For all of the frustration caused by this season of Mad Men (regarding the case of Don Draper in particular), could the show have done any more to hit this episode out of the ballpark? Out of the ballpark, out of the parking lot, out of the city even. The long road Don has been on since Season One took a sudden and fascinating turn in “In Care Of.” Mad Men has often ended season with game changers — new firms, new relationships, or other big changes. This year though, it has ended with a sudden cleaning of the slate. The lives of Don Draper and Dick Whitman, kept so far apart in the past, are converging. It’s a wonder to behold. Hit the jump for more on why “Los Angeles is not like what you see in the movies. It’s like Detroit with palm trees.”
So many things came to a head in “In Care Of,” culminating in the slow death of Don Draper and the emergence of Dick Whitman. Like most of the season, there were parallels between Ted and Don’s story, as well as Pete and Don. Ted, a good guy, gets in a Draper-esque situation through his affair with Peggy, but unlike Don, he’s unable to live with himself. Ted wants the same chance Don does with L.A. — a place to start over. By the Hershey’s meeting, Don sees the Ted can still be saved, but that he, maybe, cannot.
Don’s sacrifice set Ted on, perhaps, a course correction that could leave his family intact. For Don and Pete though, it’s too late. Trudy had a great line near the end the episode, when a beleaguered Pete stops by before heading out of town, saying, “it’s not the way I wanted it.” “Well now you know,” Trudy returns blankly. It could have been Don uttering those words to Betty, or Megan, or even Sally. But that hindsight doesn’t change anything. It’s just a sad fact.
Similarly, Megan walks out on Don after feeling divorce is their only option. The partners are fed up, too. Many viewers joked in early seasons that at some point everyone’s alcoholism would take its toll, especially as societal norms changed. Here’s Don now, shaking at meetings, and co-workers all but saying he’s an alcoholic. Strangely though, it’s still somewhat of a surprise. It’s almost like the sudden realization that a friend is actually in trouble, acknowledging you saw the signs, but weren’t sure when it would be to the point of intervention, if ever. With Don, the day has arrived.
Don’s revelations about the honest truth about his past have always been keystone moments in the series. To whom he says what to has important ramifications — who is in the circle of trust, and why. When Don gives up his “Dad tousled my hair and gave me a candy bar,” with his hollow Don smile, to tell the true story of the fact that the closest he ever felt to someone growing up was someone he used to steal for … it might be one of the most important moments of the series. Don told the truth to strangers, to co-workers and to old friends, but not in the way he should have, but in the only way, at the moment, he felt he could. Does it excuse his past behavior? No, but like Sally at the end when Don showed her and his sons where he grew up, there’s the slightest hint of warmth in the overall side-eye.
Speculation has been rampant since the beginning on the series about the falling man imagery and what that would mean for Don, and some have astutely pointed out that it seems the series will end with the death of Don, but the rebirth of Dick Whitman. Nothing seems more likely than that after “In Care Of.” If that’s the case, then so be it — it seems like next year will be a great ride. “In Care Of” may go down as one of the best Mad Men episodes today, because it opened Don up in a way we’ve never seen. Namely, adult Dick. Welcome back.
Episode Rating: A+
Season Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Stan wanting to start his own office up from L.A. was surprising. I feel like Stan has never showed anything close to that much gumption before.
— Will Don and Megan really get divorced?
— “You punched a preacher, you should be in Rikers” – jail guard.
— The final Ted versus Don showdown: who goes to L.A., and whose life falls apart in New York? Sorry, Don.
— Loved the imagery at the end where Peggy was in the traditional Don silhouette in his office. Get you some, girl!
— Speaking of which, I loved Peggy “teasing” Ted with her boobs pushed up in that mini dress, saying Chanel No. 5 is all she wears!
— Great moment at the end with Sally gave her father a look that showed her starting to “get” it, and also appreciating the honesty.
— So did Manolo kill Mrs. Campbell? And did Bob Benson order the hit? And are Joan and Bob really involved, or just “buddies,” as he said? I loved Roger being jealous and pulling Bob aside. There’s still a lot more to him than meets the eye … and her going overboard seemed to suggest the falling man imagery again. Will Bob push Don off the ledge literally?
— “You know what they say about Detroit, it’s all fun and games until somebody shoots you in the face.” – Roger
— Pete’s reaction to his mother’s death (and his brother’s reaction as well) was in such a Campbell way. He and Don grew up opposites — Pete had everything, Don nothing. Now Pete knows what that feels like, while Don is back to rebuilding his life again (although this time, with the kids in tow).
— Don calling Betty “Birdie” and letting her know it wasn’t all her fault Sally is messed up was a sweet moment.
— “You want to be alone with your liquor and your ex-wife and your screwed up kids!” – Megan
— “How do I get on the list of girls you give money to?” – Roger’s daughter, who is “bleeding him dry.”
— Lots of great interactions between Ted and Peggy: “I told your neighbors I was a cop.” “You’d better go before they kill you.” / Ted: “I don’t want anyone else to have you!” / Peggy: “Well aren’t you lucky. To have decisions.”
— What a great episode, and a fantastic end to a very frustrating season. You pulled it around again, Weiner, you son of a gun. A big thanks goes out to everyone who kept up with these reviews and commented, you guys offered some great insights throughout the season, and some great support during some of the more trying episodes.