Mad Men's Don Draper Doesn't Care About Anyone But Himself and It Makes Good TV
This week's episode of Mad Men sure threw me for a loop, how about you? Just about at the midway point of the season, show creator Matthew Weiner picked the perfect time to do what he does best -- keep you guessing. Just a day earlier, I was chatting with someone, speculating on what would be the big arc of this season, and I literally had no idea. (SPOILER) True, the show had been leading to a bigger connection between rival advertising agencies, but to have the agencies join forces came somewhat out of left field, classic Mad Men.
Who is that good-looking guy? Oh, it's me.
This season has so far been an interesting one. As far as the first halfs of seasons go, the pace is consistent. Mad Men has a tendency to kick off molasses-slow, which makes the mid-season curve feel rushed and out of place. The same could be said for last night's reveal that SCDP and CGC would become Voltron, a super agency with the magnitude and charisma to take down all the larger, more established agencies in its path. But the build-up thus far, which focused more on characters and less on cool, snappy advertising campaigns to be won, aided in this endeavor. There was so much focus on CGC that you knew something was bound to happen.
Mad Men is and always will be the Don Draper show and this season has continued that tradition. We learned last season that even when Don is happy, he doesn't know how to be happy and it's more interesting to see him as a miserable schmuck than as a happily married man. With the close of last season, we understood this about Don and saw the inevitability of his next bout with adultery.
As hot or as young as his wives are, the guy just can't keep it in his pants, but I think that last night's episode showed that it's not so much a sexual desire to get what he's not supposed to have, it's much more than that (although I'm sure sex does play a role). If Don were living in our current culture, he'd be described as someone who "flips the script"; when Don wants something new he takes it, through whatever means possible. His neighbor's wife, his advertising agency, another person's advertising agency, a client -- Don will make it happen. He will burn bridges along the way that may seem worth it to him, but in the end he comes out the same -- a guy who just got what he wanted but is still a miserable fuck.
Up until last night's episode, Don's misery was shining brightly and it's been affecting others. Despite everybody loving Don, nobody likes Don anymore. He's found an odd bond with his surgeon neighbor, but then he's also sleeping with his wife, which will surely come back to bite him. His ingenue Peggy has moved on to another father figure; his wife isn't much pleased with him; and even Pete, who loves to hate Don, this season just hates him. But none of this matters to a man who is driven by his own id. Don has attempted to appease his ego, but his id always wins out. And with last night's nonchalant merger, it's apparent now that Don cares about no one but Don -- for a while there, he sorta cared about other people or at least pretended to.
By merging SCDP with CGC without any regard for the rest of the company, Don has steamrolled a few people. In his path of destruction, he has pushed Joan down a well. Recall that she gave up something quite substantial to be a partner in SCDP -- her lady parts, which she sold to the highest bidder, a.k.a. Jaguar. This decision was not taken lightly since it guaranteed a good future for her and her son. What will become of her partnership now that Don has redirected the trajectory of the company?
And how about Peggy, who spent all of last year pushing her way out from under Don's cold and imposing wing? She finally is in a good place in her life where she has the respect of her subordinates and the admiration and attraction of her boss, and she can afford to buy her own place. With literally one glass of scotch, Don has shoved his pomade-slicked hair back into her face and then made her write a press release about it. Burn and double burn.
Then there is Pete, who has been working to create himself in Don's image, a swinging married man with his own bachelor pad in the city who wheels and deals to great financial reward. And, again, with one quippy remark, Don knocks down his house of cards. It's quite amazing what one person's utter lack of attention and appreciation for others can do to ruin their lives.
In addition to this season's investment in Don's id, it has also become quite comical. I don't remember offhand if it was always this funny, but I've found myself laughing harder at this show than at most of NBC's Thursday night lineup (except you, Parks and Rec). The level of sarcasm is sky-high and it's not just coming out of Roger's mouth, although Roger is at the top of his game this season. In this week's episode, during the most banal dinner conversation about puppies, Don actually says, "I love puppies." It was hilarious.
Mad Men tends to find its footing a little more than halfway through its season, but I have to say that Season Six hit the ground running and continues to take fascinating and unexpected turns. I just hope that the new merged company is not called SCDPCGC, because that's just ridiculous.
And here's the gif of Pete Campbell falling down the stairs.