Your Mad Men theories are not going to come true. My Mad Men theories are not going to come true. Collectively, the world’s Mad Men theories are not going to come true.
The venerable AMC series is finally coming to a close in mere weeks, as the second half of its final season kicks off on April 5, giving us just seven more episodes until the entire thing is over. It’s the end of an era, the taglines tell us, but more than that, it’s almost the end of Mad Men theorizing. Overanalyzing Mad Men has been a beloved pastime for entire years now, with whole theories built on slim slices like teaser trailers, images from opening credits, and even the cut of someone’s coat. The vast majority of these theories – especially the bigger, crazier, and more earth-shattering ones – have not come true. And they’re not going to.
When the sixth season of Mad Men wrapped up in June of 2013, I examined some of the better, wackier, and just plain bonkers-ier theories surrounding the series. With just one season left, it seemed high time for Weiner’s show to dish out what its most rabid fanbase apparently wanted (if, in fact, that show was going to go in that direction). Still, even before the series entered it final season, I had mostly tossed aside the – admittedly, really excellent and intriguing – theory that Megan Draper was either going to a) become a Sharon Tate stand-in or b) simply be otherwise inserted into the Manson Family Murders. (Of all the theories that have sprung from the series, this one was my very favorite.)
As the show’s penultimate season ended, there were at least five major theories being floated, from total game-changers to small details. A few of them ended up being true. Most of them didn’t.
The most popular theory of all is that Don dies at the end of the series, a theory mostly backed up by the “falling man” that floats across the screen – and has always floated across the screen – during the show’s opening credits. If there’s one theory worth holding on to, it’s this one, if only because it’s the one with the most wiggle room in terms of timing, as the theory itself entails that we wait for the very last episode to see if it comes true. Yet, considering that the series has already staged one majorly shocking partner death (RIP, Lane Pryce) and taken actual body parts from other characters (small spoiler: Ken’s eyepatch comes off in the newest episode, and the results are shocking), it seems both shocking and cheap that the whole thing would lead up to the death of Don Draper.
Other post-season six theories posited that Peggy would become Head of Creative (she didn’t, but she did get a bigger job), that at least part of the company would move to California (they did…for a bit), or that Don would never return to SC&P (didn’t happen). The returns on these particular bits of speculation aren’t strong.
There’s also another theory to explore, one that is on the same level as Megan-is-Sharon-Draper, and one that – although just as intriguing and compelling as that theory is/was – will never come true. Matthew Weiner’s series has always incorporated actual history into the series, though it has only occasionally changed history to fit its narrative (for example, whenever a big name product or company becomes and SC&P client, that automatically negates the real-life relationship they had with another ad agency). Changing the identity of one of the world’s most famous murder victims (Sharon Tate) to suit the series was never going to happen, and deciding that Don Draper would ultimately become American folk legend and plane hijacker D.B. Cooper is not going to happen either.
Mad Men touches the edges of history, it doesn’t change its fabric.
Back in January, Weiner himself said as much in an interview with HitFix, telling the outlet:
“And the Sharon Tate thing, you know, it’s so flimsy and thin, and at the same time, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of coincidence.’ I don’t know what to tell you. I would like to think that people would know that the show’s striving for historical accuracy that I would not add a person who was not murdered by the Manson family into that murder. So that in itself is the dumbest argument in the world for me. But I love that people have conspiracy theories, that they have all this other stuff, and I don’t know what to tell you. I immerse myself in ’60s culture from a literary and historical point of view. I’m not a historian. Maybe some of the stuff is just happening, you know.”
And, yes, while you could read that quote as one that only applies to the Tate thing, you can also read it in a more plain-faced manner (emphasis mine): “I would like to think that people would know that the show’s striving for historical accuracy that I would not add a person who was not murdered by the Manson family into that murder. So that in itself is the dumbest argument in the world for me.”
The dumbest argument in the world. Let those theories go, people, and just enjoy the rest of the ride (sorry about wanting you to die, Megan).