As we wrap-up Jon Hamm Birthday Week here at BoK, I wanted to focus on the events of Don Draper’s life over the course of Season One.
Weiner, at the oft-quoted Jacob Burns Film Center event, talked about the influence of the film the Apartment. We’ve heard this a lot, and the film itself is alluded to in Babylon. But what Weiner discussed was how in the Apartment, most of the movie is set-up. Exposition. The bulk of the film is the audience and the characters discovering the circumstances that are already in occurrence.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is mostly exposition. It remains a brilliant pilot no matter how many viewings, but the big reveal at the end turns into a not-so-much once you know that Don is married. And the season is filled with such reveals. We are figuring out who these people are by finding out who they’ve been. Dick Whitman. Joan and Roger. Joan and Paul, for that matter.
This is the nature of storytelling, these two components; exposition and occurrences.
And so I wanted to close in on what has happened to Don, distinct from what we learn about him.
Because um he’s had a hell of a year. And that is what I thought as I watched him sit on those stairs, our heads filling with the future.
So let’s review.
Nine months for Don
- He gets a new secretary. He recognizes her talents and promotes her to copywriter.
- His wife grows increasingly unhappy and strange. After Betty has a car accident with his children, he reluctantly sends her to a psychiatrist with whom Don covertly discusses her progress.
- He fires Pete Campbell, only to have him unfired by his superiors. He gets a big fat bonus. He gets seriously wooed by a bigger agency, and as a result gets an even bigger fatter raise. His direct supervisor and sometime partner-in-crime has a non-fatal heart attack in his presence. He heads up several successful campaigns, brings in new clients, and loses one account. He is made partner.
- He leaves his mistress of (seemingly) many years.
- He meets and falls for Rachel Menken. He reveals things to her that have never been revealed. She leaves him.
- His secret past is discovered, and he is blackmailed. He does not give in, and the truth is brought to his boss. Who doesn’t care.
- He falls down a flight of stairs. Ow.
- He smokes pot.
- His younger brother comes to him out of his lost past, and Don pushes him far away. After a few months, Don has a change of heart and tries to contact Adam, only to discover that he has committed suicide.
And I am just saying… holy crap, that’s a lot. For a man who knows how to cope and survive but who doesn’t have a clue how to process, this is a lot.