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‘Mad Men’ credits theory misses mark

By From page B1 | April 11, 2014

As the final season of AMC’s “Mad Men” kicks off Sunday, the program will begin with its animated credits sequence.

Set to RJD2’s “A Beautiful Mine,” a faceless man, who could be a doppelganger to lead character Jon Hamm’s Don Draper, plummets from a building as the facades of nearby structures show advertising.

It’s a metaphor for the decay of the lives of the characters in the show to come, Draper in particular. However, show creator Matt Weiner said he’s had no shortage of fans suggesting the sequence should foreshadow the series’ finale.

“People think it would be just an amazing rhyme to have that in the opening every week and then, in the last episode, have it happen,” Weiner told The Wrap last year.

Ignoring the fact that Weiner loves to make his show as unpredictable as possible, there’s a better reason than subverting the audience’s expectations not to do this: Draper doesn’t deserve it.

It would be clever and poetic if the final scene of the show was one that mirrored the credits. But as the recent kerfuffle concerning the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” showed, just because a show’s creators planned something years in advance doesn’t mean they have to stay locked into that choice when the time comes.

The credits-as-finale idea is one of a spate of abstract fan theories that illuminate how people watch “Mad Men.” The show moves at a glacial pace and is known for unparalleled character development, but a number of the theories circulating the Internet during recent seasons don’t seem to take the show’s temperature.

“Mad Men” has never built to the blazing explosion, the cool zombie kill or the monster of the week. Its languid pacing is the show’s signature, and the source of its richness.

It’s why audiences know Draper so well. He is among the cast of TV antiheroes and antiheroines, such as Tony Soprano from “The Sopranos,” Walter White from “Breaking Bad” and Nancy Botwin from “Weeds;” characters for whom death seemed to loom as either a consequence of their actions or as karmic payment for them.

But unlike blood spillers White or Soprano, his offenses are lesser. He has affairs, drinks like a sailor and possesses the strongest flight response in television history, but no one has died by his hand.

He has an unfortunate back story, including being the son of a prostitute who died in childbirth, raised by an abusive father and lived in a house of ill repute with his stepmother, where he was raped by one of her co-workers, so joining the Army and stealing another man’s identity sounds a little understandable.

About that flight response – season six’s final episodes showed a changing Draper. After an emotional collapse in a pitch to Hershey, Draper found himself out of a job and, for once, showing his kids a bit of his past, taking them to the brothel where he spent his teen years.

It marked a turn for a character whose first instinct is often to run from his problems. It makes the final season an intriguing prospect.

It makes the idea that this man would leap off of the top of a building still plausible, but not something I want to see. In truth, it would be a terrible way out. Better than having a main character stage his death, leave his child with a serial killer and become a lumberjack, sure, but viewers would cry foul.

It would be like watching five seasons of “Breaking Bad” only to see White decide to overdose on his own famed blue meth.

Draper’s not a murderous meth cook. He’s not an unpredictable mob boss with mother issues. He’s not a pot-selling suburbanite widow. He’s never killed, raped or robbed anyone. People have died as a result of his choices, but it’s a pain he feels. So other than fans wanting to see the credits become the closure because it would be cool, the point is meaningless.

Much like the other theories circling “Mad Men,” it’s one that doesn’t lack for creativity, but does seem to spring from watching an entirely different show.

To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco is the editor of the Tailwind and writes the pop culture blog/column For Those About to Rock. Before joining the DR staff in July 2007, DeCicco (pronounced Deh-CEE-Coh) worked at The Union in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colo. A 2004 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, DeCicco spends his free time attending concerts, listening to music, going to movies, traveling and hiking.

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