The Mystery of Mad Men Season 6

An interview with Mrs. Draper herself, Jessica Paré, reveals more intoxicatingly mysterious tidbits about the penultimate season of Mad Men

Credit: AMC

What does season 6 of Mad Men have in store for Don Draper? Nobody’s telling

We delve into the mystery of Mad Men’s Top-secret Sixth Season

Bobbing, weaving, always dancing just out of reach, never giving an inch . . . these are the skills of a good boxer, but they’re also apt descriptions of what goes on when attempting an interview involving a new season of AMC’s Mad Men.

It’s not as if anyone affiliated with the series, which returns to the network on April 7 for its sixth — and penultimate — season, thinks their efforts don’t warrant discussion. It’s that the series’ creator, Matthew Weiner, is so hell-bent on maintaining secrecy about what may or may not be taking place on Mad Men in the future, that neither he nor his cast will offer a blessed thing about . . . well, anything, really.

Take, for instance, the season-six trailer released by AMC on March 13, in which Jessica Paré — who plays Megan Draper, wife of Don (Jon Hamm) — requires only two sentences to perfectly encapsulate the sort of frustration inherent in attempting to extract any information about upcoming events: “It’s not what you think is coming. It’s not coming in the way you thought it was coming, and it’s probably not coming at all . . . unless you were expecting more great costumes and more big hair.”

“I think somebody described it as a master class in vague description,” Montreal native Paré tells us, laughing. “But, you know, the discovery of a story by the audience is really important for all of us on the show, and it’s somewhat spoiled by knowing certain things in advance. I mean, I want people to have the same experience that I have when I get my new script and I tear the envelope open and flip through the pages. For them to be able to consume it that way, completely unspoiled . . . it’s really precious, I think.”

For some returning series, it would be tantamount to career suicide to avoid so much as even the slightest tease, just as it would be maddening for those series’ casts to have to keep their mouths wired shut about each and every detail. With Mad Men, however, silence has slowly but surely (if begrudgingly) become an accepted fact of life.

“There’s a thing that happens in this dance that we do, and I hope no one thinks I’m being cute, but I am so excited for people to see the show and to get some of these questions answered and some of them not answered,” Weiner said in a January 2013 interview with The Daily Beast. “There are things that I do that I think increase people’s anticipation. Not telling you anything is one of them.”

Mad Men Megan Draper Jessica Pare

Jessica Paré is careful not to let anything slip about what season 6 of Mad Men will take (Image: AMC)

“For a show with fans that weren’t as crazy about it as this one, it might be an issue,” admits Paré. “And as it is, it’s still something that Mad Men fans — and I’m including myself in this — both love and hate. It makes the experience better, but it’s still, like, ‘Oh, I want to know everything . . . no, don’t tell me! Don’t spoil it . . . but I want to know!’ But I’m sure that it’s something that people have kind of come to expect at this point. Certainly, the journalists are, like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, you can’t tell us anything . . .’ ”

This is not an exaggeration. To wit:

Interviewer: “What can you say about where we find Megan when the new season kicks off?”

Jessica Paré: “I can say . . . where we found her when we left her [laughs].”

As it happens, this response is actually far less coy than it may appear on the surface, given another of Weiner’s comments during his chat with The Daily Beast.

The Mad Men Puzzle

The title of the article in question promises “10 Facts About Season 6 of Mad Men,” most of which prove annoyingly but predictably vague — for example: Weiner acknowledges that the show jumps ahead in time, but he won’t say how far, simply musing, “There is no year left between now and then that is not filled with upheaval” — but he does offer at least one hint that may prove helpful for viewers in terms of trying to unlock the secrets of what’s to come.

“I would love for people to just watch the last 10 minutes of season five right before season six starts,” he said. “I think you’ll have a really incredible experience as we get there.”

If there are indeed clues to be found, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Mad Men had exercised the art of foreshadowing.

“For me, one of the big thrills is, having shot everything at the end of the season, to go back and see the first episode again,” says Paré. “There are just so many small details that didn’t mean anything to you on the first read or even shooting it, but then when you go back, you’re just, like, ‘Oh, my God . . . ’ Everything’s planned. There’s not a detail wasted with this group of writers. Nothing is wasted.”

The cast of Mad Men

The Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce team (L-R): Bert Cooper (Robert Morse), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) (Image: AMC)

For those who need a refresher on what happened way back in June 2012, season five concluded with a myriad of ambiguous events: Joan (Christina Hendricks) taking over accounting duties for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the wake of Lane Pryce’s suicide and getting approval to move forward with plans for the firm to expand to another floor; Roger Sterling (John Slattery) continuing his own expansion — albeit of the mental variety — via another LSD trip; the adulterous Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) getting the go-ahead from his wife Trudy (Alison Brie) to get his own apartment in the city; Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of sowing her wild oats both in the bedroom and in the office; Megan setting aside her aptitude for advertising in favour of following her dream to be an actress on a full-time basis.

And then there’s Don.

What’s Going on with Don Draper

Don Draper, who spent much of season four in a downward spiral, seemingly made the quick decision to marry Megan in an effort to find steadier ground in his personal life. It might’ve worked, too, were it not for the way things began to change around the office right around the same time.

After years of upward mobility in the firm, transforming from Roger’s upstart protégé into the golden boy of the advertising world, season five saw Pete truly beginning to fulfill his destiny of becoming the next Don Draper, while a horrified Don gradually realized that he was still following in Roger’s footsteps . . . and not in a good way.

In the final moments of season five, Megan kisses Don, tells him she loves him, and goes back to filming the high-profile commercial she’s landed. Don, in turn, watches her for a moment, then walks straight to a bar, orders an Old Fashioned and is approached by a woman who asks him, “Are you alone?”

“He was trying to be happy,” Weiner told The Daily Beast. “I wanted to see him in that domestic world and to take that marriage seriously and that was something we were interested in. That said, you have to assume that he’s right where he was at that moment, which is deliberately ambiguous and a bit of a cliffhanger: a man who had really tried on this coat, and really tried to live the fantasy of that relationship being the right relationship. Megan is filled with joy, she’s future-[facing], and she accepts him as he is. She definitely loves him, but she had her own will and that seemed to be hard on him. That told me a lot about Don.”

Jon Hamm and Jessica Pare in Mad Men

What complications lie ahead for Don Draper and wife Megan (Jon Hamm and Jessica Paré)? (Image: AMC)

The turn of events served to further inform Paré about her character as well. “Megan was good at advertising and kind of had everything going for her there at the firm — she was working with her husband, the accounts she was working on were going really well — but she has this passion, and her husband might think it’s a bit silly, but she feels like she has to pursue it, because she’ll never be fully happy if she’s not contributing the thing that she has to contribute,” says Paré.

“Last season, Matt had a line about Don and Megan: they’re two sides of the same person. The problem is that that person is Don, so when she steps outside of that person and chooses her own path, he feels like he’s losing a chunk of himself. So the way season five closed left everybody with sort of a feeling of unease as to where we might be going in season six.”

While that’s as specific as Paré is willing to get, her observations on the upcoming season still feel more tangible than anything else that’s been offered by her fellow cast-members.

In particular, her TV husband gives his acting chops a workout by managing to keep a straight face during the aforementioned season-six trailer as he assures viewers, “We’re going to see a lot of our favourite characters doing a lot of different things.”

Favourite characters doing different things? Wow, this does sound like the most exciting season of Mad Men ever! Thanks, Jon Hamm!

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.