Is One of Mad Men's Characters Going to Die? (And If So, Who Will It Be?)

Mad Men does nothing by accident. I know, I know, tell us something we don’t know, MaryAnn. But seriously, this show loves throwing clues around like candy at a Memorial Day parade. At the start of the series, Peggy went looking for birth control—and lo and behold, by the end of Season 1, she was knocked up. In Season 4, a reporter’s simple question—“Who is Don Draper?”—set the theme for the remainder of the season. All of the nuances and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details provide great “Aha!” moments later on, especially during re-watches.

But here at TV.com we believe that it’s never too early to start throwing around kooky Mad Men conspiracy theories. From the very beginning, Season 5 has felt off-kilter with all the mass murder headlines, homicidal fever dreams, and as of last week's episode, Sylvia Plath allusions (she was an early confessional poet with a laundry list of suicide attempts). Mad Men has gone dark side, basically. If this were any other show, I’d worry about a loss of direction or a desperate attempt to grab ratings by cranking up the shock factor. But since this is Mad Men, and Mad Men has yet to do me wrong, I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Not to mention that fact that Matt Weiner has been pretty explicit in the past with regard to his stance on maintaining the quality that Mad Men is so lauded for.

So, my prediction, a prediction that I first entertained around the time of Betty’s cancer scare way back in Episode 3, a prediction that has only grown more insistent on demanding my attention with each new episode, is that someone on Mad Men is going to bite it.

But WHO? Everyone at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has been a little out there lately, personality wise. Roger has been an uncharacteristically sunny fixture in the office since his little acid trip, and Peggy has been unusually sour. Don has shown an alarmingly violent side both in his dreams and in real life. Sally’s rebellious streak is starting to become more overt. The list goes on, and there’s an ominous cloud of potential disaster hovering over each name.

So let’s take a look at our contenders:



Roger Sterling (John Slattery)


Quite frankly, I thought he was going to have a bad trip and claw his face off during “Far Away Places” and since that didn’t happen, I’ve been holding out for some sort of post-LSD flashback ever since. It could still happen, but of more pressing concern is his sudden cheery demeanor and the fact that he keeps giving his stuff away. Roger has struggled to find a place in the office since Lucky Strike bailed. He’s really not that important to the daily operations at SCDP and most of his attempts to reclaim a sense of relevancy to the company have been met with resistance and disdain. At home, his trophy wife basically resented his existence unless he was handing her a wad of cash, so he divorced her and, in his newly single glow, was really quite amiable about the whole thing. In “Lady Lazarus” he gifted Pete with a set of skis and while he played them off as a client gift that he didn’t want or need, he could have given them to anyone... yet he chose the perpetual thorn in his side, Pete. Pete has always wanted to be the New Don, but really, he’s more aligned to become the New Roger, and Roger knows this. Furthermore, this knowledge has been one of Roger's major sources of angst in his slow descent into unimportance.

Is Roger holding an olive branch out to the man he knows will probably replace him, or is his outlook more grim than that? “Lady Lazarus”—an episode that shared its title with a poem about suicide—showed Roger exhibiting sudden personality shifts, thoughts of inadequacy and unimportance, and the ceremonial giving away of one’s personal belongings, all of which are documented traits of a potentially suicidal individual.

Death Probability: On a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 meaning we've already printed up the death certificate, I’m going to give the esteemed author of Sterling’s Gold a 7. He just throws up a lot of red flags for me, but at the same time, I can’t imagine Mad Men without him.



Beth Dawes (Alexis Bledel)


Beth is a new blip on our radar, the wife of Pete’s insurance-selling commuter pal, and the object of his creepy, obsessive, and entitled affection. She slept with Pete once and, overwhelmed with regret, refused to see him again—only to draw a little heart in the frost on her car window while looking at him longingly. She broadcasts a lot of mixed signals. She’s clearly miserable and often anxious, upset by Pete’s attention and particularly disturbed by the photographs of Earth taken from space by the Lunar Orbiter 1. The fact that she’s the quirky enlightened chick who showed up in the episode with a title inspired by the poem written by the quirky enlightened chick who eventually stuck her head in an oven only serves to feed my little conspiracy gremlins more (and we all know what happens when you feed the gremlins after midnight).

