It happens each season. When new episodes of ‘Mad Men’ roll out, I’m filled with wild enthusiasm at finally being able to get my weekly hit. But maintaining the high takes work.
I get frustrated with the quality of the product. I bemoan the storylines and characters, as well as question Matt Weiner and the meaning of Don Draper’s life. I feel that every season loses its momentum in the middle and begins to feel like work, slogging through seemingly pointless side arcs while ignoring more interesting angles (more Ginsberg please!).
But just as the season runs its course, I get re-energized by the last three episodes (and the reminder that supply is dwindling), and my world view is conflicted once again.
Was it good? Was it bad? Am I on the wagon, off the wagon, or is there even a wagon at all? It usually takes two re-viewings of the full season for me to recognize the way each storyline is threaded, not only through the characters but through their pasts.
In the end, it’s not always great, but it’s usually much better than I expected. And then I start to go through withdrawal until the cycle begins all over again.
This time it's going to be different. With only two season left, I am determined to manage my viewing to eliminate these maddening highs and lows, only to end up in the same place every time, twitching in the fetal position, calling for Don and Roger.
In searching for guidance, I found that cherry-picking some of the 12 Steps to be very helpful in maintaining my dignity and sanity during this season.
1. Am I powerless? Please. I can reference a scene from season 3 or quote from season 2 like your own personal "MM" Wikipedia. And while I don’t have a SCDP tattoo or dress in character, in my mind I might have.
2. I realize that Matt Weiner has a higher power. He created the "Mad Men" universe in eight seasons — who am I to question fat Betty, the essence of Megan, Peggy’s new job or Pete’s rapidly receding hairline?
3. I am the type of person who hates not knowing endings but can’t stand spoilers. All I want is a sense that what I’m watching is part of a bigger picture and not just a random red herring that sounded good in the writer’s room at 3 a.m. It’s about control, and in "Mad Men," the viewers, like the characters, have to accept that they have none.
Will working these steps keep me from losing it on a weekly basis? Knowing that there’s a dwindling supply of Don, Roger, Peggy and Joan should help me stay focused and in the moment. I hope that by the time the final season rolls around, I’ll be ready to see them go — graciously and without bitterness.
A character like Don always knows when to make an exit. And then I’ll be jonesing for a new addiction.