Episode 13 - In Care Of
26 June 2013
All season I've felt that the plot elements have been quite disparate. It never seemed clear where anything was going, either in Don's personal life or at work.
But the theme of Don spiralling into ever worse circles of hell introduced in the premiere (when he read Dante's Inferno) certainly culminated in this finale. You can't blame any of the partners for asking him to take a leave of absence after all his erratic and irresponsible behaviour. The Hershey's pitch was very moving but utterly selfish and it acted as a suitable last straw.
The way he increasingly turned to drink may seem like an obvious character trait but it fits really well into his overall story. In season four when he was single and a bit out of control the drinking went overboard. He managed to pull himself together then as things in his life improved and here again he recognises that when drink makes him look like a fool it's time to change. On a side note this links the Don Draper character to Jimmy McNulty (the sort-of main character of The Wire) who similarly turned to alcohol when professional frustration set in.
The disastrous affair with Sylvia damaged his relationship with Sally and the writers did an excellent job of linking that bond back to his childhood. Finally all those whore house flashbacks connected to the present in a way that was genuinely affecting. Obviously the pitch to Hershey made for great television. Initially it was tense and then it was just painful. I loved it though. Don decided in that moment to be completely honest for once and give his sincere thanks to Hershey for the tiny joy it gave him during a dark time. It was simultaneously a moment of growth and self destruction. He was blowing up his own plan to run away again. At least this time he was going to take his wife with him but escaping to California was yet another attempt to run away from trouble without solving the core issues in his psyche. But as he looked at his own trembling hand it seems like he finally decided to stay and accept all of who he is. When he takes his children to see the house of ill repute he grew up in we remember that Sally was taken in by Grandma Ida, temporarily, because of her ignorance over Don's origins. He doesn't want his children to have the miserable memories he does and finally begins to show them who he is. Again it's moving stuff and seeing a selfish, arrogant, destructive person try to change and do the right thing remains a compelling tale.
Don's decision not to go was partly motivated by seeing Ted as a better version of him. Instead of stringing Peggy along or deceiving his wife any further Ted decides to flee to California and keep temptation away. Don owes Ted quite a few at this point and let's him take this chance. Ted emerges as a better man than Don but not a good man in general. He could have cut off his love for Peggy long ago and made a promise to her without thinking it through. Once more she suffers because of the decisions of the men employing her.
The Pete-Bob Benson situation left me far less satisfied. For a start is Pete leaving the company? Or is he going with Ted to California? Or was that a different trip that I missed somehow? That aside Pete looked far from smooth as Bob set him up to fall on his face in Detroit. And then looked monstrous as he and his brother wrote off their mother to save money. It felt so crass that I was surprised the story ended there. So Pete's a giant tool? Was that the point? And is Bob Benson suddenly managing the company's most important account? That's a hell of a promotion? And Joan clearly thinks he's straight. That whole side of the equation felt a little imbalanced. Don dominated things this season in a way which didn't serve the other characters particularly well. Although I suppose we now conclude that Manolo probably was performing sexual acts on Mrs Campbell in an attempt to get her on side and take her money. Yikes.
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