Death Probability: 8. Maybe 9. The Powers that Be are keeping quiet about the length of Bledel’s stay on Mad Men. Considering the title of her debut episode and her character’s overwhelming sadness and aura of unbalance, I pegged her for a goner right away. Pete’s constant pursuit only exacerbates her anxiety and as a character, she’s new enough and currently minor enough that her death would certainly impact Pete’s storyline in a major way, but it wouldn’t alter the beloved fabric of the series as a whole.



Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)


A cloud of dissatisfaction has been suspended over Pete’s head since the very beginning of the series, but where it has motivated him in the past to plunge into his work—first by adopting a “take no prisoners” mindset, and later by forming a tentative truce with Don before begrudgingly coming to respect him—recently, Pete’s dissatisfaction with his life has resulted in increasingly poor decision-making. It’s like he’s a child acting out, and he KNOWS it.

We haven’t seen much of the wannabe womanizer in Pete since his skeevy coercion of the neighbor’s au pair way back in Season 3, but his recent relocation to the suburbs and the birth of his daughter seem to have done a number on his mindset. On the surface, Pete has everything he ever wanted: a partnership at the firm, financial security of his own making, a beautiful wife, a cute kid, a car, and a house of his very own. Yet he’s MISERABLE. I don’t think we’ve seen him this down in ages.

The womanizing is back and far worse than we’ve seen it before. There was the hooker, then the failed fling with his drivers' ed classmate, and now the star-crossed pursuit of Beth Dawes. He doesn’t seem to like the suburbs or get much satisfaction from his job anymore, and he voiced his own anxiety over the Earth pictures after hooking up with Beth. There have also been quite a few throwaway lines that, when looked at collectively, paint a pretty ominous picture of Pete: In “Signal 30” we learned that he still has the gun from Season 1. In "Lady Lazarus," Beth pointed out that Pete is a terrible driver. And Beth's husband tried to sell Pete life insurance, noting rather enthusiastically that his policies “even cover suicide!”

Death Probability: 7. Pete is on par with Roger when it comes to weird vibes. He’s also managed to thrust himself into some pretty precarious situations, especially when it comes to Beth. She’s unbalanced. Pete’s a little unhinged. And I can’t imagine her husband will take the affair well if he ever discovers it.



Trudy Campbell (Alison Brie)

We haven’t seen much of Trudy this season, but we’ve heard a lot about her. Of particular note is Pete’s description of her after the birth of Tammy. Apparently she’s depressed and overwhelmed and doesn’t really put much effort into her appearance anymore. Yet a few episodes later, at the dinner party where Don fixed the Campbells' sink, Trudy looked great and played the gracious host well.

Death Probability: 4? Let’s go with 4. Pete seemed to be hinting at crippling depression when he talked about her spending the day in her bathrobe, but I think she’s probably just a new mom who hasn’t yet figured out how to balance all of her new responsibilities with her old ones.



Don Draper (Jon Hamm)


Don is not going to die. No way, no how. BUT: He’s been at the center of his own weirdness web and on a smaller level, experiencing the same alienation that Roger has. Don used to be COOL, right? I mean, to us, Don is still The Man, but in his own time period and the little Mad Men version of the '60s that lives in our televisions, Don is kind of old and grumpy. He’s had moments bordering downright pathetic, especially in Season 4. He's slowly becoming irrelevant.

Unlike Roger, who's apparently made peace with youth passing him by, Don is trying to stay on top. After all, it’s essential to Don’s career that he not only understand what is “in,” but also know WHY it’s the hip new thing. And that’s where Don is struggling. He doesn’t get the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. He doesn’t understand how teenagers, young adults, or women think. He wants to. We’ve seen him repeatedly try to learn. But he can’t.

Don’s frustration is starting to show. He strangled an old flame during a fever dream and has lashed out violently at Megan on several occasions. Sure, there was last week's elevator scene, with Don staring at his own mortality (or rather, his lack of immortality) due to a glitch in the door, but he walked away from that. He’s not about to quit.

Death Probability: -6. It’s just not going to happen.



Betty Francis (January Jones)


I’m not entirely convinced that Betty wasn’t lying when she told everyone that her cancer scare was a big false alarm. Betty is a little girl trapped in an adult body and what’s the go-to method for dealing with your problems when they’re really scary and you’re just a kid? Deny, deny, deny.

That said, was it just me or did Betty seem a little disappointed when her sudden weight gain couldn’t be blamed on the big C? We haven’t seen more than a glimpse of Betty since “Tea Leaves,” so whatever she’s up to is largely open to the imagination, but maybe rather than Trudy, it's Betty who is the sad, miserable housewife on this show?

