You can’t please all the people all the time, right? It would have been nearly impossible for Matthew Weiner to approach the perfect ending of “Six Feet Under.” Now there was a brilliant series finale. A series all about death showed us how each character met their timely or untimely end. It was beautiful. It had pathos, tied everything up once and for all in six minutes, and did it with a great song playing in the background — “Breathe Me” by Sia. (In my opinion, it made Sia the star she is today.)
So Weiner had his work cut out for him. He did manage to pay homage to his mentor David Chase of “The Sopranos” by giving us an ambiguous ending. I want to believe that the final Coke commercial was NOT the result of Don Draper rushing back to New York. Maybe he thought of it, maybe he told Peggy about it but, if I’m reading the last episode’s tea leaves correctly (and let’s face it, they were forced down our throats), Don found enlightenment and embraced Stan’s mantra — “there is more to life than work.”
That phrase sums up the entire final season. Don was through with advertising, especially the loathsome folks at McCann-Erickson and was looking for more out of life. Weiner hit that bell over and over again which is why it would have undercut his entire last season to have the camera pull back after the Coke commercial aired to have the ad boys congratulating Don. Weiner left it ambiguous but, for me, that little bell and smile signified enlightenment, not the sound of an idea bell going off in Don’s head.
I heard an interview with Weiner over the weekend where he said he always knew what would happen to Don Draper in the series finale but he did not know how it was going to happen. I believe that because the series really was about a person’s search for identity and meaning in life.
Don Draper, a child of misfortune, was always searching. He was the ultimate restless male, never happy no matter how perfect the family, how beautiful his bedmate, or how much money he made. Nothing mattered because he did not “feel it” inside his soul.
I like to believe poor Don finally “felt it” up on that California cliff. He got it at long last because, as cliched as it may be, you can never be happy with material things if you’re not happy with yourself. I think the tortured journey west finally gave Don Draper what he was looking for — inner peace that all the money in the world cannot buy. And no matter what advertising tells us, products will never deliver the one quality that will truly make us happy.
So leave Don up there on the mountaintop. For me, he never went back to Madison Avenue, never again was a Mad Man. And I’m more than okay with that.