Mad Men Weekly Review - The Forecast

“But it’s got to get better. It’s supposed to get better” – Don
I wasn’t alive then, but based on everything we’ve ever heard about the late 60’s/early 70s, the amount of uncertainity for the future at this point in history was overwhelming. Possibly mankind’s greatest achievement occurred when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, but it was also an era when the Manson Family and the Zodiac Killer terrorized the West Coast, an unpopular war raged on in Vietnam and in just two years from the current era of the latest “Mad Men” episodes, a group of men would walk into the Watergate Hotel and spark doubts about our nation’s most powerful leaders.
In the world of Sterling Cooper & Partners, Don and many of his co-workers have gotten seemingly everything they could want. Ever since they cast off on their own at the end of the third season, the goal of the agency was to find a way to stay afloat, especially after Lucky Strike left, but now they are merged with a powerful parent agency and immensely wealthy, so what is left to anticipate for the future?
That question of what is left once you have everything you need seems to be dominant thematic question of these final episodes and  “The Forecast” digs deep into what lies ahead for these characters and what they hope for themselves. When Roger assigns Don the task of preparing a speech for him to deliver to executives at a McCann Erickson retreat in the Bahamas, it evolves into an opportunity for him to examine what he foresees over the company’s future but Don takes it as an opportunity to examine what he sees for himself.
When he’s unable to pull anything together, even resorting to digging up the original SCDP mission statement from seven years earlier for inspiration, he talks to Ted and Peggy, whose ambitions are tied to advertising. Peggy has clear and well-thought out ambitions for her future, but her work-related goals don’t do anything to help Don relieve his own personal malaise.
We know from past seasons, that Don is more than just cruising by on his looks, but when Mathis lashes out after insulting a client by accusing him of basically being an empty suit, it sticks with Don, who has pondered in the past whether he’s responsible for anything of lasting value. And it’s clearly in the back of his mind when he tells Sally at the end of the episode, “You’re a very beautiful girl. It’s up to you to be more than that.”
Meanwhile Joan is left trying to reconcile the dreams she’s had for her life throughout the series’ duration with the realities of her current situation. She embarks on a whirlwind romance with a charming older man (sounds familiar) and the spontaneity of it appeals to the woman who could have any man she wanted with no strings attached when we meet her in the first season. She also, like Don, now has incredible wealth, but she doesn’t have the freedom she once possessed now that she has a four-year old son to take care of.
When she storms out of her apartment telling the baby sitter that she’s ruining her life, there’s a part of her that is probably really saying it to Kevin. And though she’s obviously being sarcastic when she tells Richard she’ll choose him over her son, Joan would also like a find a way to successfully balance a personal life with being a working mom.
Out in Rye, Sally makes her first appearance of the final season’s back half and with that we get a final curtain call for everyone’s favorite bathroom snooper, Glen Bishop. In each of his annual appearances the last few seasons, Glen has served as a sort of older brother figure for Sally, commiserating and guiding her through the problems she experiences at home. Just like most of the people in her life though, he lets her down not only with his news about enlisting in the army, but also the mutual “Graduate”-style flirtation between himself and Betty.
While Sally later on tries to make amends with Glen, she’s less understanding about her mother’s impulse to put on the charm and even less so when her father inadvertently gives off the same vibe during a dinner with her school friends. “Anyone pays attention to either of you, and they always do, and you just ooze everywhere,” Sally bemoans.
While Don isn’t in anyway trying to flirt with Sally’s friend, Betty and Glen’s relationship has been strange and borderline perverse dating back to him walking in on her sitting on a toilet while she was babysitting him in the first season, but their strange bond makes a little bit more sense when you factor in that Betty is emotionally pretty much an overgrown child throughout the series’ first few years.
Their scene in the kitchen late in the episode is extremely uncomfortable to watch, but ultimately shows that Betty has matured. Glen’s about to report for duty and wants to leave with a good memory of this woman he’s fantasized about for the last 10 years, but Betty has the good sense to not follow through on her own slight attraction to her daughter’s now fully-grown friend. Ultimately she ends up feeling sympathy for the boy she once barred Sally from seeing.
Some other notes:
·         I had assumed Lou Avery was long gone after the events of last year’s midseason finale, but he also has a contract with the agency, so it appears Roger solved the problem by exiling the wannabe-cartoonist to the Los Angeles office.  Still no appearance from last year’s other villain, Jim Cutler, and I doubt that will change. He likely took the payout from the merger with McCann Erickson and crawled out of the Time-Life Building with his tail between his legs.
·         Following Marie Calvet’s furniture heist last week, Don’s living room now consists of the furniture from his patio, reminding me of a similarly sparse living arrangement.

·         Lots of pop culture references in this episode: Joan’s son is seen watching “Sesame Street”, which had recently premiered in late 1969, while Bobby and his apparently mute brother Gene want to watch “The Brady Bunch”, which was also just debuting. In addition Betty refers to Sally as Jane Fonda, referencing the actress’ well-known anti-war stance while Sally reacts to Glen’s news about enlisting in the army by citing the Kent State shootings, which had occurred in May 1970. Finally, the credits tune was Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” one of the most popular songs of the era.

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