It’s all there in their first ‘date’ in Smoke Gets In Your Eyes… She is 28 and has never been married because she’s never been in love. Don laughs this off because in his view, there’s no such thing as love.
And though I believe he has love for Betty, it’s never been that kind of love. So in the ongoing question of why did Don marry Betty, I really don’t think he saw it as selling out or settling. It is not even a matter of believing in love. Don knows. KNOWS. that this is all that love and marriage are. That other kind of love does not exist it was invented by Mad Men and, ironically, by Hallmark. (It’s ironic because Midge is a freelance artist for the likes of Hallmark. And there it is, again, in the pilot she tells Don that they have just invented Grandmother’s Day.)
You know, we keep talking in here about love. Does Pete love Peggy, does Don love Betty. Here’s one does Joan love Roger? Does Roger love Mona? I think we all struggle because, let’s face it, who the fuck knows what ˜love’ is?
But I do think (and I am once again reminded of the opening credits) that Don has taken a deep fall for Rachel. And for the sake of argument, let’s call that love.
With all my viewings of Marriage of Figaro, I never really took his misery as solely Rachel-based. I knew he likes her, and that she affects him. He is shown gazing at the cuff links that she gave him. But I didn’t consider her the source of his misery that day.
Until the dog.
Until I finally put it together about the dog. At the end of Figaro, Don comes home, hours and hours late, with a big dog for Sally. We never see how he comes to acquiring this full-grown dog. But it takes a lot to buy a dog; it’s not as simple as walking into your local Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company and searching the frozen food section.
Flash back, if you will, to Rachel and Don on the roof of her store. And she is telling Don all about her childhood, and how these big dogs were her closest allies. Don bringing this gift to his own little girl. This tells me that Don went all the way in. This is not just a crush–he is crushed by her. Don is thinking about Rachel as a child, he is with that little girl on the roof. He is thinking about Rachel today, on that roof, laughing at her own childhood. He is with her as she relates back to herself as a child. He is yearning for her as she is now, whole and tragic and somehow not haunted by her losses.
One more thing… this feels eerie and magical to Don. Back on that first ‘date’ over drinks, she tells him that she recognizes that he is a complete outsider in his own world. No one has ever called that out before. And on the roof… well, later we find out that his mother, too, had died giving birth to him. This goes beyond the usual, Wow, you like Chinese food too? Those are tricky moments in the development of a love story (and I mean in the personal development of our own love stories)… those psychic connections, those things that have never been shared… to suddenly have a partner on things that you’d long written off as yours and yours alone. This is a powerful draw.
So yes, for whatever it’s worth, I think he is in love with her.