions of course however, as We’ve lamented on this blog, the bar for what’s considered literate entertainment continues to be lowered every year. Hollywood is more interested in a ham-handed engineering of their version of social change based upon a warped view of reality.

    • Jennifer Baldwin says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the show! It really is ridiculously well-written and each episode is perfectly crafted, from the acting to the set design to the directing to the music. I would say at this point, the second and fourth seasons are my two favorites, though the first and third seasons are also excellent (if a bit uneven).

      While I wouldn’t classify Mad Men as a “conservative” show, I also wouldn’t say it’s a liberal show. The tone is what I would call “observational” — it lets the viewer decide for himself how to interpret things. I think the show is very honest about the good and the bad of the 60s cultural shift and in today’s Hollywood landscape it’s a breath of fresh air.

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