If pride goes before a fall, what happens if you swallow your pride before hitting the ground?
Though Don Draper appears to be plummeting towards rock bottom in Sunday’s Mad Men finale, abandoning his metaphorical safety net may actually enable him to follow in Nik Wallenda’s delicate footsteps and bridge the Grand Canyon-sized abyss between his heart and soul (though punching a minister may not help his cause, Hallelujah, praise the Lord).
Don Draper and Dick Whitman will be inseparable until one fully embraces the other’s existence. The fact that it took a Hershey Bar to start the process doesn’t make it any less sweet.
Mad Men‘s sixth season concluded with its highest ratings ever, and coincidentally right after 13 million sweaty palmed viewers witnessed Skywire Live‘s dramatic conclusion. Although Matthew Weiner doesn’t set the stakes as high as Wallenda (unless you count Mama Campbell walking the plank), his hour-long scripted masterpiece toyed with the very same emotions as the “surreality” TV that unfolded above The Brady Bunch’s favorite Season 3 vacation spot.
This Gandolfini-inspired television “Golden Age” has been defined by flawed antiheroes walking moral tightropes far more slippery than anything Joel Osteen would ever will for Wallenda (Discovery Channel’s frequent Osteen reaction shots were uncomfortably FOX/Rob Ryan-esque).
For six years, we’ve watched Draper risk everything for the promise of what simply lies beyond the present. Still, he isn’t Tony Soprano, Nucky Thompson, Walter White, or Stringer Bell. Draper doesn’t need God’s forgiveness. His only “unpardonable sin” is being unable to forgive himself for where he came from.
While Draper enters Mad Men’s final season in personal and professional exile, suppressing his demons is no longer an option, as demonstrated by his conference room confession and family field trip to the old neighborhood. His facade faded when his daughter, like an unexpected gust of wind, caught him off guard and threatened his balance.
Still pacing alone on the wire, Draper will have one more chance to reveal whether he’s capable of moving on and forward.