When I was in college I took a “Crime in American Film” class and wrote my final essay on The Godfather Part II. My thesis was simple: by ordering the death of his brother Fredo, Michael had committed spiritual suicide. He had turned his back on the path of light and was no longer the good man that Vito so desperately wanted to save.
I thought it was an interesting perspective but my professor disagreed and my brief career as a film critic went swimming with the fishes.
I was reminded of this episode after watching last night’s season 6 finale of Mad Men. As always, lots of crazy shit happened to everyone, but the most important thing to me was the death of Don Draper.
Now, obviously Don Draper didn’t die in a corporeal sense. But the lie of Don Draper was publicly laid bare during the Hershey’s pitch when Don committed personal and professional suicide and finally allowed little Dickie Whitman to emerge from the shadows and reclaim his primacy.
For six season we’ve watched as Dick would emerge at times of stress – going all the way back to when he wanted to run away with Rachel Mencken – and we always thought of Dick as the weak side of the cool, calm and collected Don persona.
In retrospect, Don was always the weak one – the false persona, the stolen identity that allowed Dick to overcome his shame of being a hobo raised in a whorehouse.
What Don finally realized – the result of hitting bottom, particularly with regard to Sally – is that he could never have a real life or real relationships until he accepted the truth of being Dick Whitman.
And so a season that seemingly ended in chaos actually represented a bright new beginning for Don/Dick and a host of other characters: some seeking the warmth of the California sun while others embracing the healing light of truth.