I find it fascinating that the audience cannot help but want to like characters in Mad Men. There is something pathetic in this --- Mad Men writers seduce the audience members with glitz and glamor, then slap them around every so often, but the fans always come back and kneel at the feet of these characters and beg for more. It's almost like advertising. They feed you shit and mess with your head, so that they can rob you blind. People eat out of their hands and love and worship the dope pushed by advertisement. Here Mad Men folks drop plenty of clues to tell the audience how shitty the characters are, but the audience remain in blissful self-hypnosis.
It always amuses me to see the "smart" and well-educated reviewers and readers on Slate.com so eagerly identify with characters like Betty Draper and so earnestly hoping to "save" Betty and Don's marriage. They are no wiser than the numskull 师奶团 who advise silly girls to marry the first man who proposes or housewives to stay in their shitty marriage because they can't help but imagine themselves in the center of everybody else's story. It makes me want to puke and laugh at the same time to read how they all want the vain, infantile, self-absorbed Betty and cheating, lying, wandering Don learn to become a mature, wise, and loving couple with an exemplary marriage. Go watch "Seventh Heaven" will ya?
No matter how charming and seductive Roger Sterling is, the writers did not hesitate to slap his fans in the face with his "black face" performance a few weeks ago. Connie Hilton first appeared as a father figure and source of Don's good fortune a few episodes ago, and we got the rug pulled out of ... not his, but our expectations, very quickly. Even in his most vulnerable moment, we are reminded that Don caused the death of his kid brother who had harmed no one. And he just fired Sal for refusing the advances of a client and yelled at Peggy for asking for equal pay with her male colleagues.
If you expect to identify with the characters and imagine them as if they were your spouse or family, to care about and admire them as if they were your best friends, to love them and hope they live the good, righteous life for you ... forget it. Their flaws are gaping holes as large as those in real people. Their lives are as messy and dysfunctional as our families and neighbors.
And that includes Don Draper, who every man wants to be and every woman wants to marry/have an affair with. He is full of those gaping holes inside too -- not his tragic upbringing but his character flaws. So far the only character who has not been ruthlessly exposed at one point or another is Peggy, although I wonder how long that will last.
Other shows/movies beg you to like the characters and put yourself in their shoes. You need them to be OK in the end because you need to feel you'll be OK in the end. This is not that kind of show. The only danger for Mad Men is if the creator/writer becomes too attached to a character and cannot bear to expose the flaws and contradictions in him or her, if the writer wants the audience to like the character.