In the “Monolith,” the fourth episode of the final season of Mad Men, Don Draper took two steps backwards in his personal journey toward redemption, but — as Lane Pryce’s Mets pennant suggested — there is still plenty of reason for hope. 1969 was the year of the Miracle Mets, who began that season as a deeply mediocre team, 18-23 through 41 games. Like our hopes for Don Draper, they mounted a comeback, and in the end and surged past the Chicago Cubs (uh, Lou Avery?) with a late-season run that was one of the largest turnarounds in Major League Baseball history. Lane Pryce may have been the 1960s Mets — perennially last place finishers. But Don is the 1969 Mets, the team that closed out the decade with a championship.
But before Don could continue along his journey, he’d need to hit rock bottom, and that was what “The Monolith” was about, mixing in a sh*t ton of allusions to Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. “He’s spent three weeks in that cave and he hasn’t clubbed another ape yet,” Roger said of Don in one of many references to Kubrick’s film before recommending him to the Burger Chef project. That’s where the proudly mediocre, bureaucratic sh*tstain Lou Avery stepped. “I like to think of myself as a leader.” F*ck you, Lou.
He assigned Peggy as the head of the Burger Chef team and put Don on the project in hopes that the two most creative minds in the office would destroy each other and thus the threat to Lou Avery, whose niceness in the episode was even more sinister than his sneering prickitude. Die Lou. Die.
But Don wasn’t going to sit around and eat Peggy’s sh*t. He pulled an Office Space on Peggy, freezing her out, giving zero f*cks while simultaneously aiming to bring in a new client. But as we learn over the course of the episode, that potential client — Lloyd Hawley — was Satan himself (“you go by many names”), that goddamn computer was the apple of knowledge (the temptation) and Don nearly bit into it (the fall of man), which would have gotten him ousted from Sterling Cooper (the garden of Eden).
In the end, Freddy Rumsen — Don’s pants-whizzing guardian angel — saved Draper’s ass from ouster. He kept Don’s drunkenness hidden, nursed him through the hangover, and gave Don the motivational speech he needed to hear. “Fix your bayonet and hit the parade. Do the work, Don.” It was full circle for Freddy and Don, who was the only one to defend Freddy after he pissed his pants.
It also made The Hollies “On the Carousel” a fitting song for the credits, because it recalled Don Draper’s very best ad campaign in the series’ run, and arguably the best few minutes of the entire first season of Mad Men. This is where Don’s trying to return: