We are just a few weeks into the final (split into two halves) season of the TV series Mad Men. With the series finale just months away, people all over the Internet are going wild with speculation as to how it will end and what will happen to its characters. Most importantly, everyone wants to know what's going to happen with Don Draper. The show's protagonist, Draper is everything from style icon to manipulative cad. He's had so many ups and downs over the past seven years, people can't stop wondering if it will end on a down note.
Most annoying, however, is everyone who won't shut up about their theory that the show -- and Don Draper -- will end on a note that literally sends Don Draper straight down. As in out the window and onto the street below, plummeting to his death. Many people are certain that he will throw himself out a window in a final act of despair and self-loathing. He will fall to his death and the show will end with his body hitting the sidewalk below.
Why do so many people think this? Well, because that's the image in the opening credits. The brief animated sequence that opens each episode of Mad Men depicts a cartoon caricature of Don Draper tumbling downwards until landing -- comfortably -- in an office, drink and cigarette in hand. Because the animated Draper plummets down the side of a building the opening sequence, everyone from bloggers to TV critics to writers for Esquire have decided this must mean the series will end by making that symbolic sequence literal.
What a stupid idea.
First of all, let's just talk about what a massive waste of time the entire Mad Men series becomes if we discover that the ending was telegraphed to us in its very first few seconds. Why wonder what's going to happen in the life of this character if you could have watched the first minute and known all along? It certainly would have saved you seven years.
Secondly, can anything be more cringe-worthy than taking an interesting bit of symbolism (the opening sequence) and suddenly making it literal? It's the kind of thing I expect from a bad high school term paper, but not at all what I've come to expect from Matthew Weiner and company. The only thing possibly more contrived would be finding out it was all a dream or -- cue eye rolling -- a Biblical allegory. Why not just have Don Draper have turned out to be dead all along if we're going to go for such ham-fisted storytelling?
Nevermind that, such an ending pretty much makes the entire series an exercise in pointlessness. We've watched Don Draper sulk and mope and wallow in self-loathing for years. We've watched him carry guilt around more than he's carried glasses of whisky. At the end, do we really want to see that what he ultimately feels he must do in order to find peace is... to throw himself out a window? We've already had tons of suicide on the show; is what really needs to happen is that the main character needs to splatter across the sidewalk for it to have closure? He's a narcissistic ad man, for crissakes, not Julius Caesar.
I'm not sure what the precedence for all this speculation is anyway. Did anyone ever suggest the series Friends end with the five buddies running outside and playing in a fountain? Should CSI: Miami have ended with Roger Daltry literally screaming "Won't Get Fooled Again" in David Caruso's ear? Instead of a blackout, maybe The Sopranos should have simply called it quits by having Tony driving down the Jersey Turnpike, looking at the road signs. After all, it's in the opening credits, right? Right?!
If you think I'm exaggerating, think again. The theory of "Don Draper falls out the window in the end" is everywhere. In fact, it's become so commonplace, people are now finding clues throughout the show they insist allude to it. Let's hope that creator Matthew Weiner has been dropping those "clues" just to screw with everyone. I'd hate to see one of TV's greatest shows reduced to such hackery in the end. Throw that idea out the window, but leave Don Draper alone.
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