Identity: Mad Men, Don Draper and the “Ping!”
I asked this to the antihero circle, but I’ll ask it here too. For all the Mad Men fans out there, how did you feel about the series finale? It seems as if its eight-year run boils down to one split-second moment in the very last scene: The “Ping!”
Was the Ping Don Draper’s lightbulb for the Coca-Cola advertisement that closed out the final episode? Was it a symbol the crowning moment of his rebirth? In other words did the Ping represent his personal enlightenment or a professional epiphany? In other other words’ words, did Don find a new self or a new ad?
Some say it was only a moment of peace, clarity and self-acceptance. Others say it was a egotistical moment of inspiration to create Coke’s most pivotal ad of the 70s—if not ever. And some think it’s nothing more than a literal hippy chime to close out the Ohming scene as Don smiles into Nirvana.
What do I think? I think his smile and Ping was pure. It wasn’t work-related. He didn’t have some great idea for a commercial. And he wasn’t going back to NYC. Yet, I also think there are may be multiple cues throughout the series and also parallels to people in real life (i.e., Bill Backer) that allude to Don coming up the coke ad as a result of his spiritual enlightenment. I know, contradictions—live with it.
If it’s both, then Matt Weiner did a great job of utilizing the hero’s journey and making Draper the master of both worlds. If he were to ever go back to NYC (old world), he’d be operating from his new identity and experiences (new world). The second half of the series begins with Don seeming comfortable with his original (or old) Dick Whitman identity. But he’s no longer Dick. He’s Don. And he’s got to dignify the name he scandalously stole after the Korean War. The final scene reflects the beginning of that honor and acceptance of his new identity. He’s not Don Draper from SCDP or Don Draper from McCann. He’s just Don Draper. And the “Ping!” says it all.