Don (Jon Hamm) carries his baggage to the end of Season 6 of Mad Men and reaches a bottom of sorts. A montage at the beginning of the episode of the finale checks in on each of the main characters moving from Stan to Roger (John Slattery) to Pete, ending on a beat in the office featuring Joan (Christina Hendricks) and new buddy Bob Benson (James Wolk).
Megan (Jessica Paré) is rightfully worried about Don’s drinking at their Park Ave. apartment to set up the rest of this highly anticipated closing episode.
Spoilers ahead, of course!
Here we are at the end of Season 6. We started on vacation in Hawaii and ended up on a street corner in Pennsylvania, the childhood whorehouse of Dick Whitman. The reveals came heavy toward the end, this episode and last exposing Bob Benson for what he appears to be, and Don’s past as Dick Whitman coming to haunt him mid-season (flashing back to being sexually assaulted by one of the ladies in the whorehouse). Whereas the end of Season 5 ended in the suicide of Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), this time it is Don’s career and his relationship with two of his most cherished women in his life, Megan and Sally being asphyxiated.
We open on to Stan (Jay Ferguson) asking Don to take the Sunkist account in Los Angeles. Stan deserves the shot, more than most in his position at the company. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) has paraded her well-earned success over to another firm and is Copy Chief at the new firm of Sterling, Cooper & Partners. It is a well laid plan, to start an agency branch in CA all by himself, to be a leader. Stan is a well-dressed and 70’s fashion-forward New Yorker, looking to stay young in Cali.
Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), still recovering and with eye patch and Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) are the next to speak with Don regarding a possible Hershey chocolate account.
Don is enthusiastic as they set up an important meeting that goes the way of the meeting with Royal Hawaiian in the first episode of the season. That is to say, it not only goes poorly but takes a bizarre turn.
Cutting over to Roger’s office, we see his daughter Margaret (Elizabeth Rice) and brother-in-law asking for more money for a poor investment. Roger calls her a brat and Margaret un-invites him to Thanksgiving dinner.
Roger moves downstairs past Pete (Vincent Kartheiser), fresh from Detroit and Chevy.
Bob and Joan meet him at the bottom of the stairs for a brief tête-à-tête. Roger jabs at Benson and calls him into his office for a private meeting. In Bob’s impromptu performance review, Roger warns him to stay away from Joan’s heartstrings, and so much as to stay away from his child with Joan, Kevin. Benson assures Roger that he and Joan are just buddies.
To avoid having his daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) being subpoenaed about the robbery (Episode 8), Don calls her at boarding school to get her to the courtroom. Sally’s still mad at ‘Daddy’ and gets a good couple of jabs in referencing the affair she witnessed with the downstairs neighbor, “I wouldn’t want to do anything immoral”, and the even hotter, “You know what, why don’t you just tell them what I saw”. I think even critics of Sally’s role on the show would have wanted to give her a high five after that zinger.
Don takes more time off from work, leading Ted (Kevin Rahm) and Jim to deal with the hotel clients. Don is belly-up to a bar where a minister is trying to save his soul.
Flashback to the whorehouse and a similar evangelical is trying to save the girls. He’s removed by his ear by Uncle Mack (Morgan Rusler) and told to never come back. These flashbacks going back to Don’s past (his father’s death, the loss of his virginity) really shape his decisions and his detachment to his family. Don awakes in the drunk tank, arrested for assaulting the minister. Megan finds Don pouring his booze down the kitchen sink, as Don has reached a bottom and tries as many drunks do—goes cold turkey.
On Don’s pink cloud of hangover and regret, he steals Stan’s plan as a way to have a geographical cure for all of his problems and his drinking. Verbatim, he pitches moving to California to Megan, who has had opportunities come her way in her acting career but turned them down to stay in New York on her soap. She gets the ball rolling to make the move.
Pete gets a telegram at work informing him that his mother has been lost at sea, presumed overboard in shark infested waters. After some investigation Pete finds out that Manolo (Andres Faucher) is a suspect after marrying Pete’s mom on the boat!
Rushing out to his flight to Detroit, Pete confronts Bob in the elevator—to another beat of hysterical dialogue.
|Bob: “How are you?”
Pete: “Not great, Bob”!
On the Chevy showroom floor, Pete is forced to test drive the Camaro Z-28. Bob holds the keys for him, like Blake (Alec Baldwin) in Glengarry Glen Ross swinging a pair of brass balls. Pete can’t drive stick, he slams it into reverse and destroys the display and his integrity in front of the car execs.
Bob 1, Pete -10.
