The Fall of “Mad Men”

The Fall. “Empire” is the best Star Wars movie. “Dark Knight” the best Batman, with the whole city hating him at the end. The second part of Guillermo Del Toro’s vampire novel trilogy “The Strain” (coming to TV!) is called “The Fall.” Remember how pissed off and sad Harry Potter was as his saga rounded third base with the fifth book?

harrypotterandtheorder

“I DON’T CARE!” Harry yelled at them, snatching up a lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace. “I’VE HAD ENOUGH, I’VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE!”
“You do care,” said Dumbledore. He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office. His expression was calm, almost detached. “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”

. . .

“Mad Men” Season 6 just ended. The Fall of Don Draper. It was great.

By far his worst affair ever sees Don embracing evil. (No reading while you wait for my sex!) He pays dearly. He sucked at a job he once dominated, because horrible decisions aroused the demons in his disturbing personal history like never before. Don has journeyed from Season 1, where he proudly ignored death (“It’s toasted”) to Season 6, where he resigned himself to hell and grew to fear those black wolves on his trail. Beyond the week-to-week excellence of “Mad Men” as a character-driven workplace comedy, Don’s descent from cocksure Madison Avenue bad-ass to scared, regretful alcoholic has been incredibly compelling.

I love the Dick Whitman flashbacks. They never last too long, and have a gritty-art edge like “There Will Be Blood.” Dick Whitman scenes are kinda Gothic and scary, with dark religion, sex, death, and profound, world-shattering tragedy.

We saw this season how Don/Dick lost his virginity (“The speed episode,” forever); it was strange and f*cked up. And the Hershey story. My God, that Hershey chocolate bar story . . . it was so . . . . Damn. And what timing. Emotional bombs exploded huge on this year’s “Mad Men.”

I don’t want Don to die. And he’s made-up.

In the season finale he confessed to colleagues that sad Hershey-bar tale about who he was, finally, and that was so huge. There was also hope in the look he shared with Sally at the whorehouse where he grew up. This season ended with hints of a coming resurrection, slivers of hope shining through Don’s crippling self-hatred. The optimism of these moments was surprising, weird, and welcome. (Interesting how he was filmed walking down those stairs right after his near-firing, though, and the way those assholes asked “Going down?” as he was getting on the elevator. Maybe Don’s still doomed?)

Remember the lesson that inspired a young Bruce Wayne to blossom into Batman? “Why do we fall?” his father asked him. “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” “Mad Men” Season 6 was the The Fall. Now comes The Rise. Next season will be the show’s last. I bet it’ll be better than “The Dark Knight Rises.”

(My favorite moment of the year wasn’t the Hershey confession, or Don taking his kids to his old home. It was a couple episodes previous, after Sally caught Don with the neighbor. He gets epically drunk and is wearing the oddest, saddest little smile as he shuts his apartment door to end the episode. THAT, I think, was rock-bottom. Jon Hamm is so good on this show.)

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