I get why Pete Campbell is important to Mad Men. I do. I know that by having a greedy, immoral little turd hanging around the office, it gives the show the opportunity to do bad, bad things, and in the process let a deeply flawed character like Don Draper put on the white hat every now and then. And I also know that if you removed him entirely from the series then you wouldn’t see what happens when someone who doesn’t have any of Don’s charm gets jealous of the seemingly consequence-free life he lives and tries to get away with the same types of things, usually with disastrous results. I get that. I know that the whole point is that the audience is supposed to hate Pete most of the time, and that the show is probably much better for it. I’ll concede all those points.
But what if Pete Campbell gets eaten by a bear?
Just hear me out here. What if a bear just, like, walks off the elevator, strolls into the the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices, nods at the receptionist, then heads straight for Pete’s office and mauls him to death? No explanation, no foreshadowing, no scene where everyone in the office huddles around a television to watch a news report about a giant grizzly bear on the loose in Manhattan, nothing. Just a solid five-minute scene of a bear mauling Pete and his stupid new sideburns. How great would that be?
Now, I know what you’re all thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Yeah, that would be pretty great. But really, how would the bear get all the way to Pete without causing a scene? Don’t you think Pete would hear the commotion and hide under his desk or maybe smear his secretary with salmon and throw her in front of the bear like the spineless weasel he is?” This is a fair point. And you’re right, that does sound precisely like something Pete Campbell would do.
But what if the bear were wearing a trench coat and fedora, and carrying a newspaper in his mouth when he walked into the office?
Think about it. He’d look just like a businessman! Sure, people might be a little confused by the hairy, 1200 lb beast lumbering through the office on all fours, but this is Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce we’re talking about. Those people have SEEN THINGS. You really think an office full of people who watched a drunken secretary drive over a man’s foot with a riding lawnmower — indoors, in Manhattan — is going to react quickly enough to a perfectly disguised bear that Pete would have enough time to grab a bunch of salmon and rub it on his secretary before the bear gets to him? Fat chance, I say. Besides, they’ll probably all think it’s Stan with a really bad hangover.
God, it would be so great. The bear could just march past everyone straight to Pete’s office (“Hey there. Haven’t seen you around before. You the new man on Chevy? Name’s Benson. Bob Benson. Gotta say, love the whole ‘newspaper in the mouth’ thing. Keeps the hands free. Listen, I have an extra ticket to Sinatra tonight. You want it? You want both of them? I don’t mind missing it. Bring the wife. No answer? I like that. Power move. Did I mention the name’s Benson?”), shut the door, calmly shake off the hat and coat, then just maul the hell out of him. Nothing but Pete Campbell’s blood and screams filling the air for 300 uninterrupted seconds. I would cheer. I would honestly cheer. Out loud. Then the next day I would find a bunch of high-quality GIFs — OH, THERE WOULD BE GIFS — and I would open up so many of them at once that it would shut down my browser. Then I would open it back up and do it again. And again. Andagainandagainandagain.
And it’s not really that far-fetched, when you think about it. I mean, this is a show that just devoted an entire episode to the fallout from everyone getting a mystery drug injected into their ass. It’s only a short train ride from there to unexplained bear attack. They could do it. They could totally do it. And then when a bunch of critics ask showrunner Matt Weiner about it he can give them a super dismissive answer like “Sometimes I think it’s best not to spell everything out for the audience.” Everyone would lose their minds. It would be anarchy. I would love it so much.
So, yeah. Definitely something to think about.