Of course, that’s the Betty standard, isn’t it? Death Probability: 1. Maybe 2. We just don’t have a lot of information to work with here. And why bother killing her off? She’s barely been on the show this season anyway.



Greg Harris (Samuel Page)


Ah, Dr. Rapey himself. Joan kicked him out earlier this season and we all assumed that would be the last of him, what with his decision to return to Vietnam and all. But that’s precisely why he makes the list. He’s in Vietnam. It’s a war zone. He said he’d be fine. Do the math.

Death Probability: I don’t know. Do we even care if he dies? Greg's is not the death we’re looking for.



Megan Draper (Jessica Pare)


We’ve already fretted over an AWOL Megan Draper in “Far Away Places,” when everyone thought she was dead in a ditch somewhere after Don stranded her at a Howard Johnsons and found only a forlorn pair of sunglasses in the parking lot when he finally pulled his head out of his ass and went back for her.

At first glance, even with her seemingly sudden decision to leave her copywriting job at SDCP, Megan is one of the more level-headed ladies on the show. So, she’s survived finding her way home on her own, and she doesn’t appear to have a death wish. By all accounts, Megan should be safe.

But then there are the passionate fights with Don, the most frightening of which was certainly the terrifying chase around their apartment at the end of “Far Away Places” (though the angry sex at the end of “A Little Kiss” was pretty unnerving on its own up until that point). Passion is great and I really do think that Don loves Megan. Most of their issues stem from his frustration over misunderstanding the new culture that seemingly spring up while he was no doubt sleeping off a hangover in the office. But that doesn’t make the violent undertones of their interactions okay.

Death Probability: 5. I don’t think that Mad Men would “go there,” but Don’s homicidal fever dream was so random and out-there that I have to believe it served a purpose other than trolling the audience.



Bert Cooper (Robert Morse)


We basically have to include Burt Cooper purely because he’s the “old guard” at SCDP. He’s rarely around, and when he does show up, it’s usually just to remind everyone that this is HIS company and he doesn’t approve of what’s being done with it. I can totally see him keeling over like Ida Blankenship, just due to old age and natural causes.

Death Probability: 3. Sure, he COULD just keel over like Ida, but what would be the point? Her unceremonious death served as a footnote to the season, a reflection of how far technology and culture had progressed since the 19th century, but ultimately, there was little impact on the bigger picture. Bert deserves better, because he’s awesome. Also, it’ll be really disappointing if all of this build-up just leads to Burt Cooper croaking in the conference room.


Do you think Mad Men is gearing up to kill someone off? And if so, who do you think it will be? Would you put anyone else on this list?

Comments (41)
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DON DRAPER DIES!!!!!
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I'm thinking Megan...I hope the elevator doesn't come into play, it's too predictable and way too reminiscent of LA Law...(am I dating myself???) If you don't remember it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ov7aTXqMKfY
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It has to be Megan. Not just because of the references and foreshadowing so far; but because of what she has done to Don. He has become an upright model citizen. That can't last; no way no how.
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Lane is getting in deep, maybe too deep.
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I really hope it's not Beth or Greg. That would be like it's episode promos each week -- cheap and unfulfilling. And I can't imagine the next couple of seasons without Roger or Pete. Bert's death would be like Ida's (in a way) -- not necessarily surprising because of his age, and I think it would be too much "blah blah blah, let's reflect on what this means." Although, it could lead to SCDP breaking up and the characters going off on their own paths -- which, if done right, could be interesting.



Here's who I think would be interesting: Trudy, because Pete has been so eager to be without her lately (and, let's face it, forever) that it would be interesting to see how he reacts to NOT having her. And Pete as a single dad would be... insane.



And somebody who wasn't mentioned: Lane. That guy has been on such a crash course of a different kind. He's just a mess. I love his character deeply, but I would love to see how his death could change the show.



