Mad Men, Season 6

What if Don Draper Just ... Dies?
Talking television.
June 3 2013 1:06 PM

Mad Men, Season 6


Today's crackpot theory: Don Draper dies at the end of the season.

"Wait, I'm gonna what?"

Michael Yarish/AMC

Paul, Hanna,

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

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

As you note, Hanna, this episode is titled “A Tale of Two Cities.” And much as it was in 18th-century France, rebellion is afoot. The establishment is crumbling.

But it’s three cities, no? In Chicago, the pigs fend off the longhairs. In New York, Pete fumes at Joan’s sedition. And in L.A., Roger Sterling gets a nut-crushing introduction to a “different protocol” from the one he’s accustomed to.


The divide seemed to fall between those who believe in hierarchies and dues-paying—or, viewed less charitably: entitlement—versus those who believe that power exists to be seized. Pete complains that Joan playing fast and loose with the Avon account is “a revolt,” and he simply cannot brook her “breach of the fundamental rules.” But he caves. In the end, he’s smoking grass with the creatives. (By the way, if you’ve never tried weed, it’s exactly like that. The instant the smoke hits your lungs you hear the disembodied wails of Janis Joplin.)

As order breaks down, there’s this notion in the air that we can all reinvent ourselves. Danny Siegel, a washout on Madison Avenue, has been rechristened Daniel J. Siegel, movie producer. Joan unilaterally declares herself an accounts guy. Even SCDPCGC is whitewashing its history, erasing five letters from its name, willy-nilly, in an act of superficial transformation. If Sydney Carton can make himself Charles Darnay, I guess the art team can cook up a new SC&P logo. 

If anyone knows about radical reinvention, it’s Don Draper. “I told you that’s not my name,” he says to a woman at the debauched shindig in the hills. But what’s going on with Don? The change in him seems deeper this time. He gets sappy with Megan before he leaves town, and later dreams she’s pregnant with “a second chance.” A second chance to be a great dad? To get marriage and family right? Megan marvels that “a policeman cracking your skull would change your whole life.” But so might a baby. I couldn’t help but notice that Don’s first act upon returning to New York was asking Dawn to get his wife on the line.

Hanna, I can’t suss out what’s going on with all this portentous pool stuff. The very first line of the episode is Megan asking if she should pack Don’s swim trunks for his trip. Later, she encourages him to swim because it makes him “feel better.” And then the plunge. Is this a baptism? Yet another fresh start?

And what are we to make of the ominous death imagery that continues to trail the Drapers? There’s the Sharon Tate reference. The opening scene of the season, in which we see the POV of a dying man. And now Don encounters a hallucination of that soldier he met in Hawaii—now KIA—who promptly tells Don, “Dying doesn’t make you whole. You should see what you look like.”

I’m starting to nurse a harebrained theory that Mad Men will kill off Don in the final episode of this season. How Weinerian would that be? Icing the icon of your show seems like the sort of zagging—a rebellion against TV’s established order, if you will—that Weiner can’t resist. Stay tuned.

Hanna, I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the ongoing look at how women’s careers advanced in this era. It’s all been unorthodox leaps: Peggy plucked from the secretarial pool, Joan promoting herself in a sort of coup, Megan benefiting from nepotism at the office and then in that ad shoot. Have we seen any women ascend the hierarchy through formal channels, one rung at a time? Or is that still a ways off?

Paul, I’ll leave the Bob Benson speculation to you. It seems to have shifted from the notion that Bob might be an undercover spy to the notion that Bob might be an undercover homosexual.

I love you, you know that, you’re a mother hen,



Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 5:47 PM Tale of Two Fergusons We knew blacks and whites saw Michael Brown’s killing differently. A new poll shows the gulf that divides them is greater than anyone guessed.
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.