If there was something somewhat heartening about Don (Jon Hamm) not ending up with Diana, whose obsession and regret over her own past seems poised to haunt her to her final days, “The Forecast” makes it perfectly clear that the next thing isn’t always easy to pinpoint. In fact, the episode hinges on a series of actions and events that, depending on perspective, could be seen as backsliding or moving on. This, of course, begins with Joan’s (Christina Hendricks) meeting with Richard (Bruce Greenwood), an incredibly handsome, well-off older gentlemen who initially wants her to abandon everything and run off to Europe with him. His offer suggests a total abandonment of the past, including her child, but Joan, unlike so many of her co-workers, has a strong idea of what she wants out of life outside of her professional goals. Her son is a necessity, and part of the invigorating dramatic pull of “The Forecast” is watching Joan curtly reminding Richard that he is not.
Richard and Joan’s immediately involving courtship is built around an argument of what the future should look like, a question that’s plaguing Don following Roger’s (John Slattery) decree that he must pen SC&P’s “Gettysburg address,” inspiring investors about where the company will go next. Don spends much of the episode not so subtly picking other people’s brains, including Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), who reveals to him that she wishes to become the company’s first female creative director, and that she dreams of landing a huge account and creating a major catchphrase. Her answer is not unlike the one Ted (Kevin Rahm) gives him, and in both instances, Don seems borderline offended by the assumption that their dreams are entirely anchored to their profession. Matthew Weiner and co-writer Jonathan Igla pose Don as already completely over SC&P, but unsure of what else he would ever do, and the phenomenal final pullout on Don underlines that feeling.
The writers also confront the dangers of not staying in the present, however, as Don’s absentmindedness at least partially leads to John Mathis’s (Trevor Einhorn) flame-out in the Peter Pan meetings. Sally (Kiernan Shipka) is similarly stuck in the future when she curses out an all-grown-up Glen (Marten Holden Weiner) for enlisting to fight in Vietnam. Though he veils his decision in self-righteousness, Glen ultimately admits to Betty (January Jones) that the military is his only option after flunking out of school. In Glen’s case, a seemingly steady future allows him to guise a critical lack of dedication and decisiveness in his past actions. The fact that he ultimately tries to declare his intentions for Betty, whom he had a childhood crush on, only confirms his confused view of what has brought him to this point in his life and why he’s making these choices.
It takes some time, but Sally quickly attempts to apologize to Glen for flipping out over his planned military service and freaking out over what could happen over there. The writers portray the eldest of the Draper children as wise and curious beyond her ears, which is exactly what makes her pre-tour dinner with Don so wonderfully tense and tricky. Is Don just flirting with Sally’s faux-mature friend to be kind or to possibly set up a date? When Sally confronts him outside of the bus, he blows her criticism off and she gets mean quick. As convincing as Shipka is in selling her character’s convictions and disrespect for her parents, it’s impossible to shake the certainty that Don shows when he tells her that she’ll be exactly like her parents when she’s older. Sally doesn’t have any firmer a grip on what will happen next than her father, but he has the benefit of an extensive past that she does not. Right now, Sally bases her philosophy of life on what she doesn’t want to be, namely Don and Betty, but as “The Forecast” openly suggests, clinging onto what the future shouldn’t be is just another way of putting off figuring out what life could be.
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