Don Draper (Jon Hamm) seemingly bottomed out at the end of Season 6 of “Mad Men”: After his daughter, Sally, learned in the worst way that he’s an adulterer, he broke down in a pitch meeting at work and exposed the sad story of his childhood, to the horror of his partners and the client. It led to a sabbatical from Sterling Cooper & Partners, which in turn led to bad feelings with his wife, Megan, when he reneged on a plan to open an SC&P office in California.
There was at least one glimmer of hope, though. When Don took his kids to show them where he grew up, he and Sally shared a look of understanding, if not forgiveness: “I don’t think she’s old enough to be magnanimous about it,” creator Matthew Weiner says of Sally.
Weiner offered up his thoughts about where Don and the other characters stand on the cusp of the show’s final season, which starts Sunday (April 13), in a recent conference call. He says the final season will deal largely with people struggling to balance the “material concerns of their lives” — work, financial success and the like — and the immaterial, i.e., what really brings them happiness.
Weiner thinks that over the course of the series, Don has changed more than any other character, but “what’s the same about Don is just as interesting as what’s changed.”
“When you talk about a guy who couldn’t even consider continuing on in advertising because he didn’t want his name on a building, to someone who is really forced to be open about his past with his daughter — he was forced to do that,” Weiner says. “That change in that man is huge. It’s a huge thing.”
Don’s epiphany, however, came at the end of a year where his behavior had been worse than ever before. Even if he really has changed, he may have trouble convincing the people around him.
“His failure resulted in some kind of change, some kind of reconciliation, no matter how small,” Weiner says. “… That’s one of the most interesting questions I’ve faced in my life and everyone faces: You did something bad … you want to be different, you are different. Does anybody else care?”
We’ll find that out when Season 7 of “Mad Men” premieres at 10 p.m. ET/PT Sunday on AMC.