“If you’re going to begin your life over, then do it right.”
In last Sunday’s episode of Mad Men (“New Business”), Pete Campbell’s words of advice must have affected Don Draper, since he later inked a million-dollar check for Megan and prepared for a new future. But Pete also had something else to say: “What if you never get past the beginning again?”
“New Business” highlighted that anybody — male or female — can be manipulated in the hustle and bustle of ambition. From Mimi Rogers’ trouble-making photographer to Pete’s ridiculous golf attire, the characters of Mad Men quickly transform to get what they want. And then there’s Mr. Draper who not only doesn’t give a shit about wearing a suit on the golf course (“they’ll love it”) but doesn’t fall victim to Harry’s scheming ways after propositioning Megan. Just like the self-destructive Pechorin of Lermontov’s tragedy A Hero of Our Time, Don Draper symbolizes his generation’s vices — he’s unbreakable, although he’s most certainly a mortal.
The end is coming for both Mad Men and its anti-hero, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Don’s final breath comes during a heroic moment. Despite giving a large chunk of cash away and losing most of his belongings, I think Mr. Draper is genuinely trying to move forward with his life. One could argue that he’s on the verge of jumping from his own balcony — which makes sense given the title sequence — but it can’t be that simple. Right? For example, Don’s new love Diana (Elizabeth Reaser) — from Racine, Wisconsin of all places (Jean Racine = Tragedy) — referenced Don’s balcony in the last episode, and she’s certainly far from stable. Diana has accepted a life of suffering and refuses a possible relationship simply because Don makes her feel good. But I don’t expect Draper to simply give up, as he will get what he wants through charm alone. With that being said, my theory is that Don will tragically die through a simple twist of fate: an attempt to save a grieving woman pushed to the edge.
Don and Diana are tragic lovers and seemed destined to reawaken each other.
Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is a freelance writer and founder of Vague Visages. He lived in Hollywood, California from 2006 to 2012 and has bachelor degrees in Communication-Mass Media and History. He now resides in Fargo, North Dakota.
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