Warning to all those not caught up on Mad Men: spoilers to follow!
While this final season of Mad Men, which will be split into two parts like AMC’s other hugely successful show Breaking Bad, is going to be focusing on the fall (and possible redemption) of Jon Hamm‘s Don Draper, there’s another person whose fate we await: John Slattery‘s Roger Sterling. The silver-haired smooth-talking ad man, who is looking more and more like an anachronism in his three-piece suits amid the hippie beads of his co-workers, has been through as much of a personal grind as Draper.
Let’s begin with the fact that Sterling now has to deal with two children: Draper, whom he has to practically babysit after he talked the other partners at the agency into bringing him back after his meltdown with Hershey, and his own daughter Margaret, who has abandoned her son and husband to go live on a free-thinking commune. Sterling’s getting stretched thin, and this is a man whose biggest decision for much of his life has been what kind of alcohol he wants to drink at work or after it.
What would be ideal is to see Sterling have some kind of redemption arc himself. Right now, that lasting image of him picking himself up out of the mud and slinking off back to New York while his daughter remained with the commune is him at his absolute lowest. Forget his heart attack, hitting on Betty Draper, and his LSD trip: this is the nadir for the erstwhile smooth operator. He realized that he massively screwed up while spending all those years chasing after nearly every female with a pulse that was not his wife.
We want to see Roger pick himself up from that moment and maybe move on into the 1970s with a sense that he’s actually grown as a person, that it’s never too late for someone to improve themselves. It took a big man to be able to take Draper back at his job. That in of itself was a nice sign, though having one of his group of hippies who were staying in his hotel room enter shortly thereafter dimmed that shining moment just a tad.
Slattery is an excellent actor, especially in that scene with Margaret at the commune when he realized that he had helped create this unholy mess. The show should give him more scenes of inward reflection to work with. This doesn’t just have to be about the redemption of one man… or one woman, since Elisabeth Moss‘ Peggy Olson has just become really irritating this season, given her moping and anger at work. Vincent Kartheiser‘s Peter Campbell is on the other side of the country now, in California, and while the now-divorced ad man has a bit of an arc, centering more on Sterling would be a better idea.
Let’s just hope that Sterling’s not the falling man in the opening credits…