Without a unifying desire line, the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, has created a totally new TV story structure, one based on contrasting American ideals and reality. Don and his fellow Mad Men (and they are almost all men) are in the business of creating and selling the American Dream. But when they go home to their suburban families, we see an actual life not filled with freedom and promise but defined by limits and lies.
The story challenge for the writers of Mad Men is, first, to set recognizable frames for each season, based not a clean desire line but on how each of the major characters moves between slavery and freedom in modern America. Within each episode, the trick is to come up with a story sequence that highlights the contrast between the Dream these characters sell and the harsh reality in which they live.