The article below contains spoilers for "In Care Of," the June 23, 2013 episode of "Mad Men."
It looks like everyone else has gotten sick of Don Draper too.
If there's been an arc to this fitful sixth season of mergers, the Midwest and malaise on "Mad Men," it's one that laid clear that Don (Jon Hamm) is his own greatest impediment to happiness, that the ache for something more that makes him so restless can't be blamed on a chilly marriage or a shortage of challenges at his job, that it's a more permanent yearning to start anew that so often means he's only half present.
And in last night's resonant season finale "In Care Of," directed by show creator Matthew Weiner and co-written by him and Carly Wray, those months of boozing, of cheating, of walking away from accounts that don't go his way and vanishing from the office with no warning caught up with Don as Megan walked out on him and he was booted from Sterling Cooper & Partners by his calm, unruffled and unapologetic colleagues. (And you know things must be bad if even Roger Sterling thinks you need a break.) Neither situation is necessarily permanent, but both are dependent on Don winning back trust by getting his shit together and proving he can get out of his own head, something he's been fundamentally unable to do from the start. Fittingly, the presentation that began the end was one for Hershey, another iconic American brand that called up parallels to the amazing Kodak carousel pitch Don gave at the close of season one.
Don genuinely did have an emotional connection to Hershey's chocolate bars, just not the kind you use in an ad, which seemed, interestingly, to be the seed of his undoing. There in the conference room, he offered to a collection of strangers and of coworkers who'd never heard so much unvarnished honestly from him that he really grew up in a whorehouse, and that the person who used to buy him candy was one of the girls whose clients he'd help fleece. He'd eat the treat, trying to feel "like a normal kid" -- a painfully sad image, but not the kind that wins over clients or that fits easily in a Madison Avenue office. Not the kind of childhood you're supposed to have, the kind Don has so carefully left behind while building up a new image for himself as the perfect ad man.
Don won't get to escape to California, his land of death and rebirth. He gave up that chance to start over, the promise of which he so loves, in a rare moment of selflessness after his breakdown during the meeting and after hearing Ted's (Kevin Rahm) plea to be allowed to flee the woman he loves to preserve his family. Too bad for Peggy, who'd finally gotten Ted in her bed after his promises to leave his wife, and too bad for Megan, who'd already quit her job and made plans for Hollywood. The importance of keeping that family -- the closest the show has to an idyllic one outside of those in its ads -- whole was more essential to Don at that moment than their individual desires or any personal fallout. ("She's from a broken home," Betty observed sorrowfully to her ex-husband on the phone, talking about their daughter's boarding school misdeeds.) No, Don will stay in New York, and will have to slog through the difficult process of living instead of flying off to that weightless place of windows, sunlight and the ocean. And maybe he'll become a whole person after all.
As for Bob Benson (James Wolk), that smiley Don 2.0, things are looking up -- he's good enough friends with Joan to have been there carving the turkey at Thanksgiving and he neatly maneuvered Pete out of the Chevy job and off to California by embarrassing him in Detroit. Don headed out, only to be met with a possible replacement being shepherded in by Duck Phillips (Mark Moses), while spending the holiday in his perhaps now former office was Peggy, another potential Don successor whose inheriting of her former mentor's crown seems even less a prize than ever before. Who'd want to be Don Draper, in the end? Not even Don Draper himself can stand it anymore.