Tonight is the moment we have all dreaded. AMC-TV will air the Mad Men series finale. After seven seasons of cocktail shakers and cigarettes, the universe of Donald Draper reaches it′s conclusion. A sad moment, indeed! The series′ creator, Matthew Weiner, has said all along that he has known how it will end. Did he give us any clues? There is much speculation. So allow me to pontificate for a paragraph or two before I give you my guess as to how Mad Men will end.
Obviously, first you must identify what Mad Men is all about. It is the story of Don Draper, an Madison Avenue advertising executive. How he was born an orphan named Dick Whitman, raised first on a farm, then in a whore house in Hershey, Pennsylvania after his adoptive father died from being kicked in the head by a mule. As a young man, Dick joined the US Army and went to Korea during the war. While digging a latrine, Dick and his commanding officer, Lt. Jg. Donald Draper came under attack. Dick accidentally drops his lighter into spilled fuel, causing injuries to himself and kills Lt. Draper. In hospital, a mix up results and Dick assumes the life of Draper, and gets a medical discharge.
So Donald Draper is a living lie. Working in advertising, his profession could be said to be the telling of lies. Mad Men follows Don through the 1960s, from where John Kennedy is elected president thanks to more lies in the ballot boxes of Chicago, through the Vietnam War, where lies became a daily routine. Draper pursues the American Dream, a happy marriage, family, career, nice house, plus a couple of shiny cars. The lies of Materialism and The Establishment.
Weiner, who had cut his teeth working on The Sopranos, creates a perfect world in Mad Men. Yes, some people, like JFK, lie and cheat and get away with doing bad things, but most others are not so lucky. For all of the philandering, office politics and general poor behavior, the characters in the Mad Men universe all pay a price for their many sins. Some even get a second chance, a shot at redemption. In last week′s episode, Pete Campbell, whom I hated, earns a rebirth and remarries Trudy. Joan Harris may have finally found a good man to love her. On the flip side, Betty Draper Francis gets a bad turn on life′s roulette wheel with news of lung cancer. But even she takes it in stride, knowing that she had a good run for a while and is content with no regrets.
So where does this leave Donald Draper? There have been many hypotheses on his ultimate fate. Maybe the most outlandish one is that he disappears and Dick Whitman reemerges as D.B. Cooper, the notorious plane hijacker. That the series will end not with Don Draper jumping out of a window on Madison Avenue, but with him falling out of a jet liner somewhere over Washington State. Cute, but I don′t buy it!
Did Matthew Weiner give us any clues? Perhaps! Consider how Weiner uses the Sun card of the Waite Tarot deck as the logo for his production company, Weiner Bro.s. Fans will recall at the end of Season 2 when Anna Draper, wife of the real Don Draper, did a Tarot reading for Dick Whitman. After dealing out the ten-card spread of the Celtic Cross, she said, ″It′s all here!″, and she ought to know! Anna was, for a time, the only person who knew that Whitman was Draper and she was the first person to offer him redemption. Perhaps the first, and maybe only one, to offer him true love, too.
Anna dealt out Dick′s spread of cards with the first one being the Sun. Ding-ding-ding! Considering how Mad Men is filmed with a nearly Kubrick-like attention to detail, with each shot, each frame, being nearly perfect, there simply must be a connection. When you look at the whole spread of the Celtic Cross, it does seem that Anna nailed it perfectly. The Sun card in reverse, crossed by the 8 of Cups. Then we have the Page of Pentacles, the 3 of Cups in reverse, then Judgment followed by the 5 of Swords. Anna, herself, points out to Dick his 7th card, the ′soul card′ which was The World. He is connected to everything and everyone. That is followed by the 8th card, which was the 9 of Wands, representing how other people see him. In this case, as a genius.
Then we have the 9th card, the ′Hope & Fear′ card, which was the Wheel of Fortune. We fans all know how much Dick hates surprises. He doesn′t trust fate, nor faith. Dick doesn′t believe much in luck, either, though his whole life has been filled with lucky breaks. This takes us to the 10th and last card, the Final Outcome card. If there is a clue as to how the Mad Men series will end, this is the card to focus on. In this case, Anna had dealt the 8 of Wands. A card of enlightenment, of learning, of gaining knowledge and insight.
So, my guess as to how the Mad Men series finale will end with Don Draper moving to California and settling down to a career as a professor, teaching advertising. Perhaps even philosophy, wouldn′t that be something? Or, acting as a ′wise man′ for some Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Hanging out in a garage, smoking doobies with a young Steve Jobs, discussing the future of personal computing. That would be the perfect ending. Reaching the pinnacle of all lies, the lie of connectivity. The realization that not only is the American Dream a lie, but that both human individuality and community are lies, too. That in the end, we are merely lonely lumps of clay, fooling ourselves by thinking we are part of something bigger and necessary. But, even if such is the case, going through life smoking doobies with folks like Don Draper and Steve Jobs makes the ride still worthwhile.