Last night’s sixth season finale of Mad Men felt so terminal that I almost forgot for a second that there will be a seventh and final season. Matthew Weiner exploded the narratives of all the show’s men who have committed their lives and reputations to an ad agency that now seems like little more than a groovy logo with an ampersand in it. Don Draper “comes clean,” but in the messiest way possible: in some emotional word vomit to stunned partners and Hershey big wigs in a chocolate meeting. What a way to go! When we first discovered Draper was actually Dick Whitman, I never would have imagined him dismantling his carefully coiffed facade in such an impulsive and, frankly, embarrassing way. But it seems fitting for someone so repulsive to break down with a sputter and then be launched out of the agency he helped create.
We opened with Don Draper on a technicolor Hawaiian paradise isle reading Dante’s Inferno and we ended with him getting in the elevator (does he live in there?) with a voice asking, “Going down?” Sure are, Don Draper. You sure are. But maybe that’s how he wants it.
Obviously, I hate Don Draper. I feel no sympathy for him. I feel like Season 6 strayed the furthest from Don’s pathos and ethos and at the end of every episode, left audiences perplexed as to his motives. Season 6 was mostly quiet and slow, lurching from episode to episode with a lack of cohesion that marked the past seasons of Mad Men. Now, though, the disjointed last 13 episodes make a sad sort of sense — things fall apart and the only thing left to do is head west. Mad Men capitalizes on the Great American Narrative by framing California as the looming land of opportunity, but at this point it seems like everyone is doomed to failure. Even Ted Chaough, Don’s foil and Peggy’s Knight in Scummy Armor, begs Don to let him go to the West Coast to save his family. Pathetic.
I am a lover of Matthew Weiner and Mad Men is close to my heart, but overall, I was disappointed in the wreckage the season finale left for viewers to sort through. I’m glad that Don was ejected from the agency, but he doesn’t seem to care much. I’m pretty pissed that there was such little focus on Joan this season, with a paltry Avon storyline and not much else besides her reconciliation with Roger in “In Care Of.” I’m sad that Peggy has been painted into a corner, and I was right there with her when she spat at Ted “Well aren’t you lucky to have decisions.” I hope Season 7 focuses more on the women in the show, and I think it has to, as the final scene shows Sally and Don sharing a look of mutual… respect? Understanding? Whatever it is, now that everything is lain bare on the table for Don Draper, I hope Weiner and co. move on to develop other stories rather than Don’s. It’s evident that he’s King Midas except everything he touches turns to shit. Hopefully with him out of the SC&P office, everyone else can find a shred of happiness.