‘Mad Men’: What Season Four Taught Us About Don Draper

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men (AMC)

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men (AMC)

These short cable seasons really come and go much too quickly, don’t they? It seems like it was only yesterday that ‘Mad Men’ returned for its highly anticipated fourth season (OK, it was July 25), and suddenly, the season finale of TV’s most critically acclaimed drama is upon us. The episode, titled “Tomorrowland” (possibly a reference to Disneyland), airs Sunday at 10 p.m./9c on AMC.

And once again the ad men of ‘Mad Men’ (and all their ‘Mad’ women) have their backs against the wall. Will the partners and staff of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce survive the crisis in which the firm now finds itself after its biggest client, Lucky Strike, quit on them a few weeks ago? Or, more to the point, will Don Draper’s PR gamble at the conclusion of last Sunday’s episode restore the agency to prominence on Madison Avenue or hasten its demise?

It was another surprising strategy hatched by Don (Jon Hamm) in a season that was filled with surprises, particularly surrounding Draper – the compelling character who remains the focus of this Emmy-winning drama, starting with this season’s opening line: “Who is Don Draper?” Let’s take a look at some of the season’s most shocking moments in the life of Don:

His slap-happy sex life: We were shocked to learn in Episode One that this uberconfident ladies’ man likes to be slapped around during sex, at least when he’s with this one hooker who he seems to bed regularly.

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His secretaries do a lot more than just take dictation: Don had drunken sex with his secretary Allison in Episode Two and then crassly paid for it with a cash Christmas bonus. She quit and Don later had sex with a new secretary, Megan, in Episode 11, right on his office couch. Well, a third secretary, the crass Miss Blankenship, had an even bigger surprise for Don: She dropped dead at her desk in Episode 9.

Don’s women are full of surprises: Miss Blankenship wasn’t the only woman to surprise Don this season. New flame Faye Miller, the research consultant, surprised him when she suddenly expressed her eagerness to return to his apartment with him in Episode 8 after rebuffing his advances for several episodes. In that same episode, Don got a backseat surprise in a taxicab when date Bethany suddenly performed an intimate act that he never would have predicted. And what about the surprise reappearance of Midge, Don’s bohemian flame from Season One? She turned up in the Time-Life Building lobby in Episode 12 in a bid to sponge some money off of Don. Surprise! She’s now a drug addict.

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Death be not proud: When he wasn’t sleeping with secretaries (and about a half-dozen other women), Don learned in Episode 3 that his closest friend, Anna Draper – the widow of the man whose name he adopted in the Korean War – was dying. He learned in Episode 7 that she passed away.

Surprise moves: Time and time again, Don proved he’s the only senior partner at SCDP who strives to think outside the box. He manipulated a Wall Street Journal reporter in Episode 1 to write a story glorifying the ad agency’s underdog image, applied some things he learned about Japanese culture to maneuver a prospective Japanese client into rejecting a rival agency in Episode 5, and in Episode 12, placed a bold full-page ad in the New York Times that will either save SCDP or sink it.

What surprises are in store for Don, or us, in the season finale? What do you think will happen to the agency? Will it live or will it die? And how have you liked the fourth season of ‘Mad Men’? Aren’t you sorry to see it end?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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