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Don Draper: Tony Soprano in a suit.

October 19, 2010

Long time no post, busy an’ all that etc., but Mad Men is such an important part of the week in our household the season four finale seemed like a good excuse for a new post.

Season four has been outstanding, with only a couple of episodes falling short of excellent, but the finale itself I found a little disappointing. On reflection, that is probably not because the episode itself was lacking, but because I was disappointed in where the character choices took the story and what they meant thematically.

Specifically, Don’s choice — and this season really has been all about Don.

Season four thematically has been about change — how people have respond to change in their lives at a time when the world around them is changing very rapidly. Some have resisted change, Roger Sterling sulkily pretending it’s not happening, Betty Draper regressing so that she has become more child-like, incapable of empathy, than her own children. Peggy Olson has most exposure to the changes happening outside the office and appears best equipped to overcome her conservative instincts and move with the times.

Don himself has been on very unstable ground this season and has been plagued by self-doubt, leading to intense and painful introspection. Towards the end of the season, in his relationship with Dr Faye Miller, he has shown signs of emotional growth with the real possibility that he may be able to shake off his past and find some degree of personal contentment and happiness.

But Faye’s farewell as Don headed to California for the weekend held the promise — or threat — that he still faced a testing personal journey on his return, albeit one which she would accompany him on.

With that prospect looming over him, cheered on by the California sun, Don takes the easy option and declares his love for his secretary Megan. He opts for self-delusion over reality, chooses the illusion of instant happiness over the difficult path of striving for meaningful self-knowledge and real happiness.

As the episode closes, back in his Manhattan apartment, Don gazes out of the window into darkness as Megan sleeps sweetly beside him, and we know it is a choice which will cost him dearly.

And it also brings Don full circle back to where he started out years before with a pretty young wife — Betty Draper — and a life of secrets and lies.

Before Mad Men, series creator Matthew Weiner worked under David Chase on the Sopranos, and with the close of season four, in his leading man¹ has drawn the same conclusions as Chase famously did with Tony Soprano — that people are incapable of change.

¹Don Draper is the lead character in Mad Men, but for me Roger Sterling has always been the star of the show.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 29, 2010 3:00 pm

    You’ve been away from your blog even longer than me! Welcome back! Now, this is where I admit I’ve never seen Mad Men. Not a single episode…

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