Spoilers ahead for Mad Men Seasons 1, 2, and 3, so hurry and catch up already!
It’s official. Mad Men returns in 6 days. In anticipation of the premiere, I’ve been preparing mentally (by repeating the mantra WWJD—What Would Joan Do?), physically (by building up my tolerance for brown liquors), and emotionally (by bottling up my feelings and then going shooting). I’ve also spent a good deal of time thinking about the events of the last three seasons, set during the historically tumultuous period from 1960 to 1963.
Each day this week, I’ll attempt to offer an in-depth look at Mad Men's core characters by highlighting the five moments that have defined, so far, their arcs, along with predictions of what might happen to them in the coming season. After all, between the Beatles coming to the United States, the Civil Rights Act, and the expansion of the Vietnam War, 1964 can only make for some majorly dramatic television.
We’ll start this countdown by tracking the arc of Roger Sterling, a founding partner of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. (You may also know him as the man who delivers the show's most unsettling and irresistible one-liners.)
1. Betty Isn't Out-of-Bounds
Episode: Season 1's "Red in the Face"
Roger's confidence in business and with the ladies has never really been in question. But it was during the scene where Roger came on to Betty after having dinner at the Drapers' house that we first understood Roger’s very palpable sense of invincibility. Talk about ballsy: In his apology to Don, Rodger explained, "When a man gets to a point in his life when his name's on the building, he can get an unnatural sense of entitlement." This sober, self-aware admission proved that despite his cockiness, his moral compass is still intact, if just barely.
2. The Oyster Nixon Incident
Episodes: Season 1's "Red in the Face" and "Long Weekend"
Roger was living the life. And then had the oysters. And then he lost his lunch all over the Nixon clients, suffered a heart attack during playtime with a pair of twins, and was rushed off to the hospital for a second time cause his heart couldn’t handle any more cigarettes or pastrami sandwiches. And you know, that's just got to humble a man. In Roger's case, the incident(s) served to make him realize that he could no longer physically keep up with the idea he had of himself.
3. The Rebound
Episodes: Season 2's "The New Girl," "The Gold Violin," "Six-Month Leave," and "The Jet Set"
After his health scare, Roger made sure to let Joan know how he deeply cared about her. So it must have hurt his heart even more to learn of Joan's engagement. His rash response was to leave his wife Mona (who is played by John Slattery
's actual wife, Talia Balsam
) and marry the much younger Jane. This course of action could easily have spelled mid-life crisis, but I think that in this case, it spelled R-E-B-O-U-N-D.
4. Old Dog, New Tricks
Episode: Season 3's "The Gypsy and the Hobo"
When Annabelle Mathis—one of Roger’s old flames—suddenly reappeared in his life and tried to seduce him, Rodger denied her advances and explained that he's married (again). Funny, that never stopped him before from having affairs. A defining moment that revealed a changed man.
5. The Phone Call
Episode: Season 3's "The Grown-Ups"
After his daughter Margaret's wedding turned out to be a disaster thanks to the ex-wife/new-wife drama and the JFK assassination, Roger called up Joan hoping for consolation. It's at this point, I like to believe, that he realized that Joan is the only one who really gets him.
Which leaves us where?
Suffice it to say, with some rocky years behind him, Roger seems ready to reinvent his name at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Last season left off with Roger securing a team to start the new agency, and not very surprisingly, he brought Joan on board. It may be wishful thinking, but I think they'll start up the affair again. Because really, how long can they stay apart? I'm guessing, too, that Roger will bring in the developers of the World Trade Center as clients, (the actual plans to develop the towers were announced on January 18, 1964). Dare I say it's not too soon?
What do you think will happen to Rodger Sterling in Season 4?