Probably in the same "who cares?" category as Greg/Beth/Betty is Jane, but I was stricken with how despondent she was in episode 9. She really seemed beaten down by Roger's mind games. Maybe she'll crack her back and have a bad flashback trip and fall out off the balcony of her new apartment building ;)
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was there something sinister when Don left someone to the lift and he went to check the other lift and the door opened with no lift
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I'm surprised the commentator didn't mention the fact that Roger Sterling had two heart attacks in the first season. Of course that motivated his crazy "live only for the moment" behaviour in latter seasons. Still I think it's likely he could drop anytime with that bum ticker of his--unless the writers have completely forgotten about it!
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Pete Campbell, down the elevator shaft , last episode of the season. Mark it down.
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Nah, too L.A. Law...
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What about Betty? I think that January Jones might be a little bit tired of the role - she's starting to appear more and more in the movies. That might be one of the reasons we see her so little this season. Maybe she just wants to quit at last?
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my bet is on Henry Francis
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i think it will be Magen or Roger... and it's defenitly going to be conncted to the elevator shaft
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I dont know whats with all of the suicide suggestions, but I do think that Megan is the most likely to die. I think it would have a significant impact on the characters of the show, most of which know her. However, there are many ways a person can die and I sort of think it will be in some accidental way (and not murder at Don's hands- I don't see that in him). Like her getting hit by a cab on her way to an audition. They do live in NYC, after all.
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Sorry for the non-specifics in terms of episode and name--but I was struck by the line from Roger who was looking out the office window with the new guy who told Peggy he was a Martian ( and didn't believe the story that he was born in a concentration camp)-- Roger said something to the effect of "We both want to throw something out of this window".

So... maybe Roger? Maybe the troubled copywriter? Seems to portend that someone is going out that window!
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I feel like Pete Campbell is going to die.
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I think the death will be the firm. Just my guess.
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I, personally have been waiting for the scene that memicks the opening credits of suicide. I think this will be the season for it and my bets are on Roger. And I think the real images of him falling will be just as gloriously shot as the animated version of the credits.
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My god! This is a Matt Weiner caliber idea. I truly hope your theory comes to fruition. It would be so tragically beautiful.
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The man falling is Don, and that is how Mad Men will end. Brilliant idea in my opinion.
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We basically have to include Burt Cooper purely because he's the "old guard" at SCDP.



BERT*
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This is a good insight! Indeed the whole season is soaked in death references. If there is someone that dies, however, it must not be someone secondary - they already did with Ida -, someone we do not care about, nor Don.

So in your list I would remove Greg and Beth. I also would cancel Betty just because she was barely seen this season, and Trudy.

Megan is more than probable (her spectacular and surprising rise to the stars always made me suspicious - perhaps she will have an equally sudden demise, a metaphor of the ephemeral world of advertising?) so for me it's the first in the list. The only thing that goes against the Megan hypothesis is that would have disastrous consequences for Don, and I am not sure the show wants to go there. Pete and Roger, for two different reasons, tie for the second place in my list.
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I hate to say it but you make a great point about Roger. The signs are all there; I would hate to see him go. I also think the newly introduced Pete-Beth love triangle could potentially lead to some serious jealousy and/or possible murder. I hope they don't kill off Dr. Greg; this is mostly due to the fact that it would make no emotional impact on the story. Who would care about that rapist? There would be no reprocussions storyline wise.
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I think maybe Roger, by suicide... or Megan, accidentally killed by Don... although you got me thinking about Pete... He surely got a weird vibe lately.
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I can see Sally dying. Maybe the actress is looking to move on. She was great in Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23.
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Aw, man, not Vincent Kartheiser. That dude is the best.
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If an actual character is dying, I can only see Beth, Dr. Rapey, or maybe Betty. Pete is a sorely-needed weasel, Roger's a sorely-needed rock star who's likely the father of Joan's baby, and Cooper...as said, it's been done already. I give Weiner more credit than that.



I expected Dr. Rapey to die the first time he went to 'Nam, but he returned so Joan could tell him off. I was worried that he'd die a martyr, but whether Joan cries for him or not, she already confronted him for the turd he is. There's not much left for him to do.



Beth is nice and inconsequential, so I guess that works.



There's not much for Betty, either. She doesn't carry much for the show on her own, as she's not attached to anyone but Don and the kids. Weiner doesn't seem to know what to do with her anymore, so he might let himself off the hook.



Maybe the guy with the glasses. Would anyone care?



On a side note, I miss Sal. Shame what happened with him, especially with Lucky Strike gone a year later, anyway.
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Maybe death is coming, but not to a character. I could definitely see Pete killing a burglar or something along those lines. The effect that would have on his psyche would be much more interesting than just ending his character altogether.
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Great article, MaryAnn! I think you're so right, someone is going to get it. I don't quite know why, but I have a strong feeling it's going to be Megan. She's almost too positive for the Mad Mad universe and it's changing Don for the better, but that's not necessarily good for the show. Her death would send Don into a tail spin for next season. Otherwise, if she lives, their relationship would likely turn into Betty redux.



