Behold, the new “Mad Men” poster.
It was designed by illustrator Brian Sanders, the real deal from the period in which Mad Men takes place. While it’s unlikely Sanders knows much more about the sixth season than we do — and blindly interpreting images is often a waste of time — let’s at least speculate on what this poster could mean for the critically acclaimed series’ sixth season.
1. Megan’s acting career takes off, forcing her to leave Don behind.
The hand Don’s holding in the poster: is it Megan’s? If so, it’s unclear whether the distance is on her side or his. One possible reading is that she’s pulling away from Don, which could speak to her acting success at the end of Season 5. If Megan does become a big star, will she still be interested in Don? His treatment of her has been mixed, at best. And wouldn’t it be nice, for once, if it was the woman in Don’s life who became too important for him.
2. Don moves on with another woman.
Alternately, the image could signify Don pulling away from Megan. It might not even be Megan’s hand. The fact that we can’t see the woman could suggest that she’s interchangeable — any number of women Don has fallen into bed with over the years. Megan seemed different, but she may have only been a momentary stop, another diversion following his divorce from Betty. Whatever happens, it seems unlikely Don will remain faithful.
3. Somehow Ginsburg surpasses Don.
As Peggy pointed out, Ginsburg (by virtue of being a man) was able to move up in the firm much faster than she was. Could he somehow come to overtake Don, beating him out for a major client, or otherwise surpassing Don’s work? The poster shows Don looking back at what appears to be another Don, dressed in light blue. Couldn’t this be an up-and-comer taking his place? Ginsburg seems like the logical choice, although Pete Campbell is a fair bet, too.
4. Everyone learns the truth about Dick Whitman.
Another reading of the double Don Draper in the poster: one of those Dons could be Dick Whitman, the real name that our protagonist has been hiding from all these years. While Don’s true identity is no longer a total secret, it could still jeopardize his career. The way the two Dons in the poster are glancing at each other might reflect Don’s fear of the past catching up to him, which has been weighing on him since the first season.
5. There’s more of an inquiry into Lane’s suicide.
Just as Lane’s ghost lingered over the final episode, it’s possible that his death will have further ramifications in Mad Men’s sixth season. That’s one explanation for the police presence in the poster. If Lane’s embezzlement is uncovered, what would that mean for his widow? And perhaps more to the point, will Don’s decision to fire Lane come back to haunt him? As much guilt as he feels, he has yet to experience judgment from any of his colleagues or the family Lane left behind.
6. Civil rights riots and unrest continue.
More than any other speculation on the list, this feels like an inevitability. Season 5 left off in 1967, which means there’s a good chance we’ll pick up in 1968, a turbulent year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Mad Men has of course dealt with race relations, but this season could push things further. And civil rights protests and riots could also explain the police activity in the new poster.
7. Don leaves the firm.
The “One Way” sign is foreboding, especially since Don seems to be going in the other direction. Here’s one theory: Don, realizing he’s no longer as relevant as he once was or doing the work he wants to be doing, decides to leave his firm. Perhaps he goes to work for Peggy, as many have speculated (and hoped for). This would go against societal norms of the time, but if Don needs to reinvent himself, going the opposite of the “One Way” might be the best solution.