Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has always held his cards close to the vest.
Sure, he’s dropped clues about upcoming seasons in the past, but they’ve always been cryptic: riddles wrapped in mysteries, which can only be put in context by viewing the show itself.
Now, however, a teaser poster for the show’s sixth season (premiering April 7) may be more telling than usual.
In the image, illustrated by commercial artist Brian Sanders (a veteran ‘60s ad man himself), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is shown confidently strolling through a busy Manhattan street scene.
Upon closer inspection, Don’s iron-jawed façade begins to fade. First we notice he’s worriedly/wistfully/contemplatively looking back at, well, himself. Is that his alter-ego, Dick Whitman? Is he pining for the less-complicated Camelot salad days of Sterling Cooper? Or, is it a nod to the duality of his romantic life? As it stands, the last time we saw Don, he was being wooed by a young woman—not his wife—to the strains of "You Only Live Twice".
Which, of course, begs the question: whose hand is he holding in the illustration? Is it his wife Megan’s (Jessica Paré)? Or that of his ex-wife Betty (January Jones)? Or, does it belong to someone altogether different?
One thing’s for sure: If you look at the street signs, Don’s definitely walking away from Madison Avenue. Maybe it’s just figurative, but with the Summer of Love and the Tet Offensive fast approaching (last season ended in the spring of 1967), the entire nation is about to be rocked to its foundations. How will the old guard—namely Don—deal with the changes coming their way? Maybe, in his own buttoned-down manner, it’s time for Don to tune in, turn on, and drop out.
Finally, what’s with the cops? Has Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) finally given in to his long-simmering rage and gone out in a Charles Whitman-style blaze of glory? After all, he’s been waving his rifle around for five seasons now, and Matthew Weiner seems like the type of guy who’d be familiar with Chekhov’s rule about guns.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to read a lot into something like this. Maybe it really is just a nicely-rendered illustration, meant to convey the mood of the times, and there’s no deeper meaning.
But somehow, I doubt it.