So, I’m no movie or TV critic. I write about spiritual things. There was some of that here. I think spirituality, though perhaps not religion, is the key to where Don Draper winds up when the episode ends. But what do we know about Don Draper up to this point in the series? We know that he was born Dick Whitman. You’d better believe that plays a key role here. In fact, looking back, I think when he took that turn towards Pennsylvania a couple episodes ago, he became Dick Whitman again for a little while.
Do I really need to say that there are spoilers beyond this point?
I think he’s been on that journey for much of this season. Something that I only picked up on a little later, and I think it’s critical to the story, is his shirt. Earlier this season, we saw Don wear a blue shirt for the first time I can remember. At the time, I thought this was just an evolution in fashion for him, moving away from the buttoned up 1950’s. Don has had no real change in fashion through the series, which is not the case for most other characters. I think this was because the suit and white shirt was all that he knew.
So, he went from white to blue then to plaids and flannels. He was still in white when he went to Wisconsin, but that was the last of it. After that, he started shedding off Don Draper and all the layers that surrounded that. To start the finale, we see him wearing jeans and a jean jacket. A far piece from how we’ve seen him dressed through the entire series. And his hair was out of place. Then he makes his was to Los Angeles, still not wearing white and still with messed up hair. We move forward to see him wearing a green polo shirt and well kept hair. It’s almost like this was something of a false start. In golf terms, I’d call this a false-front on a green. Something to make folks think that it’s really the target but is not. This is not Don Draper, not yet. This is still Dick Whitman. He tries to get Anna Draper’s niece Stephanie to forget about her past life and move on. The same thing that he did, the same thing he told Peggy to do. But she doesn’t. Or maybe she does. We don’t know. She leaves. And here comes the final, real Dick Whitman. He’s wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, looking like something absolutely out of the 1970’s. His hair is messed up and he’s an emotional mess. He talks to Peggy and I think this the beginning of his final transformation.
The relationship between Don and Peggy was always interesting. Being a bit of a nerd like I am, I think this relationship was a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, though this does not hold exactly true because Obi Wan did not have a single mentor. Peggy has always had Don. When they started, Peggy was just like one of the younglings from Star Ways, she had a great deal to learn. Eventually, she grows and grows before eventually taking her place among the best in the business, just like Obi Wan became part of the Jedi Council. But who is Don? Is he Qui Gon Ginn or is he Yoda? Perhaps both, I am not sure. But Peggy starts out from nothing and becomes a Master. She becomes someone who is absolutely equal to Don. She’s the only person he cared enough about to say goodbye to. While there was never a romantic relationship here, I think the emotional connection between the two was greater than the connection between any other two characters on the show. So it comes as no surprise to me that Peggy sparks his final transformation, as I see it. She makes him finally look inside and realize that he really does have a home and that people really do care about him.
After the conversation, after fully confessing everything that he did, to a point, to someone close to him (again), he’s a real mess. This is Dick Whitman at his weakest. He’s wearing flannel still. Don Draper never wears flannel. He realizes during the confession that he doesn’t want to be a nobody. He wants to be somebody. I think the hug was the final part of the shell coming off and his realization that he can shed everything and move forward.
What do we see at the end? A white shirt. Groomed hair. A clean shave. This is Don Draper. He’s back. Did he write the Coke commercial? Absolutely he did. Did the smile indicate he’d thought it the pitch? I don’t think so.
What does all this have to do with the spiritual? Well, whether one believes in God or not, I think the vast majority of people will say that there is “something” that needs to be satisfied in order for us to be made whole. This is beyond the physical and the mental. It’s the internal, the spiritual. Don takes us on a spiritual journey. To put into Christian terms, he had a definitive born-again experience. He hit rock bottom. I think that happened as he was on the phone with Peggy. He was completely exposed and had nowhere to go, literally and physically. He confessed to her, something that is key in the Christian faith. Baptism? I think the baptism was when he cried while hugging the man. That was his baptism. The next time we see him, he’s standing up, looking like Don Draper again. Completely reborn. Then we see him sitting there with a white shirt on and great hair. He smiles because he gets it. He understands whatever it is that he needs to understand. Then we cut to black. I think he found the whole part of his spiritual existence and that allowed him to return to the job that he loved. He’s now been made whole. The rest we can figure out however our imagination suits us. To me, this ending (and the whole series really, considering the age of the characters) is a great example of Hemingway’s Iceberg.
**On another note, I found it interesting that they went to a retreat in California. It seems to fit the description for the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. I picked up on this pretty quickly, though I had to look up the name, because the Institute was founded by Michael Murphy who wrote Golf in the Kingdom which is a pretty fantastic golf book, at least the first half of the book. Being the golf geek that I am, this stood out to me.
What else do we have? Betty was still around. I was wrong in that I thought she’d commit suicide. I honestly thought the note last week was a suicide note.
Don’t conversation with Sally was interesting because he said that these decisions were for grown-ups. She is, sadly, more grown up than he would like to admit. I think we see that by the way she’s dressed in this episode. She’s no longer dressed like a school girl but like a grown woman. Part of Don doesn’t want to admit that, though he might also be too blind to see it at the time of their last on-screen conversation.
Pete got a happy ending. To be honest, that disappointed me. I wanted him to get hit by a bus.
When Roger had issues with Marie and then Joan had her break up with Richard, I thought these two would get together. It wasn’t meant to be, I suppose. I guess Roger took his piles of money and retired.
Don sheds off the layers of himself, facilitated by his last tie to Anna Draper, the only person who really knew him, as he said. I remember a literature teacher telling me once that if you put a “gun” in a book, you’d better pull the trigger before the end. Stephanie was not the gun folks saw coming back in the final episode, at least I didn’t. I was surprised. But she helped Don find himself. Helped him be made whole mentally, physically, and spiritually. He’s made his confessions and I think we finally saw a total integration of Dick Whitman and Don Draper. He’s made whole.