After seven slow moving yet totally invigorating seasons, we now know how Mad Men Season 7 ends. (Spoilers ahead.) Betty Francis dies of lung cancer, Sally Draper becomes a total boss, Joan and Peggy become total bosses, too, and Don? Well, Don finds harmony. Peaceful harmony. The last time we see Don, he's sitting cross-legged on a California cliff, finding his zen. The next thing we see is the classic 1970s Coke commercial in which free-spirited youths stand on a California cliff, finding their zen. So. What does the end of Mad Men mean? Well, if you ask me, it's rather obvious.
When Don hears that ding — a real ding (literally, there's a ding) — and that smile spreads across his face, we know that Don, feeling relieved and light-hearted after hearing a total stranger express how Don feels (alone, not missed, and lonely), has freed space in his mind to forgive himself, and to focus on what really matters: selling people what they think they need.
After having an epiphany on that cliff, Don goes back to advertising. He knows that he's not the only one who feels like a loser, essentially, and understands that all people want are some doe-eyed turtle doves and some damn sunshine. He works on the Coke ad so he can change the world. He goes back to McCann Erickson, he goes back to New York, he goes back to his life. He doesn't jump out of the back of a hijacked plane, he doesn't become D.B. Cooper, he doesn't even disappear.
And here's a fun fact. The real ad agency that produced this real Coke ad in 1971 was McCann Erickson. I mean, you can almost hear Don giving the pitch to Coke in a NYC boardroom. In a linen shirt (suits are so stuffy) Don flips the vision boards over on his easel and sells the story of the California dream. No. The American dream. NO. The world's dream. Because at the end of the day, we aren't defined by our states, by our country, by our race. We're all one world. And Don wants to buy that world a home, and furnish it with the love he never had.
That's the real thing.