Severance Hackage, or Why Kenny Cosgrove Has No One But Himself to Blame


AMONG THE MANY entertainments of Mad Men is the train-wreck thrill of watching its talented, pretty characters self-destruct in spectacular fashion. They smoke too much, drink too much, work too much, and sleep with the wrong people over and over and over again. But what secondary character Ken Cosgrove did in Sunday’s episode makes Don’s, Peggy’s, Roger’s, Pete’s, and Joan’s transgressions look like harmless, impish fun.

Ken is an account manager with creative aspirations. In a previous season, he published a short story in The Atlantic (!), and on Sunday he spoke wistfully of perhaps writing a book someday. Someday came quickly for Ken, who found himself on the losing end of some office politics and shit-canned as a result. His cashiering came not only with a generous severance package but also with his wife’s explicit permission — indeed, her urging — for him to write the book.

For us mid-career types with creative yearnings, this was an enviable instance of the stars aligning with aching perfection. So what did Ken do? In a fit of pique over how his firing went down, he angled himself into an advertising job for one of the agency’s biggest clients so that he could torment his tormentors.

No severance. No writing time. And certainly no book.

No future. And no pity. | DL

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