Was the Hershey’s Meeting Don Draper’s First Step to Redemption?

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
June 24 2013 4:24 PM

Don’s Breakthrough

Did the Hershey’s meeting set Don Draper on the road to redemption?

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Seth Stevenson: I enjoyed Don finally letting the façade drop. He just couldn't lie to the Hershey's guys—the product meant too much to him. Like a Hershey's bar, Don is ready to let his wrapper "look like what's inside."

Jeremy Stahl: Because the timing and location of that "therapy session" was so inappropriate, it felt forced to me. Like he just had to do something to ruin himself, not necessarily to be an honest, better person. Don obviously did not care at all how the consequences of his actions would come back to hurt him, and that bothered me.

Andrea Serna: I think his big mistake was having a drink before the meeting. It loosened his senses just a touch.

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Mona Ereiqat Finucane: I thought it was incredibly awkward and cringe-inducing (in a good way). The best part was after the meeting, when Roger asked him if any of it was true.

Hanna Rosin: And he said "yes" with confidence and no hesitation. It's funny that the season started with Roger on the shrink's couch. That's where such revelations should happen. But these guys aren't built for that, so it happens at a client meeting. Makes you think Don has not been avoiding his demons with advertising—he's been working them out somehow.

Patrick Denton: Is it possible next season sees Don Draper's ”redemption”—maybe he forsakes his heretofore traditional, upper-class trappings of success in favor of substance and meaning? That would be so cheesy.

Hanna Rosin: I suddenly had a vision of Don in a "Habitat for Humanity" T-shirt, scraping the paint off the outside of that house in the final scene, handing out popsicles to all the kids in that neighborhood.

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Hanna Rosin: A call out for some Bob Benson theories: Did he know about Manolo? Is this like the situation in the ABC show Nashville, where Juliette Barnes got played by her "friend”?

Andrea Serna: Bob did not react in a horrified manner, which is what any normal person would do. Perhaps he knows of Manolo's violent tendencies. I was honestly surprised that Pete didn't attack Bob.

Johanna Humphrey: I think Pete was relieved that his mother was dead, honestly. And I don't feel strongly that Manolo killed her.

Hanna Rosin: Wasn't it incredible how quickly Pete and his brother moved into the instrumental mode with their mother? Too expensive, she's dead anyway, a trial won't bring her back, and she loved the sea. Pete, who can be so irrational and vengeful on so many matters, can make such rational calculations when he wants to.

Seth Stevenson: So great when they're asking about expenses. "To bring your mother's killer to justice?" "Ballpark."

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Mona Ereiqat Finucane: I loved the ambush with the rest of the partners at the end. He didn't seem to care too much, just left and walked out. Pretty much followed his pattern all season.

Jeremy Stahl: I liked this, too. The actions of the partners didn't seem so much a betrayal as a natural conclusion to what Don had sewn all season long. That's another reason I didn't love the Hershey's scene, though. It wasn't a therapeutic breakthrough to me at all, but just another kind of lame piece of self-destruction. I prefer Don when he's winning rather than losing, and the boardroom thing was a very sad-sack moment to me.

Seth Stevenson: I dunno; this felt a smidge different to me. Don's never been confronted so overtly by his colleagues, in force. The external push might help him along.

Hanna Rosin: Disagree, Jeremy. I thought for the first time Don was in charge of his own self-destruction. We have gone from him being led around by his own subconscious since Episode 1, walking around with a dazed look on his face, not realizing where his demons are leading him. But at the end of this episode, he finally took control of it. His firing was a natural consequence of that decision, but it didn't hit him as a tragedy because he knows he needs to break free.

Seth Stevenson: I'm with Hanna. He at last dropped the façade, after beginning his pitch as a lie about an invented childhood. He found he simply couldn't lie to Hershey. That's what it took to make him confront the Dick Whitman within.

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Brad Barber: Been my call for about two years that Don will end up next season living out the falling man intro graphic. I really think the series will end with him jumping.

Hanna Rosin: Jumping! But he's happy now! The truth is out! Can't he just live clean into the ’80s?

Brad Barber: Don will be pushed closer and closer to failure. He will realize he has exhausted his quiver of identities and his only way out will be suicide. Next year will be the last season, so why not?

Hanna Rosin: Because he is moving away from the age of sin and redemption into the age of recovery, where everything is forgivable and everyone can start over.

Seth Stevenson: Seemed like Don had a real breakthrough this time. Ready to face himself in the mirror and make some changes, no?

Johanna Humphrey: Will we ever see a sober Don? Would that even be the same Don?

Seth Stevenson: Don in early seasons drank his share, but it never torpedoed his work. I'm actually eager to see a return of a sharp, incisive Don who susses out human nature and uses it to his advantage in the professional realm.

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Seth Stevenson: Bit of a side issue, but I felt like this episode was where the fashion aesthetics really jumped ahead in time. Stan's paisley tie and plaid blazer combo! Yikes! And the cheesy redesign of the SC&P logo. The show will have a very different look as it heads into Season 7.

Johanna Humphrey: The SC&P logo looked like The Price is Right.

Hanna Rosin: Seth, I'm finding the clothing/font/furniture overhauls really distracting. In our minds early ’60s is classic so can stay in the background, but early ’70s is garish and in our face, so I keep expecting Starsky and Hutch to walk into the office

Seth Stevenson: Yup. Banana Republic offered a Mad Men–branded line when Don's look was sleekly retro. Narrow lapels came back in a big way! Much harder to see polyester and paisley make a triumphant return. But I think it will be fun to chuckle at the aesthetics of Season 7, even if they might not spur a global fashion trend.

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.