Wow, what a show. This definitely wasn’t my favorite season of Mad Men, but last night’s season 6 finale was pretty fantastic. It had me tearing up more than once and not really knowing why, and more than anything it made me think. A LOT. Which is nothing new for that show, it’s just that this week’s episode got me thinking a particularly large amount. Part of that thinking involved putting together my final sympathy rankings of the season. This week the rankings represent the overall results of the whole season, but the finale was so eventful that it of course had a big effect on the sympathy. I thought about taking a more mathematical approach and averaging each characters’ season-long rankings, but this is about sympathy. You can’t be mathematical about it; you gotta go with your gut. So that’s what I did. Feel free to comment with your own picks for Most Sympathetic.
So without further ado, I present this week’s Mad Men Sympathy Rankings, as they stand on Thanksgiving 1968.
8. Don Draper (Jon Hamm)
This week Don’s season-long downward spiral culminated in him getting drunk (what else is new?) and punching a minister in the face. Having just watched Nik Wallenda “Jesus” his way across the Grand Canyon, that was enough religious talk for me, too. After a night in jail, Don seems to have had a revelation and decides he and Megan should move out to California so he can handle Sunkist and she can pursue her career. Aside from the fact that he’s taking the opportunity away from an eager Stan, there’s the hope that Don really is trying to redeem himself. His breakthrough continues in the Hershey’s meeting, in which he reveals his history as an orphan in a whorehouse for whom chocolate bars were the only “sweet thing.” It was of course emotional and gripping and we should give Jon Hamm all the Emmys. Unfortunately the partners aren’t so pleased with it, and they basically hold an intervention for Don asking him to take a break. This is all after Don has allowed Ted to go to California in his place and in the process alienated his wife (more on that soon). The episode ends with Don taking his children to see the house where he grew up. On Thanksgiving. It’s wonderful that Don’s finally facing his past and trying to be a better person, but at this point it’s too much at once. Pull back a little, Don. Mr. Draper’s despicable, pathetic behavior this season keeps him at the bottom of the ranking. We’ll see what happens next season.
7. Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)
I’ve gotta admit, I think my favorite storyline this season has been Pete’s. From seeing his father-in-law in a brothel to getting hit on by Bob Benson, the craziest things have happened to Pete, and it almost makes me like him, but then he does something douchey and I change my mind. He’s damn entertaining, though. Vincent Kartheiser has proven himself to be pretty hilarious. This week he discovers that Manolo has married his mother and pushed her off a ship. His anger leads Bob (who I believe was naive to all this) to ruin his reputation with Chevy by making him drive a stick — which he of course can’t do. At the end he ends up on his way to California (Where did that come from? Did I miss something?), and his goodbyes to Trudy and his daughter were kind of touching… but then I remembered he’s Pete.
6. Roger Sterling (John Slattery)
We didn’t get to see much of Roger this season. He mostly just showed up to add a wisecrack or two (“It’s all fun and games ’til they shoot you in the face”), which is always appreciated. He’s lower in the rankings simply because we didn’t get a lot of insight into his character, besides the death of his mother. But his attempts to be a bigger part of Joan’s son’s life were admirable, so I don’t have much negative to say about Roger.
5. Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm)
Ugh, Ted. I wanted so badly to like you, and I kind of do, but the way you treated your wife and Peggy is just oh so disappointing. When Peggy flaunts her assets in front of him before going on a date, Ted can’t resist going to her apartment to declare that he loves her and he’s leaving his wife. Once they have sex, he goes home to his wife and realizes he shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. So he becomes the latest guy desperate to get to California and change his life. It’s great that Ted wants to remain faithful to his family, but it really disrespected Peggy’s feelings. As she says, “Aren’t you lucky to have decisions?” Not to mention the fact that taking California away from Don totally screwed over Megan’s plans. You’re still better than a lot of them, Ted, but I was pretty mad at you this week.