The season finale of "Mad Men" Sunday night found its troubled hero reeling from one bender too many.
"I realized it's gotten out of control," he told his wife, Megan, after a night in a drunk tank after punching out a priest who ticked him off in a bar. "I've gotten out of control," he added.
In its penultimate sixth season spanning the turbulent year of 1968, this AMC drama charted Draper's downward spiral, cheating on his wife with a downstairs neighbor and wreaking havoc at the Manhattan ad agency where he used to be golden.
Until now a charismatic master of pretense, Draper by season's end acknowledged what every "Mad Men" viewer already knew: Don's fabled mojo had failed him. But he seemed prepared to take corrective action.
Did he have a lot of choice? In a startling scene, Draper (series star Jon Hamm) was summoned to a meeting for some bad news: He was being sidelined at Sterling Cooper & Partners.
That is, Draper was ordered to "take some time off and regroup," in the pointed words of fellow partner Roger Sterling (John Slattery).
At the same time, Don put his marriage in hock by breaking his promise to Megan that they would move to California for the agency and make a fresh start.
"The agency decided it," Don lied when telling her the change of plans.
Megan had long felt he was growing more remote. His reneging on the move west with her was the last straw.
"You want to be alone with your liquor and your ex-wife and your screwed-up kids!" she seethed as she walked out the door.
Painful recognition appears to be propelling "Mad Men" toward its final season, while leaving viewers to ponder how -- or if -- Don will patch up his marriage, his career and his relationship with his daughter, Sally
Weiner, who resumes the writing process soon, insisted many questions are yet to be settled.
On the other hand, he has had the final moments of the show in mind for years, he said, though he took pains to tamp down viewer expectations.
"There's no big reveal coming," Weiner declared. "I have an image. But I don't want to oversell it."
In the meanwhile, viewers are left with this image: Don Draper's newly discombobulated life. But signaling hope for both him and the audience, he seems to understand he can't just charm his way out of it.
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