Did 'Mad Men' Jump the Shark? Making Sense of Don's Surprise Proposal

His secretary? Really?

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[Spoilers ahead.] AMC's Mad Men is the quintessential slow-burning TV drama. For four seasons, the show's ebb and flow has turned on long-simmering plot points that come to a head near the end of each season. Sunday's season finale "Tomorrowland," however, was different. Out of nowhere, Don Draper proposed to his 25-year-old secretary Megan and she accepted. Their engagement abruptly ended Don's promising relationship with Dr. Faye Miller and left a number of fans bewildered. To many of the show's critics, it was a cheap plot twist and a betrayal of the show's artful narrative style. Has Mad Men jumped the shark?

  • A Dreadful Plot 'Stunt', writes Hillary Busis at The Wall Street Journal:
“Tomorrowland’s” big announcement feels lazy... “Mad Men” is usually so carefully plotted that it’s unpleasantly jarring for the show to pull the rug out under its viewers with a stunt like this. I, for one, am half-hoping that Season 5 finds Don coming to his senses when he realizes that he actually knows nothing about his fiancée, the French cipher.

Generally speaking, though, there’s been no indication that Don saw Megan as more than a secretary until tonight. Instead, Don spent most of Season 4 pursuing, then dating no-nonsense psychologist Faye Miller, a character that was awarded a lot more screen time than Megan. Faye was also given a more clearly defined personality than Don’s former secretary. We know that the good doctor, a Jewish New York native from the wrong side of the tracks, is a hardnosed careerist with a hidden soft side. Megan, on the other hand… is French-Canadian. And beautiful. That’s basically it.

  • It Just Didn't Make Any Sense, writes Kyle Anderson at MTV: "Sunday night's episode... couldn't help but be disappointing. The one major revelation (Don's proposal to secretary Megan) seemed out of context. This entire season had been about Don finding bottom and then digging himself out, mostly with the help of Dr. Faye Miller (who apparently has been written off the show, which is a real shame). But just when it seemed like Don had evolved a bit and embraced a healthy, adult relationship, he allowed his impetuous side to take over. He offered up the engagement ring that the late Anna had left for him and found himself engaged. His breakup with Dr. Miller got short shrift, but her exit line to him was cutting and true. "You only like the beginnings of things," she snapped before hanging up the phone."
  • I Disagree: Megan Proved Herself to Don, writes Jo Piazza at Pop Eater:
Megan is much much savvier than we all gave her credit for. ... Megan tolerated Don's relationship with Faye, bided her time and waited for an opening. Not once did she display any jealousy. Yet, again showing that she won't be the kind of heavy lift that Don abhors in his women.

She passed the mommy test with flying colors whereas Faye was mediocre at best when she had to watch his runaway miscreant of a daughter for a few hours. Megan putting the kids to sleep with a French lullaby, melted Don's heart and drove the final nail into Dr. Faye's coffin. She might as well just have put Anna's engagement ring on her finger herself that night.
  • It Made Perfect Sense if You Think About It, writes Logan Hill at New York Magazine:
As a tide of critics are rising on Twitter, I'm going to argue for why it worked. If you hated the finale, you were likely disappointed that, after a season of grappling with change and self-awareness, Don didn't just end up with the wrong woman, he didn’t change enough. And if you loved or at least respected the finale, it might be because Don’s impulsive, ill-informed decision made a certain sort of sobering sense. ...

Don is falling in love with Megan, in large part, because she’s not Betty, exploding into rage, or Faye, nervous and freaked out around the kids. She’s not high-strung and unpredictable. ... Part of Megan's appeal is that she'll let Don go back to thinking about work and nothing but work.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.