After "New Business," Sunday night's episode of Mad Men, it looks like we've seen the last of Megan Draper. The Megan-heavy episode irked fans who weren't thrilled to see so much time was devoted to her divorce from Don while the final season is quickly slipping away. The frustration is understandable considering there are only five episodes left and most of us are entering into panic mode. We must know what happens to Pete, Peggy, and Sally — and for the love of god where is Joan in all of this? But despite not being the biggest fan of Megan in the past, I was surprised that I felt the opposite. I was content to watch the Calvets bicker for an hour, and found myself wanting to see where Megan's story goes after her Mad Men sign off, so much so that I'm thinking the actress deserves her own spinoff.
AMC always wanted a spinoff from showrunner Matthew Weiner featuring Sally grown up, or Peggy heading off to Los Angeles, according to an oral history of the show published in The Hollywood Reporter. Weiner has made it clear that a spinoff is not going to happen, but they once said there was no chance of a Sex and the City movie and now we have two. So let me dream, specifically in this case, of an L.A.-set spinoff featuring Megan Draper and her cast of actor friends. Like Joey Tribbiani, Megan has made the journey from NYC to L.A., and deserves the followup that comes with it (I actually really liked that Friends spinoff, Joey, OK?)
Of course, Mad Men fans can probably think of a few other characters they'd want to get a spinoff before Megan. I get it. But Megan is a captivating character in her own right, though admittedly, the reason I love her now doesn't work without addressing why I didn't like her in the first place.
It all goes back to Season 5's "Lady Lazarus," in which Megan decides to leave her job as an SCDP copywriter — the episode that may as well have been titled "Megan's Choice" for all the debate it inspired. Peggy is shocked that Megan would leave the job she herself fought so hard to get, and then chastises Megan for taking up a coveted copywriting position that she didn't truly want. Peggy later concedes to Joan that she believes in Megan and thinks she's one of those girls who's good at everything. Their conversation is a stand-in for the way the audience sees her: as a girl who gets what she wants and is good at everything.
But it goes beyond Peggy: Roger laments that he didn't get to choose what he did for a living — his father told him what he was going to do. There's a lot of surprise and grumbling throughout the agency at the thought that a person would willingly leave SCDP to follow her dreams, a clear message that one's true desires weren't exactly something that women declared openly at the time. Trying to make sense of her decision, Roger suggests to Don that Megan's departure from the firm would make more sense if it was a guise to slowly fade out of the working world so she could stay home and have a baby.
Yes, Megan always "does what she wants," but that's not a bad thing. Her life choices — leaving advertising to pursue acting, backstabbing her friend in order to get a role, moving to L.A on her own — are what make her an interesting character. The standard for female TV characters has always been likability, and frankly, it needs to get thrown out in favor of watch-ability. And Megan's life in L.A. has been just that: extremely watchable.
Megan's storyline has been dismal since she moved to L.A. She showed the naysayers at SCDP up when she landed a role on a soap opera — albeit a minor one — but since then, leaving the New York-based show for Los Angeles stardom seems to have been a mistake. Her divorce episode portrays her as a failing actress, but her throwaway comment about turning down smaller roles while she hedged her bets for lead roles makes me wonder if it's not about a lack of talent, but about Megan playing her cards all wrong. (And no, "wrong" does not refer to her refusal to acquiesce to Harry Crane's casting couch proposal.) She's simply overestimating her star power.
And here's where it gets interesting: Regardless of Megan's acting ability, the life she's built in L.A. is what's most intriguing about her. When we first find Megan in LA, she's living it up in her cute hideaway; she's got an active social life with her acting friends; and she still favors parties where she puts on a sexy musical performance to entertain her guests. Weiner has always gone out of his way to include L.A. in the Mad Men storyline, especially in later seasons — hell, half of the characters were living there at one point. His portrayal of the city is always bright, sunny, and relaxed, but placing Megan up in the hills in a remote home gives her home life a darker tint. (I'll spare you the obligatory Sharon Tate reference.) It's something that I'd love to see explored more than Mad Men's sprawling scope has allowed.
Dark tales of L.A. acting world or not, the built-in accessories to Megan's story would be worth a spinoff on their own. After spending some time with Megan and her mother, Marie Calvet, it's clear that while they have differences, they share the opinion that being boring is one of the worst crimes a person can commit. Marie's French-Canadian burns are arguably the most on-point of any Mad Men character ever — remember when she called Roger's client's wife "the apple that goes in the pig's mouth"? Marie has no qualms about giving her daughter sex tips, and has established herself as a relationship soothsayer. After recently running off with Roger in "New Business," we're absolutely going to need to find out where her journey of self-actualization ends. At least I absolutely need to know.
And even if you strip away the entrancing, incomplete L.A. storyline and her intoxicating mother, Megan deserves a spin-off because she's so much better outside the context of being Don Draper's wife. We deserve to see more of that Megan. The scene in which she turns down Harry's indecent proposal without hesitation speaks volumes about her growth since moving to L.A. She used to be apologetic and meek when dealing with Peggy as her superior — in fact, she was meek with most agency employees.
Now that Megan is free of Don, we finally get to see her really, truly, unapologetically speak her mind. And that, my fellow Mad Men fans, is a story worth telling.
Images: Frank Okenfels 3, Michael Yarish, Courtesy of AMC, Justina Mintz /AMC