Why 'Mad Men's' Megan Is Not Sharon Tate

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Jessica Pare and Sharon Tate
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Is "Mad Men" setting up Don Draper's soap-opera actress wife for a brutal end, à la Charles Manson victim Sharon Tate?

No.

Now that that's out of the way, let's roll it back a bit.

Shortly after the episode "The Better Half," which originally aired May 26, the interwebs got fired up with the notion that Megan Draper, aka Jessica Pare, was "becoming" Tate; that the show's creator, Matthew Weiner, was "bringing" Tate to Megan's character; or, most grisly, that Megan was about to "be murdered" like Tate, the "Valley of the Dolls" star and wife of director Roman Polanski who was killed along with four others by followers of Manson, the cult leader and career criminal.

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Two things initially drove the discussion: one, "Mad Men" costumer Janie Bryant's admission, via Twitter, that it was "no coincidence" that Megan wore a star-emblazoned T-shirt in "The Better Half" as a nod to a 1967 Tate shoot for Esquire magazine; and two, Reddit's epic, "Paul is dead"-style thread "Megan = Sharon Tate?"

Those looking for clues (somebody said "Pigs!" ... the break-in at the Drapers' apartment! ... all those police sirens!) found more in "A Tale of Two Cities," which first aired on June 2.

When a California-dreaming Don (Jon Hamm) goes wobbly on hashish, he imagines seeing his wife along with a young soldier he befriended at the start of the season during the Drapers' Hawaiian excursion. The soldier tells Don that he's dead; Megan tells Don that she's pregnant. In reality, Don is face-down in a pool. But was his hallucination more than a hallucination? Was he intuiting that the soldier had in fact been killed in Vietnam? More to the point, was he subconsciously linking his wife to Tate, who was just weeks away from giving birth at the time and her murder?

To answer the last question nearly the same as our very first question: No.

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Tate was killed in late summer 1969, not the late summer 1968 that "Mad Men" currently inhabits, a timeline fact that surely did not escape the detail-oriented Matthew Weiner (and has not escaped detail-oriented fans).

Dates aside, the idea that this scene or that scene is setting up Megan as a tragic Sharon Tate 2.0 (or that the show has already killed the character, per the fertile imagination of writer Dustin Rowles at Uproxx) just isn't a sound one; it doesn't fit into the "Mad Men" ethos.

In Season 3, no one became Jack Kennedy, to name another famous murder victim of the 1960s. In the current Season 6, no one became Martin Luther King or Robert F. Kennedy, to name two more. And in Season 5, Peggy certainly didn't become one of Richard Speck's statistics; she heard about the nursing-student slayings.

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As much as "Mad Men" is about re-creating the aesthetics of its decade, it is not about re-enacting the decade's events or re-creating its people. The closest you get to Paul Newman in his "Cool Hand Luke" prime is a far-faraway shot of him (or rather the actor playing the actor) at a podium. ("I need binoculars," Joan says — and so do we.)

Maybe "Forrest Gump" put Gump in Vietnam, on a talk-show couch next to John Lennon, and in meet-and-greets with presidents, but "Mad Men" doesn't. It's insular; its inhabitants are so inner-focused that they barely reacted to the death of the character who was killed off last season: dear Lane Pryce (Jared Harris).

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Beyond that, there's this practical matter: If "Mad Men" offs Megan one year after it hanged Lane, then it'll have turned into "Dallas," and next we'll have to start speculating as to who shot Don Draper.

That's another re-creation we don't need. (Wrong decade, too.)

"Mad Men" airs Sundays at 9 PM on AMC.

 

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