The Mad Men season finale episodes are often used to mark big changes for Don Draper, whether personally or professionally. Last year we ended the season with Don about to start cheating on Megan after a season of being a pretty decent husband, all told. The year before that, Don got engaged. And the year before that, Don, Roger, Lane, and Bert started SCDP in a hotel room. This year’s finale saw Don taking a big leap personally, while being pushed back professionally. Will either change hold in Season 7? Well, we’ll just have to see, won’t we?
The episode starts with Don trying to run from his problems, like he always has; and it ends with Don finally facing up to the demons that have plagued him his entire life. We’ve known all season that Don is not happy. He’s drinking a ton, still having affairs, he’s disengaged from work, and he’s alienated his daughter. And when Stan comes to him about starting a satellite branch of SC&P out in LA, Don pooh-poohs it until it hits him how moving to California could solve all his problems. He and Megan could start anew (and she’d have to quit that pesky soap job Don seems to rue so much), he’d be away from Sally and Sylvia, and it would give him an opportunity to start fresh, professionally. In LA, everything’s coming up Don Draper.
So he sets the wheels in motion. He pisses off Stan and Ted Chaough in the process, but who cares? Stan’s a peon, and Ted’s a whiner, who will never be happy about anything Don does. All that matters is that Megan’s cool with it and Don can escape from New York with minimal messiness.
But then Don gets a call from Betty. Sally has been suspended from school for buying beer with a fake ID. Betty doesn’t know what to do anymore. She’s tried everything with Sally and nothing is working. She needs Don’s help. She laments that Sally comes from a “broken home.” And that, more than anything, turns on the lightbulb in Don Draper. He’s also from a broken home.
He didn’t have the love and support of a family, and now he’s pushing that same burden onto his children. He’s planning on running from them, abandoning them, leaving them, lost, with the same issues he’s dealt with his entire life, the same issues he’s still dealing with as a grown ass man. This revelation manifests itself in the most un-Don Draper-like way imaginable. After giving the typical, slick, bullshit pitch to Hershey’s chocolate, he launches into the truth about Don Draper. He didn’t have a father to buy him Hershey’s chocolate. He had a whorehouse full of no one who really cared about him. He had one woman who let him go through the pockets of her johns while she was performing her services. If Don (Dick) found more than a dollar, he got to buy himself a Hershey bar, which he ate alone in his room with great ceremony, and it made him feel like a normal kid for a few minutes. This was Don unwrapping the slick, glitzy wrapper of Don Draper to reveal the Dick Whitman underneath. Yeah, I went there.
Now that the truth is out, Don no longer needs to run. He feels good about what he just did. He tells Ted he can escape to LA if he wants to because Don doesn’t need to hide anymore. What can go wrong?
Well, for one thing, his wife can walk out on him, which she does. Megan has spent the entire season walking on eggshells around Don, who could be totally distant one minute and a doting husband the next. She quit her job and made plans to look for work out in LA for Don, and now he’s saying they have to stay in New York. She won’t do it. She’s moving to California. She is not interested in continuing a bi-coastal relationship that’s no longer working.
And when Don shows up at SC&P the next morning for a “partners’ meeting” about California, he learns that he’s being asked to take an indefinite leave of absence on account of his heavy drinking (which didn’t have anything to do with his “making a scene” during the Hershey’s meeting, though he did have that one tiny drink Ted suggested).
Don leaves work and picks up his boys and Sally and takes them to a “bad neighborhood” in Pennsylvania. Don tells the kids that this rundown old whorehouse was where he grew up, and suddenly he starts to become a real person for his children. Will this new honest and open Don Draper last? Who knows. Maybe now that his big secret is out in the air, he can finally become the man he’s always wanted to be. And then he’ll probably die a horrific death at the hands of Michael Ginsberg and/or Bob Benson (or possibly reanimated Lane Price) at the end of next season.
What were the other people doing?
Well, Pete was learning that, given his family’s luck, he should probably stay off of planes, trains, boats, and automobiles — basically anything that moves — for the rest of his life. His mom has been pushed (fell?) overboard into the ocean after marrying that grifter, Manolo. And then Pete goes to Detroit and proves that he can’t drive a car period, let alone drive a stick. Now Pete is moving to California to escape…absolutely everything. I can’t begrudge him that. His life in New York has pretty much gone to shit.
Peggy has started showing us her cleavage on a more regular basis. She’s all grown up and she’s embracing her sexuality. Ted Chaough will do that to a girl.
Joan is letting Roger into Kevin’s life, now that Roger’s own daughter is making it so hard for Roger to remain a part of hers.
Kenny’s still in his eye patch.
Harry was nowhere to be seen (or heard from), despite the fact that this whole episode was about moving parts of SC&P to LA.
- Line reading of the night goes to Pete Campbell’s “Not great, Bob.”
- That Hershey’s monologue might win Jon Hamm is first ever Emmy award. Except wait. Walter White and Bryan Cranston are still a thing.
- Ted’s hair got magically fluffier and more Don Draper-esque after his romp with Peggy. She’s the cure for limp hair follicles.
- Roger Sterling’s Gold: “Detroit. It’s all fun and games until they shoot you in the face.
- I’m still not sure what’s going on with Bob Benson. He obviously wants us to think he had no knowledge of Manolo’s attempt to shake down Pete’s mom, but…there’s more there there, methinks.
- *shakes fist* Damn you, Duck!
What did you think of the episode and of this season as a whole?
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