Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is finally beginning to face how much his past lives inside him in Mad Men Season 7 Episode 10. Plus, all the mistakes he’s made and the ways he’s sabotaged love because of it. At least it sure seems that way. When he says to Johnny Mathis in episode 10, Forecast: “Take responsibility for your failure,” he’s clearly talking to himself. We have a guardedly optimistic Don, who has a “good feeling.” Hope is the first place to start. But, there’s more. What are the other clues that Don’s on the road to a different life?
Clue 1: Knowing where he’s been
He’s lying on the couch in his office. Writing a Gettysburg-type address in an assignment from Roger. He has a small Dictaphone in his hand: “Four-score and seven …We know where we’ve been, where we are. Let’s assume that it’s good, getting better, supposed to get better…” He’s trying to convince himself as he reflects back on his life. Don’s trying to get a handle on where he’s been. Where is he going now?
Clue 2: Sorting out what he really wants from life
In this episode, Mad Men Season 7 Episode 10, we see a much more engaged and curious Don. He’s looking for something. While giving Peggy her performance review, he wants to know what she wants. When she says; “to be the first female creative director”, he insists, “Isn’t there more?” He’s talking to himself. Don’s pushed away, two wives. He’s recovered at work from the trenches of drunken self-sabotage. Now, what more does he want from life? And, what will it take to get there?
Clue 3: Facing he’s tried to get love in wrong ways
Sally (Kiernan Shipka), in her anger, leads him to see what he’s beginning to know about himself: “You can’t control yourself … you and mom. Anyone who pays attention and you just ooze.” Yes, Don’s been hungry for attention and love, but too scared to get it in the right places. He’s run from Betty, Rachel, and now Megan. He has to face why in order not to continue to repeat the past. He’s handled his problems by seducing any interested woman. What does he have to do to change this?
Clue 4: Being more than a product of his past
Sally says it: “I’m going to get on a bus and get away from you and mom and hopefully become a different person than you two.” No one can do that by running away. Don knows it better than anyone, and he answers his daughter with what he’s beginning to learn: “Hey! I’m your father and you may not want to listen to this, but you are like your mother and me. You’re going to find that out. You’re a very beautiful girl. It’s up to you to be more than that.”
“To be more than that” isn’t easy. Sometimes it requires help. We see how hard it’s been for Don. Believe it or not, as much as he’s used his good looks – the most difficult thing for Don is to know he’s beautiful. Inside. Because he never felt loved, he couldn’t let anyone close enough to know the truth about him. Not that he was pretending to be Don Draper. But, scared they’d see Dick Whitman, the unwanted boy. A boy he believed was ugly and shameful.
Indeed. “To be more than that” – the first necessary is to know what lives inside him. How it’s affected his behavior and choices. How he sank into using women. Hungrily and obsessively looking for some kind of affirmation that he’s wanted. Never believing it. Running from the loneliness and sadness that he never was. Don seems to be finding his way, little by little.
Can Don Put His Lonely Life Behind Him?
Don’s empty apartment is sold. Can he put his lonely life behind him? I think there’s hope. For now, his “good feeling” is justified. At the end of Mad Men Season 7 Episode 10, Don stands outside a closed door. Is it the place he’s just left or the one he’ll be entering? Either way, there’s uncertainty – a sadness and grief on his face. There’s no other way, but to feel it. And, then, Don Draper can go on and live a life.