Friday, April 10, 2015

Mad Men Final Season: The Ken Cosgrove Factor

The end of an era of a show about a different…era, is upon us.  The final half season of Mad Men is here, and conspiracy theories are running rampant.  From rumblings of Don’s soon to be ex-wife being killed off like Sharon Tate to Don falling out of a window like in the opening credits, everyone has their own theory.  I normally hate playing this game.  Truth is, anything can happen, and things can change.  I didn’t watch Breaking Bad, but I do remember hearing that Jesse Pinkman was only supposed to be around for a few episodes but his popularity changed the minds of the writers and he ended up being a pretty important character, or so I’m told.  The point I’m trying to make here is that it’s pretty dumb to have conspiracy theories about TV shows before the end is even written.  Anything can happen.  These writers have a blank canvas before them and try to surprise people to keep them watching, so you’re inevitably going to not expect to see things you think/want.  Honestly, if a TV show plays out exactly like you think it may, then you’re watching a pretty shitty show.  I guess when it comes to a show like, say, Pretty Little Liars, it may be fun to have a pool with your friends about who A is, but for the most part, keep your theories to yourself.  I hate people who talk TV show theories.  I also hate myself.

If you go back to my scathing rant about how theories are bad, I hope you noticed I mentioned the part about having them before a show is finished with the writing process is dumb.  Mad Men is already past the writing and is now airing the final 6ish episodes now.  This past Sunday kicked off the final half of the final season (another gripe for another day) and some things happened in that episode that made me think about certain possibilities.  This one episode had some scenes around a minor character, including one key scene of dialogue, that made me realize that I have cracked the code before Mad Men is even off air, and it all revolves around our favorite eye-patch wearing character: Kenneth Cosgrove.

Before I dive into the Ken Cosgrove wormhole, I do want to admit defeat in one thought that I had.  I had a hunch for the last couple of seasons that somehow, some way, Don would end up with Rachel Menken.  It occurred to me that she was the only woman throughout the show that Don cared for, wanted and couldn’t get in the long run.  There was reason for it, and I figured the show had bigger plans for her than just bringing her back out of nowhere and killing her via Leukemia just to make Don sad.  I felt like a genius with my Don-Rachel Menken love connection, but that died out and I have my new theory.  Now, onto the pirate looking guy in the world of Mad Men.

Why is Cosgrove still around?  Mad Men has no problem kicking characters to the curb, like they did with Lane Pryce, Sal, Bert Cooper, Paul Kinsey and most of Don’s secretaries.  Cosgrove has had his moments in the show, but unlike Harry getting his kinda-partnership/Jim Cutler’s lil bitch role, Cosgrove has been quiet minus the whole getting shot in the eye while hunting thing.  There would be no need for his character to be around after the episode in which he tap danced.  If the most recent episode showed us anything, it showed us that for some reason Cosgrove is important.  First there was a scene where he discusses his future in writing with his wife, ending in a fight.  Next scene he is fired by Roger and one of the McCann people over something little.  It would have been easy to write him out here, but there was more to follow.  This is where the theory comes into play.

Cosgrove has to give his accounts to Pete “The Meat” Campbell and while doing so, they discuss what Cosgrove’s future may have.  In passing, he says he will be focusing on his writing.  He then quips that maybe he’d write about the ad agency.  Campbell scoffs and asks why, claiming it’s a boring world, and tells him to write about adventures.  When you pair that along with his disgust for the advertising world during his rant to his wife, the signs started pointing to one thing and one thing only: Mad Men is the memoir that Cosgrove writes years later.

I look at the final episode and imagine a scene where it is the modern times or recent past, with a group of guys listening to an old man with an eye-patch telling them stories about Don and the memories of Madison Avenue.  It makes sense: right now Cosgrove is probably in in mid-late 30’s in 1969.  Fast forward to 2015 and that puts him around 80.  It is very possible that the Cosgrove character is still alive and kickin’, with a successful novel ready to be made into a TV show by producers who need something new.  Cosgrove can pitch the show to these producers and execs just like the old days when he was at Sterling Cooper, and telling the story of Don, who is obviously the most intriguing character to write about.  Cosgrove, later in life, got to fulfill his dream and write, and he wrote about what he knew: the world of Mad Men.  It would be the perfect way to have a creative ending that was fresh, awesome, and somewhat out of leftfield.

I think the Cosgrove idea will happen, yet there is still one big question: what happens with Peggy?  I can’t help but think she has to play a role in the ending.  If you go back to the start, the first episode of the first season is essentially Peggy’s first day in the Mad Men world as the sheepish new secretary.

The show is almost as much about Peggy as it is Don.  As Don self destructs and redeems himself, we see Peggy grow up as a person and at her work.  Peggy will most likely play a key role in the end, so I have to think that she’s in on the story with Cosgrove, maybe giving him the dirt on Don, as she knows probably the most about him out of anyone at Sterling Cooper.  It would be nice to just say Peggy runs off to Paris with her new love interesting Stevie, but let’s face it, there has to be more to it than just that.  Mad Men is too good of a show to just have Peggy fall in love and live happily ever after in the final 5 episodes.

If I’m correct in the Cosgrove theory, I will feel like a genius.  If not, I’ll also be enjoying the final episodes of what has been the best show on TV over the past 8 years and seeing what the real ending will be.  The beauty of Mad Men is that these final episodes have the possibility of a wide open ending, and there is still time for big changes to be made. I know I would normally tell you to not listen to bullshit conspiracy theories, but just keep mine in mind.  In Cosgrove, I trust.

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