Mad Men returned last night after another ridiculously long hiatus.
I have watched the show since inception and I can speak highly of many aspects of the show. But I continue to have one major problem with it.
Never mind its main character Don Draper, there is not a single character on the show that I like better now than I did when the show began. None of them have learned the important lessons, none of them have become better people. Some are more successful and some are not, some have attained what they wanted and some have not. But I can’t think of a single character that has become better.
Its as if all of these people reside in a graceless world, where redemption is unnecessary because sin has no consequences. Don destroyed his marriage and family because of his lies and treachery. He was rewarded for his bad behavior with another beautiful wife and an incredible apartment. Who needs redemption in a world like that? Mores are discarded as quickly as pants.
The show has sometimes flirted with consequence and transformation and in my mind that is when it is the most interesting. But these rare brief flirtations are just interludes between the base.
Mad Men is an interesting contrast to another AMC show, Breaking Bad. In Breaking Bad the lead character also repeatedly makes immoral decisions. But unlike Mad Men, in Breaking Bad sin always has consequences. Anyone who has watched the show since the beginning knows how it is going to end. It is going to end badly. It already has. The rationalizations made by Walt about doing bad things for his family are always clearly just that. You know he has to lose them, destroy them, to a degree he already has, it is just a matter of who and how much destruction. But it will end badly.
Maybe Mad Men will too. Maybe Don Draper will end up alone and irrelevant and kill himself just like his brother, But even if that happens, it will just prove that Don has learned nothing. I want Don to see the consequences of his sin and know them for what they are. I don’t want Don to despair, I want Don to pay. And then I want Don to live with them. I want Don to live.
But I just don’t know. I don’t see it in this world of detailed and shiny nihilism. One moment of grace can change a man and change the world. But in the world of Mad Men, I am not sure if anyone is interested.