There has been a lot of speculation about who, if anyone, will die before the end of "Mad Men," and as of Sunday night's penultimate episode, there's at least one character who isn't long for this fictional world: the perfectly coiffed, emotionally repressed Betty Francis.
While on her way to class in a navy, nautical-inspired look (which earns her the nickname "Mrs. Robinson" from some helpful male students), Betty falls and breaks a rib. Later, at the doctor's, Betty discovers she has metastasized lung cancer and has probably less than a year to live. For her x-ray results appointment, in which the doctor never seems to address her directly, she wears an incongruously cheery pink pussy bow blouse (see image above), covered in abstract polka dots. Not a hair is out of place, and Betty flatly refuses to receive treatment. It would, after all, be impossible to maintain this level of perfection while undergoing radiation therapy.
In typical Betty fashion, she doesn't want to tell her children about her impending death or really change her life plans in any way at all. When Henry brings Sally home to try to convince her to fight for more time, Betty coldly explains that's not going to happen and gives Sally a letter to be opened after her death. Sally, of course, opens it immediately, only to find instructions as to exactly how her mother wants to be dressed in her coffin. Oh, and a few words of encouragement for her daughter to hold on to for the rest of her life. But mostly funeral instructions. Her husband couldn't be entrusted with this?
Betty writes to Sally that her body must be interned intact in the family plot, and includes a photograph of her from the 1968 Republican winter gala. She writes that the blue chiffon dress she wore that night is her favorite, and her chosen look for the afterlife. She wants her hair done to its usual perfection and her favorite lipstick grabbed from her purse. Betty cannot control when she will die or how, but she can control how she will look after her death — flawless in appearance, despite everything else. It is part of her final acts of defiance, along with refusing treatment and not dropping out of her courses.
There are a lot of important nightgowns in this episode. Sally, Betty and Trudy Campbell all have serious conversation in the middle of the night in their very elaborate and feminine pajamas. Sally's and Trudy's nightgowns are more girly and colorful while Betty's is a plain ice blue.
Trudy is a more modern housewife than Betty, though not by much. She is a divorced woman living on her own who refuses to besmirch her ex-husband in front of their daughter. Her neon pink, orange and yellow nightgown is adorably youthful for a woman with a child, and its collar and short sleeves stand in great contrast to Betty's billowing layers of tulle. Trudy agrees to try to be a family again with Pete, but she is not in denial about his weaknesses.
Is this the last we will ever see of Betty? At this point, every scene could be each character's last. As Don Draper continues to roam across the Midwest, we hope he has a chance to say goodbye to Betty before the credits role one final time.
Just one more episode to go.