'Mad Men' Season 6 Episode 7 Recap: Dark Don Draper is Back
Sunday's episode of Mad Men brought back flashes of the old Don, controlling and hedonistic, that have been missing for most of the past two seasons.
Last season, Don had a dream of himself choking a former mistress. While nothing that intense and frightening happened Sunday night, the darkness of Don Draper is starting to reemerge, and it's more than unsettling.
The merger between the two companies has been completed, but not without major headaches. Amongst some firings, the merger is mainly a power play. Who has the upper hand? It's complicated and messy, much like torrid affairs that are bound to end abruptly.
Don and Sylvia continue their steamy affair, but the stakes have been raised. Sylvia and Arnold's relationship is unsteady at best, and she runs to Don to help her. She says, "I need you and nothing else will do."
Their rendezvous takes them to a hotel, where Don, the caring lover, becomes Don the domineering and masochistic commandeer. He starts to order Sylvia around like she's his slave. He says to her, before he goes back to work, "You exist in this room for my pleasure." Don is showing the darkest side of himself, and it's bone chilling.
Back at the office, Pete Campbell is dealing with a family crisis involving his mother. Don, tripping on power, knows that he is someone who can hold his liquor. He pushes Ted Shaw into having one too many drinks. Ted inevitably gets drunk and passes out in a meeting.
The one person who knows Don best is Peggy. She calls Don out for his behavior. This is the relationship that saves Mad Men. Peggy is the only woman who can go toe to toe with Don. But there are issues between them that have yet to be resolved, making their relationship frosty at best.
After this chastising, Don goes home to Megan but only in jest. Don is fixated on Sylvia. The seemingly happily married man of last season is gone. Meanwhile, Don has Sylvia still stuck in their hotel room. He wants control of her, since it is evident he has control of nothing else in his life.
Before flying upstate with Ted the next day to meet a client, Don tells Sylvia, "Who told you that you were allowed to think?" She wants to leave, he wants her to stay put. His eyes go black. He's cold and emboldened by his ability to tell her exactly what to do.
After his quick trip upstate, Don returns to the hotel. Sylvia is leaving. She says it's over. The most haunting words she saves for last.
"It's easy to give up something when you're ashamed."
She can't continue the facade, unlike Don who revels in it. It's the end of the affair, or so it seems.
It's also the end of an era, as the final scene reveals the imagery of Bobby Kennedy's assassination. Don is unraveling, and foreshadowing of some upcoming disaster for him is a certainty.