Beth seems the next most likely to me too, but maybe she's the red herring with her life insurance husband and everything, to distract us and keep us from thinking it's Megan?



@bravetheearth, that's an awesome point and I seriously wonder if you might be right!
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Personally, I think it will be Megan. The empty elevator shaft sequence in the last episode was especially foreboding. Until she showed up in the apartment I thought they had.
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As much as I adore Alexis Bledel, I do think that Beth may be the one to be killed off. And I believe she did mention that her husband would not care or notice if she died or something. I do not think that any of the main characters will be the ones to kick the bucket, but who knows? I just hope it is not Pete or Betty!
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Something will happen for sure. I bet on Beth I don't want to Pete to die in some suicidal attempt. no way. it would be obvious. and everybody talks about it. yeah there were some grim hints. but it would be predictable considering his continuing descent into miserability.

And I don't want Megan to die but she is kinda annoying me. She's always doing her weird face expression, like she's irritated and hiding something. And she seemed fake at times. I don't know why is that may be coz of actress. In 4 season she was more genuine somehow. now she's fakey wife. I don't like when she started to cry during goodbyes in the office. It felt weird and not genuine. strange. weird acting may be.
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My vote is for Beth either by suicide or by murder. I could also see Pete being murdered by Beth's husband or perhaps Trudy, but I don't think its likely. Pete's death wouldn't make much narrative sense because I don't think the other characters would find themselves all that affected by it. Pete's also too much of a coward to take his own life for any reason. Beth's death on the other hand would at least give Pete some story and possibly impetus for change. It would also offer a few directions for social commentary.



Megan also makes some sense, but it seems like a waste to kill her. Having her cheat on Don would make more sense because it would take him to places (narratively and emotionally) that he hasn't been. I think that would be worse for him than her dying (unless she killed herself blaming him to his face while doing it) and I don't think he'd kill her for it. The dream in which he killed her wasn't about the murder -- it was about how much he wants to make it work with her and an expression of recognition of his own shortcomings in their relationship.



As for the other characters listed, who cares? Their deaths wouldn't offer much to the show. Roger is probably the most likely, but only because his character doesn't have much of a role in the others' lives at this point. He's pretty important to balancing out the other characters and keeping the audience happy though, so, although he could definitely meet his end, I think doing so might be a mistake in terms of keeping an audience.
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I agree, and it's going to be Megan Draper. I've thought this since the first episode of this season. Wanna know how it's going to happen? She's going to jump off their very high balcony. Don't believe me? Go watch episode 1 of this season 46:09 - 46:55. Maybe I'm wrong, but I caught a strong foreshadowing vibe. Let me know if you agree.
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Having watched it again, I like your theory. Exactly the sort of scene they would put in for the 'Aha!' reaction that MaryAnn mentioned during re-watches.



Plus there was all that cryptic talk of windows at SCDP and people falling/being thrown through them, I remember it being a minor Mad Men conspiracy theory back early in the season.
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That fits well with my theory for the series finale (may it be many, many seasons away), The very last scene will be Don jumping off the SCDP building and falling in slow motion while the opening theme plays. It will be the biggest aha moment ever, because we've all watched it over and over.
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I don't know. I remember Weiner saying the show would end with a time jump and Don as an old man. That doesn't really jive with your theory. Unless it's Roger that takes the plunge.
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I think his comments were misinterpreted -- I read it a couple of times just because I had a "huh?" reaction to it, and it sounds like he is just saying that he wants it to end in a way that we can relate to in 2011. I also hope this isn't how he'll end it just because... what series creator would DO that to his fans, spoiling the end two years early?! Especially Weiner. He's so secretive.



That being said, in the same article, it said that he doesn't really know how it will end, but has a few ideas. So it doesn't make sense either that the title credits were created to fulfill a series ending. I do like the reverse idea. But they very well could do the reverse, crafting a "falling from the building" death from because of the title credits. Still, I hope it's something we haven't already guessed a million times. I like it when the show surprises me!
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I like this theory, especially if she does it during/after a confrontation with Don.
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Yeah especially if the police think Don has something to do with it. I can just see the neighbors giving statements on all the fights and Don kicking in the door. Not only would her death put Don into a dark spiral, but the murder investigation would be an interesting way to start the next season.
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a bit too off the Mad Men style though
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I think it'll be Beth. Think it'll be good for the season and takes away a character some people, and me in particularly would like to have killed.
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