Mad Men: “In Care of”

*spoilers*

I’ve seen life from both sides now

Well there it is. Mad Men season six finale.

In my last post, I ended wishing something radical happen, and I would say that came true. Don Draper has been, in all intents and purposes, fired from Sterling Cooper & Partners; Ted hit it and quit it; Pete is California dreamin’; Peggy has assumed the mantle; and Bob Benson is still Bob Benson.

What I liked most about this episode – and Mad Men in general – is how it played with TV genres and tropes and then made them seem mundane.

Pete’s mother is married at gun point by her exotic gold-digging lover only to be thrown overboard when he finds out she’d actually broke. Scandal! Yet, Pete and his brother, Bud, after mulling over the costs of an investigation are content to just leave leave sleeping dogs lie.

Peggy and Ted finally reconcile their attractions and Ted promises he’ll leave his wife for Peggy, etc. It has all the makings of your standard soap opera affair (are you paying attention, As the World Turns?). Then, just as everything seems to be coming up Peggy, Ted bails, leaving Peggy heartbroken and blue balled.

However, I feel like Mad Men kinda pulled a Lost on us here with season six. Throughout the season, Weiner and co. had been making clear parallels to Rosemary’s Baby and Sharon Tate. However, in the end, it never really goes anywhere, as far as I can see. I guess Megan was “killed” off As the World Turns, but that’s a lame connection.

In regards to Don, I liked that he’s now in this low point, but I would’ve liked something more confrontational and disastrous with the Rosens. Something like Dr. Rosen confronting Don as he and Megan fight about California, really driving the nail in the coffin. I mean, maybe Don-Megan is dead, but I think they could’ve pushed it more. I would’ve liked to have seen Don at an even greater nadir by the end of season six.

Also Bob Benson’s arc was frustratingly unresolved. It was great seeing him sabotage Pete Campbell, but to leave him as just a ladder climber feels unsatisfying. WHO ARE YOU MYSTERY MAN?

tumblr_mow0n210uk1qiuvyio1_500(Hershey’s is serious fucking business, OK?)

“In Care of” was all about coming to grips with the shame of rejection.

We see this first and foremost with Don’s impromptu therapy session with Hershey’s. This was an incredible scene. The audience immediately recognizes that yarn Don’s spinning about his father is clearly bullshit. Nevertheless, it’s always great watching Don land clients with narratives that have displaced his existentialist angst.

Yet, in a gasp inducing moment of candour, Dick Whitman appears on the scene. Unprovoked, Don reveals the longing for acceptance that he’d felt as an orphan. That his stepmother never wanted him and the only person who did was a prostitute who rewarded him with chocolate bars if he stole from Johns’ pockets.

This all begs the question of why? Don could’ve easily just left with Megan for Californian and rode off into the sunset. He didn’t owe Ted anything; it’s a dog eat dog world, and Ted was asking a lot. Moreover, even if he had traded with Ted, it wasn’t like he needed to fall on his sword like he did. Moreover, Don’s surprise at being pushed out of SCP betrays any suggestion that this was all some cunning plan to get out of the business.

My interpretation is that Don wants out but isn’t capable of making the conscious decisions to extricate himself from his life. He keeps telling Megan, Sylvia, Betty, and anyone who’ll listen that he’s sick of the booze and the whoring. Yet, when push comes to shove, he reverts back to his old behaviour. So, in order to get out, he goes suicide by firing squad.

tumblr_mow9dqTGio1qbobg3o1_500(I didn’t know Mad Men was filmed in Detroit.)

Suicide has been a big part of Mad Men and it was big part of season six, though perhaps more obliquely than before. While Don doesn’t pull a full on Lane, he does commit a sort of suicide. He seems to want to destroy Don Draper and is starting to accept his past as Dick Whitman.

We see this when he takes the kids to see his old whorehouse. Don knows Sally is not just pulling away from him, but is headed down a dangerous path. She’s changed her name and is trying to recreate herself as an enfant terrible. Don recognizes the significance of this. His journey down memory lane was directed mostly at Sally.

When Don shows them the house, he and Sally exchange a meaningful look. Sally looks bewildered and almost sympathetic. This tiny gesture is obviously a huge step for Don. He’s shedding the facade and letting people in.

Perhaps another name change will also be in store for Don? In season seven, will he shed the Don Draper alias and revert back to Dick Whitman?

mm_end_frame-0-1280-0-1024-650x365XsuyphL-650x361(“Started from the bottom / Now we here” – Peggy Olson)

“How do you get to heaven?” Don asked Sheraton at the beginning of the season. “Something terrible has to happen first.”

It’s no surprise then that Sheraton has bookended this season. Something terrible has happened to Don. He’s without a job and family. He’s naked in the rain. But destruction can be a creative act. For season seven, Don has been given the opportunity to recreate himself once again.

“Don Draper” then is less of a person than a persona. A mask worn by misfits posing as mainstreamers, be it Dick Whitman, Peggy Olson, or even Bob Benson. It’s the grotesque embodiment of everything we are told by advertising we ought to want to be.

If I may allow myself some kind of prediction for the finale, I would say the series will end with Don Draper dead and Dick Whitman reborn.

Cheers,

-B

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~ by braddunne on June 24, 2013.

2 Responses to “Mad Men: “In Care of””

  1. This is a great analysis of the season. I can’t wait to see how Don bounces back (I predict a few swimming scenes) and what happens with Peggy now that she has what she originally wanted.

    • I think Don is in a pretty good position for a comeback. I’m pretty sure 1969 is the year the govt bans tobacco ads, and Don has lots of anti-tobacco cred. Also, GM takes a huge hit around this time with the Vega, which might cause SCP to implode. Should be exciting.

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