There are three episodes left and much at stake for the characters of Mad Men (caution: spoilers ahead!) — Don’s under investigation by the feds, Roger lost the Lucky Strike account but hasn’t told anybody, Pete has a kid on the way, and Joan’s husband is away at war (plus, she’s maybe still pregnant with Roger’s baby). How will the fourth season end? We have no idea! But that certainly won’t prevent us from baselessly speculating. Given Matthew Weiner’s allergy to neat, predictable endings, we assume that our guesses are totally wrong. But maybe some lucky Vulture commenter — please chime in! We’ll collect our favorite reader predictions in a post on Friday — will be right. Herewith Vulture’s season-finale forecast for each of Mad Men’s main characters.
The Arc: Don started the season on top of his game at the office, then drank himself empty. Now he’s cleaned up, but his newfound cockiness and sloppiness (midday swims and naps instead of ten-cocktail lunches) has opened him up to a dangerous federal investigation that could put the whole firm at risk. Will Don fall up off the wagon, into federal prison, or in love with Faye? Or will he end up with his simple, sensitive, slender secretary, Megan?
Our Infallible Prediction: As in past seasons, Don will hurtle further into the abyss for another two episodes: Without Lane in town, and without the Lucky Strike or North American Aviation accounts, the firm will enter a potentially business-ending tailspin. Roger will stab Don in the back to protect himself by blaming Don, somehow, for the Lucky Strike failure. Betty will blackmail him by threatening to go to the Feds. Pete will play the angles. And Don will panic: He takes the kids, runs away, and the season finale finds him on the lam, while all hell breaks loose back in the office.
The Arc: Pete’s been lurking in the shadows like some dark Sith lord for much of the season. Thanks to Trudy’s pregnancy, his power has grown: He won Lane’s respect, humbled Ken, and broke down his father-in-law, but he’ll never feel like he has the respect he desires. Soon, he’ll be a father.
Our Infallible Prediction: Trudy and Pete’s child will be stillborn. Pete will be crushed, and he will see the tragedy as karmic payback for the loss of Peggy’s child. He’ll have to blame someone and he’ll choose to blame Peggy. Consequently, the two will enter a phase of quiet warfare.
The Arc: Peggy’s power has also grown this year, though not nearly as quickly as she would like. She has ditched a fiancé, flirted with bohemia, and struggled to find her place in the office. Most recently, she’s drawn the attentions of Abe, an obsessive lefty pamphleteer who has the hots for her.
Our Infallible Prediction: Abe will stitch back together his fiery op-ed “Nuremberg on Madison Avenue” as revenge for having his heart broken by Peggy. In the piece, Abe will single her out by name and trash SCDP, which will be on shaky ground enough without this bad press. It won’t be a big deal to the firm, but Peggy will be crushed, and be ostracized by all of her new bohemian friends.
The Arc: Openly mocked in the office, powerless to stop her husband from going to Vietnam, Joan suddenly found herself in Roger’s arms. In the last episode, she announced that she was pregnant, got a painfully predictable response from Roger, and ended up in an abortion clinic. Did she get the abortion or not? It’s unclear.
Our Infallible Prediction: Joan didn’t get the abortion. In the season finale, she’ll find out that her husband has died in Vietnam, and stoically reveal to Don (but not Roger) that she’s having Roger’s baby.
The Arc: This season, Roger has regressed more into alcoholic, irresponsible childishness, to the point that his presence at SCDP has become something of an open joke, with Don and Peggy and Joan all mocking his audiotaped memoir, and clients jumping ship. The last three episodes will either be Roger’s comeback or his end.
Our Infallible Prediction: Roger goes out in a blaze of glory. No matter how wretched his life has become, he’s always had a flair for the dramatic. Bereft of accounts, somewhat guilty over Joan’s abortion (which he believes happened), Roger makes a furious last play to land some new business and fails in some spectacularly embarrassing, risky way. He ends his life after delivering the funniest “famous last words” ever.
