'Mad Men' Season 6 finale recap, 'In Care of'

  • In the Season 6 finale, Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) finally admitted he has a drinking problem.
In the Season 6 finale, Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) finally… (Jaimie Trueblood/AMC )
June 24, 2013|By Karmen Fox

Don has taken the elevator ride straight to Hell.

“Excuse me,” Don yells behind jail bars. “I shouldn’t be in here.”

Yes, he should. And not just for punching a minister, even if that hatemonger deserved it. (MLK, RFK and the Vietnam soldiers aren’t “true believers”? Cue Sally’s eye roll.)

For the past few seasons, we’ve put up with Don’s philandering, deception and debauchery. He’s struggled to find inner-peace yet we stood by him.

This season, however, Don sunk to new lows. His fate wasn’t surprising, considering the first episode began with Don reading Dante’s "Inferno." Slowly he slipped farther and farther into Hell, each transgression worse than the last, from the twisted S&M fantasy with Sylvia to lying to Sally about his affair.

With the exception of Season 5, each season finale has been packed with gasp-inducing twist that left viewers in a state of ennui or frustration. Will Don finally get the happiness he’s seeking? He’ll have to go through Hell and back first.

Don finds a chance to start fresh in California. Granted, he took the idea from Stan, a minor sin in the grand scheme of things. But it only makes sense for Don to want to head west.

California is where he escaped from Betty drama toward the end of Season 2, submerging himself in the Pacific and absolving himself of his infidelities. California is where he proposed to Megan at the end of Season 4, believing he has finally found bliss. California is where he can start new.

At the end of Season 1, Don presented the tearjerker “Carousel” campaign to Kodak. He shared pictures of a happy family — his happy family. But at the end of the day, he went home and we saw his discontent with marriage, fatherhood and life in general. Only through his ads can he have happiness.

He could have kept up that farce with Hershey, a potentially new client introduced in the finale — and the type of account Don and the firm had always dreamed of. His father treating him to any candy he wanted, tousling his hair when he bit into the Hershey’s bar was convincing enough that I was tempted to buy one -- and I’m not the biggesgt Hershey’s fan.

But he didn’t stick with the lie. He looks at his trembling hand (nervousness or a sign of alcohol withdrawal? -- more on that in a bit), he sees Ted’s dour face and he makes a decision. It’s Ted’s turn to go to California.

But rather than be a sane individual and save the whorehouse confession for a therapist (which he desperately needs) and discuss the matter with Ted after the meeting, he reveals his seedy childhood to Hershey’s. Hershey’s! The company with so much money it has a town named after it. The company so covetable that they have 30 of the top agencies, with SC&P gracing their list, competing for their attention. “Hershey’s: Wholesome enough for whorehouses.” That’s Don’s pitch? 

But what a delivery from Jon Hamm! We’ve seen Hamm master Don’s shame with his expressive eyes and defeated posture. But to see him balance vulnerability with a sense of relief truly shows his range. How many Emmy consideration ads do you think we’ll see with that scene in the next couple months? 

After the meeting, Roger reams out Don, who brushes off his criticisms. He heads home, but not before saying goodbye to Dawn. “Happy Thanksgiving, sweetheart,” he tells her. She’s taken aback.

Usually I cringe when I hear “sweetheart” directed to secretaries in the office. But Don never uses that word — usually Roger does. What typically has a sexual harassment undertone felt like a bleak yet sentimental farewell. As he left the office, I got the sense that this was the end for Don, much like Lane writing up his errands before his harrowing suicide.

And it was the end for Don. At least, in terms of his career (for now). With this revelation of lies, he has descended into the Ninth and final Circle of Dante’s "Inferno": Treachery. Waiting for him are four of his partners, ready to mete out his fate, much like the giants guarding the entrance to said layer of Hell.

“This isn’t a trial,” Bert says resolutely. “The verdict has been reached.” His sentence? A few months off to regroup. And with Peggy taking charge (girl power!), Don must finally face the facts: He doesn’t get to make every decision in his life.

Giving up California -- his chance to redeem himself -- sent him plummeting to Hell, or at least his version of Hell. No wife (probably, since Megan left after Don disappointed her with the news they wouldn't go to California), no job (indefinitely). Now he’s stuck with his screwed-up kids (Megan’s words), a marred past and an arrest record. How I’d love to see that mug shot.

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