As Mad Men’s final season gets into full swing, it was nice to that the characters are still able to achieve some sort of happiness, albeit in the right circumstances. As Don, Sally and Peggy realise, the truth can set you free…
The action has jumped forward a month or so, to Valentine’s Day 1969, though predictably all is not well initially with the Mad Men.
Don, still estranged from the firm, has to resort to suiting up after sitting alone all day in his apartment eating Ritz crackers, to ensure his secretary Dawn does not realise how empty his life is without his work. Don, who had already struggled with his children and his marriage is very clearly lost at sea without the stability that Sterling Cooper & Partners offered him in the past.
Peggy isn’t doing much better. Her relationship with new Creative Director Lou Avery is rocky at best, and as Stan and Ginsberg are quick to remind her, “she ain’t getting laid”, despite her best wishes.
Her self-centred actions, mistaking the bouquet of flowers on her secretary Shirley’s desk as being meant for her, then arrogantly putting Shirley’s job at risk for doing make it very hard to feel sorry for Peggy in this episode.
If she was able to face the truth, that Ted Chaough, who moved from New York to Los Angeles to escape her, is no longer interested in her – she believed the flowers were sent by him – perhaps she could focus more on getting her chauvinistic new boss Lou to listen to her ideas.
Back to Don, whose Ritz cracker binge is ended by the arrival of his daughter Sally, appearing for the first time in season 7.
The exchanges between Don and Sally, played by John Hamm and Kiernan Shipka respectively are the strongest of the entire episode. The pair catch each other in a lie, as Don tries to hide the fact that he has been out of work for months, whilst Sally tries to avoid revealing that she has skipped the funeral of a friend’s mother to go shopping in the city.
Sally is the only person around Don at the moment who is willing to challenge him and confront his lies, and in doing so, Don is able to take a look at himself and face the hard truth about his situation.
He allows his ego and pride to be massaged by, taking recruitment lunches with potential suitors, even though he knows he cannot get away from Sterling Cooper, and the non-compete clause in his contract simply because he does not wish for the truth of his actions to spread to the wider advertising community.
Uniquely though, in Sally he has someone who will actually for once respect him more for hearing the truth, and this means Don himself can no longer pretend that his estrangement to Sterling Cooper is anything but his own fault.
“I said the wrong thing to the wrong people at the wrong time.” What did he say? “The truth about myself”, Don says. Sally, who knows the real Don Draper rather than the side that Don shows to the rest of Madison Avenue, can accept this side of Don that his fellow workers cannot stomach, and is all the happier with her father for sharing the truth with her.
The truth of his situation sets Don free seemingly at the perfect time then. Developments in the office mean that his previous secretary, who has already been covertly feeding him information of goings on in the office, has now taken on Joan’s old job; it is seemingly a matter of time before he returns to Sterling Cooper.
Perhaps he should tell the truth more often.