Posts tagged ‘season 6’

June 25, 2013

The Last Don: On the Season Finale of “Mad Men”


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It’s not easy being Don Draper.  Megan is seemingly about to leave him.  He’s as distant from his kids as ever, to put it lightly.  And the agency that tabbed him as creative director is turning its collective back to him.  Let us not forget though, Don brought this upon himself, committing personal and professional suicide throughout this booze haze season.  His unrelenting efforts to control women and men around him have severely backfired and we’re only left to wonder for at least a year if he can recover.

Many critics pointed to Don’s Royal Hawaiian campaign as a foreshadowing of Don’s self-inflicted demise.  He’s still breathing, but the Don we’ve come to know and hate-to-love has, at least for the moment, ceased to exist.  Don couldn’t ascertain what the shortcomings of his dreamt up Royal Hawaiian ad were.  “Always make the client feel good,” they say, and Don failed, er, royally at that by using such morbid death imagery that proved to be prophetic.  It was the beginning of the end.  Don couldn’t see what was coming: a de-tenuring of his continuous, masterful grip on those around him and the makings of a real-life personal hell for the man.

The symbolism of Don’s reading of “The Inferno” has come full circle upon the season’s closing episode, exhibited most conspicuously when he’s asked if he is “Going down?” by fill-ins Duck and Lou Avery.  Don’s been doing just that over the course of 1968 (along with the rest of the country).  His levels of descension have been marked by the loss of control he has had over others.  First it was Sylvia, just as he thought he had optimum jurisdiction over her body.  He gave in to Betty’s yearning for attention by sleeping with her.  Then Sally saw the kind of man he really is and she wrestled free, at least as much as a burgeoning teen girl could.  At work, Don fought an underhanded war with Ted, one in which Don was clearly the villain.  Don surrendered there, but that was only a preview of the blows that were about to reign on him from the other partners in retaliation for his perceived disinterest and more recent implosion witnessed by potential top-notch clientele.  And after flip-flopping on California and thus Megan’s immediate career path, an act that established new heights of selfishness, Don hit rock bottom when Megan couldn’t stand his gall any longer and walked out of their condo.  The Betty Case aside, which was already a broken relationship, all of these instances feature Don ceaselessly taking advantage of the blind trust people had for him.  They’ve all broken Don’s sleeper hold now.

The very last scene when Don takes his three young ones to the site where he grew up is a symbol of hope though.  He’s been at rock bottom before, and on more than one occasion.  The barely-standing childhood abode before them on a sunny day is proof of that.  The look on Sally’s face when Don tells her what they’re standing in front of reads of a reluctant admiration for her father’s resiliency.  It’s going to be hard for her to complain about much from here on out, so that was an easy first victory for Don on his road back to being in the driver’s seat.  He’s looking to sober up and everyone at the firm respects Don’s talents far too greatly for them to completely give up on him yet.  Don may have lost Megan, but he once lost Betty too.  The question is not whether Don will find another woman or not, it’s if he can be with one for the right reasons and not treat her like a child’s plaything.  That would indicate he actually learned a thing or two from his season-long personal realization of Dante’s classic.

April 8, 2013

Why Don Draper of “Mad Men” Can’t Stop Cheating


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At the close of last night’s Mad Men Season 6 premiere, Don Draper reveals his New Year’s resolution to his latest mistress, saying “I want to stop doing this.”  Sylvia, Dr. Rosen’s wife, says she knew that to be the case.  However, Don’s use of pronouns, and absence of therapy sessions, paves the way for fun viewer speculation as to what exactly it is he wants to stop doing.  Better still, there can be discussion about why he, apparently, lowers himself, and periodically feels twinges of guilt.

Taking a Freudian approach, delving into Don’s sketchy, but unfortunately turbulent backstory is a necessity.  The women in Don’s life have been disappointing him, literally, throughout his entire life.  His mother, a prostitute, died while giving birth to him.  It’s difficult then to lay blame for Don’s issues at his mother’s feet because she certainly didn’t choose to abandon him; however, it was repeated to him on many occasions throughout his childhood that he was a “whore child,” so, even from beyond the grave, his mother’s character was a nuisance to him.  Abigail, Don’s stepmother, must not have been so wonderful to Don either because when Don is informed of her death from stomach cancer, he says to his half brother, the bearer of that news, “Good.”  Therefore, by the time he was a teenager and joined the army, Don’s positive experiences with women were likely minimal, if there were any at all.

