If nothing else, AMC’s “Mad Men” has been the deliberate and artful chronicle of the psychological undressing of the secretive Don Draper. In its current season, the drama laid the character even more bare when he was caught with another woman — and with his pants down — by his 14-year-old daughter.
The excruciating moment, a culmination of self-imposed humiliations in a season awash in shame for the Emmy Award-winning show’s central character, prompted a fresh round of howling at the depraved depths of its charismatic antihero. He’s a terrible father. He’s a monster. He’s the devil.
But Don Draper is none of those things, counters the show’s creator Matt Weiner, who after Sunday’s season finale will only have 13 episodes left to tell the troubled ad executive’s tale. Don, he says, is 1968.
“People expect Don to be out of touch, but given society’s identity crisis in 1968, he’s never been more in touch,” said Weiner, who spent much of this season exploring the tumult of one of the nation’s most painful and divisive years. “It’s like the entire world is in a state that Don is in all the time — the id has overtaken the culture.”
It was a state some critics found wearisome this season, particularly when it came to Draper. While there were new examples of his morally reprehensible behavior, the most common complaint among many of the show’s devoted legions of episode recappers and social media commentators was they’d had enough. The New Yorker’s television critic Emily Nussbaum wrote midseason that “Don, instead of being the show’s engine, has become its anchor — heavy, even in the sixties sense.”
In an interview at his Los Angeles Center Studios office earlier this week, Weiner talked about his penultimate season and the critical reaction to it, as well as elaborating on some of the key narrative developments. The 47-year-old show runner, famously guarded about revealing plot details, also hinted at what might lie ahead for his leading man.