Mad Men: Don Draper is dead!
Don Draper has finally come clean and it took a Hershey bar to make him do it.
The first episode of this season’s Mad Men started with Don reading Dante’s Inferno on the beach. The last episode, titled “In Care Of,” ended with him hitting rock bottom. A great cliffhanger to set up the show’s final season.
At times it was painful to watch as Don plowed through the nine levels of hell — limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery.
In the first episode, it initially appeared Don might have turned over a new leaf. “I had an experience,” he said, when he returned from his Waikiki vacation. “I don’t know how to put it into words.”
But that experience quickly came and went. Don continued his downward spiral with an S&M-tinged affair with Sylvia, a quickie fling with Betty, and a gluttonous excess of alcohol. He sank to an all-time low after being caught with Sylvia by Sally, and waking up in a drunktank in jail after punching a ‘Jesus Saves’ minister in a bar.
Realizing he was in trouble, he told Megan, “It’s gotten out of control. I’ve gotten out of control,” and planned to relocate to his company’s new California office (An idea he treacherously stole from Stan).
Don took the final plunge to his descent at an ad meeting with Hershey chocolate executives. He started with a quaint nostalgic pitch — you could almost hear folksy Smucker’s Jam music in the background — about a young boy enjoying a Hershey bar with his dad. “It’s the childhood symbol of love,” Don said to the admiring executives. “Well, weren’t you a lucky little boy,” one of them said.
Then in one of the most inappropriate speeches ever, Don confesses to the executives his real nostalgic memories of Hershey bars. The truth. How he grew up in a whorehouse where one of the hookers would reward him for rifling through the pants pockets of johns. “If I collected more than a dollar, she’d buy me a Hershey bar.” He would eat it alone, in his room, “with great ceremony, feeling like a normal kid.”
Did he REALLY just say that?
Yes he did. It was a moment of complete self-destruction. By finally admitting the truth about himself and who he was, he effectively killed off Don Draper, the mythic dreamboy. He also killed Don Draper’s career as his partners put him on indefinite leave. In a ba bing scene, his job replacement motioned toward the elevator and asked Don if he was “going down.”
Yes, Don Draper was going down. But at the same time, now that he finally hit the bottom, he could start climbing his way up the mountain of purgatory, toward redemption.
In the final scene, Don brought Sally, Bobby, and Gene to a dilapidated Pennsylvania whorehouse and tells them, “This is where I grew up.”
Don Draper is dead. Long live Dick Whitman!
Great job Matt Weiner!