AMC just released this vignette for the final 7 episodes of Mad Men's series-ending 7th season. And while the character development and style evolution on the show is intriguing, we're more interested in predicting how the show might end (fingers crossed we're not getting St. Elsewhere'd). Here are our conspiracy theories:
1. Don Draper Has a Brain Tumor
Lung cancer is probably more likely with his 20+ year cigarette habit, but what if Don Draper has had a brain tumor this whole time, causing him to hallucinate far more than the dancing Bert scene in the last episode?
This isn't the first time Don has hallucinated something unbelievable. Back in season 6 after hitting the hookah on a trip to California, Don hallucinated that he had drowned:
Don hallucinated his dead brother, Adam, when he went under laughing gas for his "hot tooth" (side note: WTF IS THAT?) in an earlier season. He also hallucinated Anna Draper's death (the widow from whom he stole his last name).
For this theory, let's assume Don Draper has suffered from a brain tumor for quite some time, and will succumb in the series finale.
2. Dick Whitman's Purgatory
If you've seen beyond the first season of Mad Men (and if you haven't what are you doing???), you know that Don Draper is actually Dick Whitman. Dick was an American soldier serving in the Korean war under Lieutenant Donald Draper. Shortly after Dick learned that Don's tour of duty was coming to a close, he accidentally caused an explosion. Dick survived the explosion and upon realizing he was the sole survivor, he switched dog tags with the burned-beyond-recognition Don Draper.
Perhaps Dick Whitman died in the hospital shortly after stealing Don's dog tags and is living in purgatory, spending an eternity paying for his sins as Don Draper. That would make Bert's "The Best Things in Life Are Free" dance number seem more like a taunt than anything else.
3. We're Being 'The Notebook'd'
In the classic early-aughts film The Notebook, Allie (played by Rachel McAdams and Gena Rowlands) is a woman with Alzheimer's misremembering the torrid love triangle of her youth. That plot line is effective, keeping the audience guessing which man she chose.
Don Draper leads an impressive life. He's plowed through more women and ad accounts than almost all of his peers, and he's seen little blowback (aside from his temporary suspension at the end of season 6) for his bad behavior. It is plausible, then, that Don's memories are self-aggrandizing and faulty due to a future failing mental state. Only time will tell if his entire storyline was hyperbole.
4. Revival of the 'Megan is Sharon Tate' Theory
The internet went deep in the rabbit hole for the conspiracy theory that Megan Draper was representative of Manson family victim and Roman Polanski spouse, Sharon Tate, back in season 6. Initially, redditors theorized that Don's second wife was definitely going to die last season based on the poster that featured multiple police officers and a partial bride, and the bold costuming choice designer Janie Bryant made for her character:
The Twitter conversation between the wardrobe designer and daughter of the Esquire photog behind Tate's iconic image only fueled the theory.
But based on the newly released trailer, Megan does live to see the '70s (although AV Club isn't so sure…). Is it possible she was still brutally murdered? Does she ever seen Don again in this life? Is she still a raving maniac desperate for fame???
5. Don Draper's Life is Dick Whitman's Comatose Dream
This is by far the closest we'll come to a St. Elsewhere scenario, but bear with us. Is It possible that Dick Whitman is in a coma, and because he knows Don Draper from his time in the armed forces, he begins to believe he's become him? Is it possible that Megan is in fact, Sharon Tate and that comatose Dick overhears his doctors discussing the news of her untimely death and she then becomes part of his dream? Could Dick have heard radio spots for popular products and dreamed he created them as a successful ad man in the big city?
This also lines up with the surreal hallucinations Don suffers from season after season. Perhaps the dream ebbs and flows, sometimes more, sometimes less realistic. We're not super into this being the finale's "twist," but anything can happen.
6. Don Will Anonymously Found AA
Don Draper is an alcoholic. After regaining sobriety during his sabbatical from SC&P for going H.A.M. during the Hershey's presentation, he fell off the wagon again at a Mets game. Don is in need of a major life change. Since family and work seem unstable at this juncture, perhaps he can find meaning in helping others suffering similarly. Could Don Draper end up being "Bill W.?"
Maybe Bert's postmortem performance, "The Best Things in Life Are Free" was actually about Don quitting his addictions to advertising and alcohol, and helping the world with his extra time and funds.
7. The Show was about Peggy All Along
This is our favorite theory by far.
Peggy Olson started as Don Draper's secretary in the unbelievably sexist '50s and has worked her way up to Copy Chief at the merged SC&P in 1969. She's overcome so many obstacles by 30 that it's hard to imagine she has anything left standing in her way. The overt sexism and underestimation of her talent is seen repeatedly, but that hasn't stopped her upward progress.
She is talented, has secured many a big account, and is only 30!!! She can grow with the company. Thanks to her newly-repaired work relationship with Don Draper, she's restored her confidence in her leadership abilities and secured Burger Chef, the agency's first fast food account (ahead of the boom in the early 70s).
What if the final episode is even further in the future, perhaps the 80s, and she has ascended all the ranks? Will her first order of business be to finally rid the company of Pete Campbell and his receding hairline?
Bet you want to rewatch from the beginning of the series now…
Images via Lionsgate and New Line Cinema.
Akilah Hughes is a comedian, YouTuber, and staff writer and producer for Fusion's culture section. You can almost always find her waxing poetic about memes and using too many emojis. 🍕