'Mad Men' Season 6 Finale: Don Draper Comes Clean
Don Draper hasn't been good at much this season other than truly mucking things up. He's ruined his personal relationships, his career, and, most of all, himself. (I know everyone is talking about long overdue acting Emmys for the cast of Mad Men , and rightly so, but the makeup team deserves some credit as well, for somehow making Jon Hamm look as bad as Don Draper makes us feel.)
The Lothario-turned-lunk has always been a ticking time bomb, but Season 6 has felt like a long, painful burn towards complete detonation. But, more so than ever before, viewers have wanted to pull the pin for him. Whatever ounce of compassion we had left for Don Draper all but disappeared this season as we watched him treat his mistress like a dog (and just about everyone else in his life, even if he didn't outright command them to get on all fours), continually drink himself into a stupor, and traumatize poor Sally Draper even more. He's become a sweaty, sad shell of his former self.
As Mad Men's fellow beloved AMC brother Breaking Bad draws closer to its end, the conversation has turned to "How will/should Walter White be punished?" Viewers are still compelled and intrigued by Bryan Cranston's Walter White, but much like Hamm's Don Draper, the love for these antiheroes has all but vanished. On Mad Men, the same sentiment goes: "How will/should Don Draper be punished?" These are bad, mad men.
But something truly unexpected and interesting happened during Sunday night's finale of Mad Men. Well, a lot of unexpected and interesting things happened during Sunday night's finale, from Peggy's emotional and sexual roller coaster with Ted to Roger's war with Bob Benson to win Joan back to Stan's ever-growing beard. But Don Draper coming clean to his coworkers, his children, and himself was as stunning and surprising as getting shot in the face in Detroit.
It's hard to say exactly what triggered Don to have a full-on spiritual cleansing/professional shitting of the bed during a meeting with Hershey in the latter half of "In Care Of." It could have been that he wound up in prison after clocking a minister at a bar; it could have been learning from Betty (seriously, who could have guessed how much we'd love her this season?) that his daughter Sally was on the same boozy, broken path that he's been on; it could have been the realization that moving to California wouldn't fix his marriage. Or it could have just been that Don Draper has become as sick of himself as everyone else around him has become.
Whatever it was that made Don finally snap — and not in the way any of us had expected — he finally was honest about his terrible past of growing up in a whorehouse (and, really, by terrible I mean the doofy youngster they cast as a young Don Draper, because no way). Well, part of it. There's still that whole living under a false identity thing and multiple affairs, but it's a start. Don realized that the only way he could possibly become a shred of a decent man is to come clean about who he is and come to terms with who he was. Even if that means making for the most awkward business meeting of all time and single-handedly ruining Hershey's chocolate for all of us. (Seriously, couldn't the guy have had a depressing childhood association with Circus Peanuts or Mounds or Candy Corn like the rest of us?)
But, reverse Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aside (he's poor and likes candy, but Don's golden ticket is a lifetime of sexual perversion, alcoholism, and mommy issues), is it still too late for any resemblance of a happy ending? Moreover, do we even want him to have one? Granted, Don Draper isn't quite as vile as Walter White, but is there anyone out there still rooting for this guy? Or did that final, stunning shot of Don Draper — recently put on indefinite leave from his job and left by his wife Megan — standing in front of his dilapidated childhood house in Pennsylvania with his three children change that?
Sally, who had all but written her father off, looked at him with a new found understanding. The man who defines closed doors finally opened up a big one to his children. Don may have burned just about every bridge in his life, but he still has a shot with his kids. Perhaps, at long last, he realized his children deserve a better life than he had. It's hard to believe that Don will ever be a "good" guy, but if Season 7 brings us the total downfall of Draper because he finally comes clean to everyone in his life, not just his children, it will still be a deserved one, but ultimately one that is that much more tragic.
Image: Jamie Trueblood/AMC