In the week leading up to the Mad Men premiere The Wire will be revisiting some of the show's most important characters. Today it's Sally Draper, Don and Betty's troubled daughter.
Where She Was
When we first meet Sally, she is more of a symbol of problems in her parents' marriage than anything else. She appears in the pilot as just a sleeping figure, someone who her father kisses as he returns home to his seemingly idyllic family life. In the second episode, she is an example of her mother's carelessness, running in with a dry cleaning bag on her head. Betty obviously doesn't mind that her daughter might suffocate, but chides her about potentially leaving the clothes the bag once contained on the floor.
Season 3, Episode 4, The Arrangements: Sally's Grandpa Gene is someone she trusts. And he trusts her to an absurd degree, even letting her drive the car. When he dies she lashes out, only to be ignored by Betty who tells her to go watch TV. She lies on the floor and watches a news report on the self-immolation of Quảng Đức.
Season 4, Episode 5, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Better remembered as the episode in which Sally masturbates to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Sally begins the episode inquiring about Don's date and then proceeds to give herself a haircut and ask the babysitter about sex. When she's caught "playing with herself" at a friend's house, Betty scolds her, and ends up sending her to a child psychiatrist.
Season 5, Episode 11, Commissions and Fees: This episode showcases the rare tender moment between Betty and Sally. Sally refuses to go on a ski trip with her mother and Henry. She goes to New York to hang with Megan, and while there calls once creepy kid Glen Bishop. When she finds she has gotten her period she abandons Glen and runs home to her mother.
Season 6, Episode 10, Favors: Sally idealizes her (frankly lousy) father, but that relationship is shattered when he walks in on him having sex with his neighbor Sylvia Rosen.
Season 6, Episode 12, The Quality of Mercy: Sally tries out boarding school and encounters some mean girls who want booze and cigarettes. She calls in support from Glen, who gets in a fight with the other boy he brings after he tries to fool around with Sally. On the ride home, Betty offers Sally a cigarette.
Where She Is Now
Sally Draper ends the penultimate season sharing a quizzical yet knowing look with her father as they stand in front of the whorehouse where Don grew up. Their relationship, fractured after the realization of Don's infidelity to Megan, may be on the road to repair thanks to Don's long awaited honesty.
Sally began the show as an example of how bad early '60s parenting could be. She ends up the product of her parents very specific weaknesses and scarred by their behaviors. Betty's cruelty has left her with resentment toward her mother and a tendency to act out. Don's once appealing free-wheeling lifestyle is now tainted in her eyes, her own sexual frustrations mixed up in the knowledge that her beloved dad is a womanizer.
Perhaps there's a happy ending for Sally, but she might have to leave the world of her parents behind her. Sally finding joy would be something to freak out about, though.