In Betty, he found someone as childish as she is beautiful and, for a time at least, he could control her.  After years of infidelity, Don finally proves to be untrustworthy when Betty learns of Don’s prior identity as Dick Whitman.  The staggering truth that Don is a man Betty doesn’t know-a reality that any woman only minutely more aware than Betty is would have seen years prior-is finally too much for her to bear, and she files for divorce.  Rapidly, in Don’s eyes, the best thing about Betty, her immaturity, becomes the most infuriating aspect of her personality as he tries to navigate his new life as a single father.  Betty uses their children to control Don, making it increasingly difficult for him to be an effective, even loving parent.  In short, Betty becomes an incredible irritant to Don, just like his mother and stepmother.

Don tells Peggy towards the close of Season 5, “You help people, and then they move on.”  This was soon after Peggy had left Don’s firm where, under his tutelage, she’d learned all her advertising trade tricks, but, at that point, Don was really referencing his wife, Megan, and not really trying to impose guilt upon Peggy.  He checks himself and quickly insists to Peggy that he is indeed proud of her achievements.  In the case of Megan, Don was feeling duped because in his former secretary, he thought he’d found another woman he could control.  But when she gets the acting bug in her, he’s combative and tries to restrict her pursuits.  Turning over a new leaf, Don gives in, hopeful that he can still find comfort in someone so independent, and he lands her the gig in a commercial that his very own firm was producing.

mad-men-jessica-pare-jon-hamm-season-6-premiere-amcTo Megan’s credit, she looks intent on balancing her career commitments with those that come with being in a marriage.  For instance, she appears genuinely upset that she can’t attend Roger’s mother’s funeral, an event that Don, as a partner of Roger’s, would most certainly have to attend.  Don says he doesn’t mind, which also comes after he seemingly restrains some internal frustration at her newfound notoriety during their Hawaiian trip.  So, despite Megan’s best efforts to be a good wife, Don’s anxious anyway.

Don cheats on Megan because he expected her to be a disappointment to him.  Now, because she is doing her own thing as opposed to sitting at home waiting for him to arrive for dinner, Don’s bailing.  His current swing into infidelity is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  All of the women in his life, his mother, step mother, Betty, and, though they weren’t a couple, even Peggy, have been a source of some varying degree of angst for Don.  It’s virtually impossible then for Megan to keep Don close, for Don’s just been waiting for a reason to leave her all along.

Don’s “first wife,” Anna, is the lone exception.  They had “an understanding” and “it wasn’t romantic,” he tells Sally in Season 5.  Anna was nice enough to allow Dick Whitman to go on living as Donald Draper and, when he asked her, nice enough to divorce him too.  Don struggled with her untimely death and now only speaks fondly of her whenever he must to the few people, all women, in his life who even know of Anna’s existence.  Anna could be an illustration that there is a section of Don’s character willing to turn itself completely over to one woman.  However, it might already be occupied by Anna, a dead woman whose entire presence in Don’s life, as someone who allowed Don to do whatever the hell he wanted, was a positive one.

So, as Don reads Dante’s book about “you know where,” to quote Roger, he’s pausing to actually reflect on his sinful actions.  Don doesn’t just want to stop sleeping around, he wants to thwart his reemerging tendency to sabotage relationships with women.  Perhaps it’s because Megan is proving to be simply a better woman than Betty  as she makes a concerted effort to not let Don down, despite wanting to achieve her own personal goals.  Or it could be that Don has matured and finally grown tired of the intensity that comes with cheating, the very thing that for years could have provided him with a thrilling rush of excitement.  Whatever the reason for Don’s potential enlightenment, the root cause of his behavior goes back quite a ways, and it’s a bit unsettling to think Megan, through no fault of her own, could experience some painful days if Don can’t figure this all out.