This post assumes you’re caught up with Mad Men. Otherwise, spoilers ahead.
When Peggy Olson resigned from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce two Mad Men episodes ago, I was so proud of her. Not only was Peggy confident enough to accept a job with more responsibility outside the safety zone of the only agency she’d known, but she stood firm in the face of Don Draper’s response, which started with arrogance and descended into near desperation.
Part of my emotional investment is personal; my pay-the-bills trade is advertising copywriter — a profession that is equal parts total frustration and “I can’t believe they pay me for this” joy. After years of copywriting, I realized that the catch-22 is this: good writing looks easy and good creative looks fun. And people don’t appreciate things that they think are easy and fun, especially when they have to pay for them.
So, that first time of being offered a great job by a respected agency for more money than you expected — based on your work — feels like nothing else in the world. Even a good 20 years later, I remember my first time (ahem) like it was yesterday.
Elisabeth Moss captured those feelings in every little thing Peggy did during her last scene at SCDP, from the ambivalence as she gathered her things to the satisfied smile when she got on the elevator.
But enjoying Peggy’s success doesn’t depend on knowing advertising from the inside, because she’s such a great character. Mad Men fans have watched Peggy grow from an insecure secretary to woman confident enough to pitch an off-the-cuff idea to a client on the phone to save a campaign.
In fact, Peggy’s journey has been almost as central to Mad Men as Don’s. So, when she left SCDP, I never had a single thought that we’d never see her again.
The Daily posted an interview with Jared Harris, whose Lane Pryce left SCDP this week in a much less triumphant manner than Peggy. In the course of discussing his character’s exit, Harris made an off-hand remark about not getting a big sendoff from the rest of the cast.
“You know, we’re always ending things. Actors are always ending jobs. It isn’t a big deal in that sense. Also, other people had left the show that had been there since the beginning. Elisabeth [Moss] left the episode before and she’d been there since the beginning. Michael Gladis (Paul Kinsey) left in season three [though reappeared for one episode this season]… Bryan Batt. People leave and it’s just part of it. They didn’t make a giant fuss.”
Wait. Did he just say that Elisabeth Moss left the show?
Harris seemed to realize he spoke out of turn when asked if Peggy is as dead from the show as Lane is (“I have no idea what Matthew Weiner intends to do …”). Oops; too late.
I’m not going to panic — yet — for several reasons. Most importantly, Peggy is a significant part of Don’s world, and some of Mad Men‘s top moments have been Peggy/Don scenes. Story-wise, Peggy and Don as competitors would add an interesting new dimension to their relationship. Just plucking her out of his life doesn’t make sense.
Plus, Moss herself has been part of the critical success of the show — she’s been nominated for an Emmy for the past three years, among other nominations. Not surprisingly, her career beyond Mad Men has blossomed. Her highest profile project to date is as lead in Jane Campion‘s six-part BBC miniseries Top of the Lake, which she was shooting in New Zealand when her SCDP resignation episode aired. We’re hoping that Moss’s early departure from the season was simply accommodation for her project schedule.
So far, neither AMC or show creator Weiner have commented about whether Moss is gone for good. Moss’ rep said that viewers should just keep watching. That’s not very comforting.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine Mad Men without Peggy Olson. The show started with her first day at work, remember? She’s sort of been our guide into the advertising game the way it was played in the Sixties. And while I think she had to leave SCDP, I’m not sure I want to watch how dirty the game players will get without her.
We know you have a lot of feelings about this, so please share. Would Mad Men be as watchable without Elisabeth Moss? Would Don be as bearable without Peggy Olson in his life? Do you really think Peggy is gone for good?