This isn't news, is it? From the get-go we've known Don Draper is an anti-hero, but his ass-ness has been a moving target. It gets obscured partly by how good he is at his job, how freaking handsome he is, his strange and disastrous past, the odd moments of kindness and decency he shows people. Distant people, never those close to him. Those close to him get a very special kind of awful from the man. But last night - the cracks are showing. Don Draper is getting nervous about his job, his place in the universe and to counteract it he's going above and beyond in efforts to feel powerful. In control. The Big Ass On Campus. He sexually dominates a woman who needs, for a few days not to do any emotional heavy-lifting. And he drinks his competitor - a super nice guy - under the table in a chest-beating, bullying exercise of dominance.
I wanted to see his come comeuppance a dozen times in this series - and last night - someone put a pin in him. Three times. The sexually dominated woman puts her clothes on and says enough. The super nice guy out macho's him. And Peggy. Peggy says act like a grown up. Really really gratifying television.
I've often lamented that Mad Men has been too smart for me at times. It's glacial pace makes me feel like I've missed something - WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? But I think some of the plotting and pacing has just been bobbled by the creative team. This season though!! We are a match. Draper's feelings don't manifest in any normal way - we can't look at him and see any kind of trajectory. And that frankly is awesome. His character requires foils and mirrors, he's the rat in the maze, we're on his back and Peggy is a wall he has to figure out how to get around without showing too many of his faults.
I'm worried that the end point of this show is that he'll just be ruined. There are a lot of shows right now with protagonists who - in the end - will just be killed and should be killed. I would Don Draper to be redeemed. Is it because he is more handsome that Mr. White? Maybe. I am just that shallow. But it doesn't change the fact that the writers have worked hard to keep us intrigued and invested by showing glimpses of his humanity. I want him to find more humanity, be ruined so he can come back worth the time and energy I have invested in him.
How about you? Don Draper in ruins? Or Don Draper redeemed?