Faye, social-research scientist, emerged as a confident, coolheaded counterpoint to Don. Her methods were sketchy, her results were dubious, and her hair was always perfect. She rejected Don, rejected Don, and then ended up in bed with Don, breaking lamps. Now she knows his secret.
Our Infallible Prediction:
That mob reference could be just a teaser, but in Carla Buono’s interview with Vulture
, she confirmed that saying her father worked in a candy store was like saying “waste management.” When Don breaks up with her, which he will, she won’t call in a hit. But maybe Faye’s pop will call in a few friends to teach Mr. Draper a lesson.
The Arc: Betty’s faded a bit this season, out in Ossining with Henry Francis. Her parenting skills only seem to have worsened, her sex appeal to Henry is fading, and her daughter is running away from home. Don still gets under her skin, and she doesn’t seem to understand the extent of Henry’s unrest. In the last episode, she seemed to make some sort of peace with Henry, even while hiding the true extent of the lies she told the FBI to protect Don.
Our Infallible Prediction: The character who most infuriates Mad Men fans will end up on top. She’ll blackmail Don by threatening to leak information about his past and Don will fold, signing over the house and much of his money, leaving Don rootless and broke, like his father. Then Betty will buy an amazing new dress.
The Arc: Henry’s taken heat for his marriage from his family, who think he just wanted to bed a pretty girl, and certainly, it seems like one-upping Don and shtupping Betty are two of his young marriage’s key attractions. He keeps hoping that Betty will learn to play the part of the political wife, and she’s learning. Meanwhile, he’s finally managed to get Don’s boxes out of his house and win at least a few rounds with Mr. Draper. After their birthday-party face-off, in that tight white T-shirt, a surprisingly muscled Henry seemed more confident than ever.
Our Infallible Prediction: Henry gets it all: Betty’s blackmail works wonders. Now he’s got a house that’s paid for and his consulting business takes off. He couldn’t be happier. Except Betty still scares him sometimes.
The Arc: Sally has had a rough year, for such a little girl. She’s dealing with divorce. Her only friend is Glenn, a possibly sociopathic creep who trashed her house. She masturbated on her friend’s couch and got caught. She ran away from home and got caught. But now, she’s got tickets to see the Beatles in Shea Stadium!
Our Infallible Prediction: Sally has fully transferred her father-figure crush from Grandpa Eugene to Don. Running away from home was the beginning. But when Don cancels their trip to see the Beatles because the rest of his life is falling apart, Sally is crushed. She’s got nobody. So she runs away again, into the arms of Glenn.
The Arc: That numbers-stickler Lane has run into trouble this year. His marriage has fallen apart, he’s fallen in love with a Playboy Bunny, and, most recently, he’s been literally caned and stomped on by his father. Now he’s headed back to London to make things right with his family — which means he’ll be away from the office at a critical juncture.
Our Infallible Prediction: Lane barely figures into the last three episodes at all. By being out of town, and out of reach in London (where he’ll underestimate the real troubles at SCDP), Lane will increase the chances of some apocalyptic season finale, just by being so far away that he can’t hold things together. His absence will be a pure plot device that reveals the childish irresponsible unprofessional nature of all the overgrown American boys in the office.
The Arc: So far, all we know about Megan is that she’s leggy, subservient, simpleminded, and sweetly sensitive. Her scenes with Sally revealed her maternal instincts; her scenes with Don have revealed a deep need to please, if not a specific crush on her boss. Otherwise, she’s seemed clueless.
Our Infallible Prediction: Don won’t be able to resist. Don’s life is already so complicated that a relationship with someone as fully developed as Faye (with her own interests and stuff) could push him over the edge. Instead, he’ll appreciate the usefulness of Megan, the perfect unquestioning assistant-mother-sex-object and woo her for a marriage of convenience, confirming Faye’s prophecy that he’ll be married within the year. That said, since Don will be a broke fugitive on the lam, it may not be the Barbie dream house she’d imagined.