A saying taken from Andy Warhol in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol is applicable to Don Draper's increasingly self-pitying, spiraling nature: "So what?" With regard to the finale of Mad Men’s sixth season, one is much inclined to ask this question. Don’s constant, inescapable ruminations on his past are nothing new—if anything they’ve become more frequent as his inevitable breakdown looms. What is new, however, is being somewhat irritated by the fact that he consistently falls back on his past as an excuse to be a dick.
The last episode, “In Care Of,” finds the characters of Mad Men in surprisingly anticlimactic form. Sure, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) finally bones Ted (Kevin Rahm), Pete’s (Vincent Kartheiser) mom gets lost at sea and Megan (Jessica Paré) kicks Don to the curb, but there is something very rote and humdrum about the execution of it all. It’s almost as though creator Matthew Weiner has made his peace with the fact that the show is going to end next season, and he simply can’t be bothered to feel attached or emotional about it anymore. "In Care Of" delineates Don’s requisite alcoholism at play, prompting him to get in a fight with a minister, have yet another flashback to the whorehouse days and spend the night in jail. This results in the usual Don “epiphany” of “I have to change my life by starting over.” And where better to start over than Los Angeles, a city equally as miserable as New York—only with more sunshine?
Megan is amenable to the idea in spite of knowing in the back of her mind that their marriage is irrevocably fucked. But, apparently, Don’s good looks just can’t stop appealing to her shallow nature. Her agreement to this proposal leads Don to, once again, repress his memories and emotional damage in order to feign becoming a better person. Invariably, this repression can’t last as Ted asks Don to change his plans and allow him to handle Sunkist in L.A. instead so he doesn’t have to let his feelings for Peggy run any wilder.
Then there’s Don’s strained relationship with Sally (Kiernan Shipka). Perhaps the most obvious example of how Don has allowed his past to dictate and destroy his present, Sally’s ire for her father reaches its zenith in this episode. That is, until Don shows his children where he grew up—another illustration of how his childhood is something of a crutch wielded to gain sympathy. Don’s moment of honesty in a meeting with Hershey’s also showcases his struggle to stamp out thoughts of brothel life. Initially, Don’s pitch begins as a fake story of his first recollection of having a Hershey bar and his association with it as an expression of parental love. He can’t quite bring himself to peddle this lie—which is the noble element of it—and ends up confessing that the only time he ever got a Hershey bar was when he stole enough money from the pants of clients to give to a prostitute.
Granted, your parents and your upbringing form the large core of who you are, but it is always possible to rise above an ill-fated personal history. Regardless of Don’s unfortunate childhood circumstances, should his behavior really be allowed excusal just because of a tormented youth? The joint decision of the agency to force Don into taking a sabbatical indicates that maybe others are getting just as fed up with Don’s antics.