I'm afraid I still think this season is a mite pedestrian. It's good pedestrian, but it's not quite what it was. In fact it now resembles what people used to say it was: a character study of the lives of powerful personalities, with ironic commentary on how social notions of good and evil have changed in the last forty or fifty years. It seems so far to be more structured, more logical, more straight-forwardly moral than it was: the modern visage peeping through.
The ghastly Roger Sterling performs a minstrel song in blackface. 'What we all think about this' is so heavily present it distorts the scene. What was most interesting was not that Don was disgusted, but that Pete Campbell was, even temporarily shocked out of exploiting the networking opportunity. What does this portend? Humanity creeping into his bleak soul?
In this Valve post Scott Kaufman says Don Draper is being left behind by the flow of time.
Campbell is, in a sense, becoming us, and we revile his behaviour to the extent that we recognize our sins in his actions. Draper, however, is becoming Art, and as such we hold him as responsible for his actions as we would Emma Bovary*. His self-fashioning was ... an act of literature.*ETA - I think he means we forgive him, because he is a beautiful creation.
In contrast this Valve post says that it is Pete Campbell who is evaporating, while Don has fixity.
It is quite common in real life to let other people “get away” with attitudes or behaviours that we eschew, and that we (rather confusingly) also consider unethical. That is because, sadly, our sense of the “ethical” often functions partly as a justification for the dead spaces, aesthetic failures, and unresolved dreariness that infiltrate our lives.
And the third Valve post says that we see characters like Peggy Olsen and Pete Campbell becoming more modern, because the way they frame their lives to themselves is becoming more like the ways we frame our own life stories to ourselves ('The Glass Ceiling' for example).
Whereas Draper (in this argument) is attempting to fabricate himself from the ground up:
Draper is, then, something of an exploded man sifting through bits of himself in search of the core to which all these bits once belonged. However, until he accomplishes this impossibility, his self-fashioning will still be far more aesthetic than that of the other characters on Mad Men, and as such, the show’s literate audience will still be drawn to him more than them.
I've quoted these three posts at length, although I don't agree with any of them. Instead I think that Draper's quest, and to some extent the quest of all the characters, is towards Authentic Being. This may be - is - an impossible quest, but it is a movement from the contingencies of one time, towards something unreachable but not time-bound. In this respect it is like Lavinia, the Children's Book, Pride and Prejudice. In fact now I am starting to see something that unites the books and TV shows that I like best.