Pete is obviously taken off of the account. Upon returning and getting with his brother on the matter of his mother’s murder, they decide not to pursue Manolo (alias Marcus Constantine) via an expensive private investigator in Panama. “She’s…in the water…with father”, “She loved the sea”.
Ted stalks Peggy after she makes an exit to go on a date, and Ted admits that he is in love with her. The soap opera continues as he promises Peggy he will leave his wife Nan (Timi Prulhiere).
Back at SC&P, Ted backtracks on his plan. Ted asks Don if he can be the one to go to California with Nan and the kids for a fresh start.
The Hershey account shows up for a pitch, and at last we think that Don is back to his old suave self. He pitches a beautiful story about his father giving him a chocolate bar after he mows the lawn. The chocolatiers are eating it up until Don has a breakdown, confessing to the room that his relationship with the candy is tied to a whore at his childhood home.
The breakdown is so startling that everyone, the clients, Roger and Jim leave the room trying to salvage the account. Ted and Don stay behind, and Don concedes the California assignment to Ted.
Perhaps Don is having trouble decision making or he is thinking of doing right by Ted after betraying him in the past. Either way, Don is on the edge, a broken man, his career in serious jeopardy and his personal life wrecked. If he wasn’t already at bottom, he has just taken the express train there.
When he breaks the news to his successful wife, who has just quit her job on her soap opera to move to California, Megan leaves him. Perhaps she is going on a walk, but she is so upset that she can’t deal with the flip-flop, even if Don promises her the couple will be bi-coastal as he stays at SC&P in NY while she moves to Hollywood to become a star.
Was this a purposeful move to get her to leave him alone in his apartment so that he can rekindle his affair with Sylvia (Linda Cardellini)? This is self-sabotage beyond the brink. I predicted early on that Don’s career was in trouble this season and that his creativity is tapped out, farming the fun stuff to Peggy, Stan, Ted and the Creative Department. Now career and personal life are crashing into his second marriage and Megan has had enough.
As Betty (January Jones) pointed out about Megan and Don, “She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.” She’s right. Don may be incapable of having people love him. Perhaps it is the disease of alcoholism in his veins and his family, or perhaps it is PTSD, but Don doesn’t have the coping tools he need to love himself or others. Poor Megan, a successful actress quit her starring role (or roles, she plays both twins on “To Have And To Hold”) for no real reason except for Don’s selfishness. This episode had me shaking my fists at Don—but also hope that he gets whatever help he needs.
“Fuck the agency—I quit my job!”
When it comes time for Ted to reveal the same to Peggy, that he is going to California in Don’s stead, she kicks him out of her office, and is jealous that Ted has the option. Ted, acting selfishly in one way, should not have told her he would leave Nan, because he won’t. Peggy is dealing with being a female with power at the company, but is dissatisfied she doesn’t get to stomp all over and make executive decisions like Ted and Don. And of course, like Megan, Peggy has to deal with the repercussions of the actions of the men at SC&P.
She loves Ted, and he loves her. Ted is moving away to not absolve his established family, and it pains him to do so, but why the empty promise to Peggy. The girl has been through enough! I suggest Peggy keep a harpoon by her desk at the ready!
Don’s partners (Roger, Joan, Bert, Jim and Roger) call him in for a meeting on Thanksgiving morning, 9am.
Roger speaks up and they lay off Don for the holiday season, with no return date. For the first time, Don is powerless, lonely and without the firm to distract him from the other affairs in his life. This was not specifically about Hershey’s, but all of his behavior before and after the merger. On his way out, humiliated, he runs into head hunter Duck Davis (Mark Moses) and another man, Lou Avery (Allan Havey). The two seem to be making moves on Don’s position at the firm, Lou calls the elevator to push Don down (and out) of the building in a tense hallway moment.
We breeze out of this season with Roger going to Joan’s for Thanksgiving and visiting son Kevin, though we’re all surprised to see Bob Benson carving the turkey in a turkey apron there.
Peggy commandeers Don’s office for some extra work and we all say goodbye to Stan until next time.
Cut to the last scene, Don takes his kids to the place where he grew up, the whorehouse in Nowhere, PA. The dilapidated, boarded up house closes the scene as Judy Collins singing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” playing us out. Now Don is seeing the bottom half (again) after spending so much time at the top.
What fate belies Don Draper next season? Humility? Honesty with his family? Sobriety? Growth? Will we even see Ted, Pete and the California office? What about Megan? She’ll be there too, perhaps. Season 7 will be the last for Mad Men, and we will be back here in April of next year for more.
[READ MORE at FORCES OF GEEK]