What you should be Watching: Mad Men
This Sunday brings another long goodbye. The end of Mad Men. Will Don, Roger, Peggy, and Joan go out with a satisfying conclusion, that many fans feel we deserve?
So how will Mad Men end? Here are some thoughts I have read around the internet.
Don is going to die.
Again? Think about it, Don Draper was dead even before the series started. The fact that the title credits show him falling from a building is a metaphor for his life really. Honestly, do you really still believe that Don going to do a half gainer from a skyscraper? When we last left him he was sitting at bus stop in Oklahoma. After all that he’s been through, is Don really going to go back to New York?
Don is going back to New York.
This is the happy ending fans want after seven seasons exploring his vast heart of darkness. After another failed marriage, after walking away from his career, his penthouse, his car and going full hobo, and after confessing his deepest secrets to loved ones, colleagues and complete strangers, maybe Don can finally get it together and start anew! Right, because that’s what alcoholic, womanizing ciphers always do.
Don isn't the point—Peggy and Joan are.
Never mind that the show is called Mad Men, it’s really about the women. There’s no doubt that Matthew Weiner has woven many profound (and profoundly depressing) feminist story-lines throughout the series. Don and Peggy are cosmic twins as much as Joan and Peggy are. And they've both come a long way, baby. For that matter, Sally Draper has arguably evolved into the most compelling and likable character on the show. (And with the imminent death of her mother, she’s about to grow up in ways even she couldn't have imagined.) But this is still Don’s show. Will Joan run off with her new boyfriend? With Roger? Can Peggy find happiness? Sure. But is that really why you’re tuning in?
Don is going to die—metaphorically
For years, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that the show will culminate with Don killing off “Don Draper” and going back to Dick Whitman. To me, it’s the ending that perfectly closes the circle of hell he entered when he first started wearing another man’s dog tags. Back then, he desperately needed to become Don Draper to get home. Now he desperately needs to bury Don to figure out where home really is.
With one episode to go, it certainly looks like that will happen. At the end of last Sunday’s episode, Don gave Andy, the small-time hustler, the keys to his Cadillac—and, he noted, the “pink slip’s in the glove box.” Which viewers interpret to mean that Andy is now free to continue the cycle and become Don Draper 3.0.
But I see something more sinister.
Imagine if Andy has a fatal car crash on Sunday. The police check the glove compartment, assume that Don Draper is dead, the papers report the news, and just like that, Dick Whitman is reborn—free to be whoever and wherever he wants.
Admittedly, he’d have to abandon his children and never contact anyone from his previous life to truly be free, but he’s been prepared to do that before. (In Season 1, Don asked Rachel Menken to run away with him and “start over like Adam and Eve.”)
So where will he end up— California, Spain, Mexico? It hardly matters. But if I had to bet, my money’s on him sitting alone in a dark, quiet bar.
The fact is, no matter what denouement Matthew Weiner delivers on Sunday, Mad Men will end exactly the way a show about advertising is supposed to—by going to commercial.