I know you think you saw something.
Obsession and addiction are close relations. The obsessed take dangerous risks; the addict climbs inside whatever soothes. The drug of choice becomes a whole world, full of excitement and experimentation and escape. It becomes the gauze that wraps a wound, and the addict believes nothing but the obsession will cure pain. While the addict exists inside that world, the people surrounding the addict become enablers, complicit in their lies and deceptions. It was heartbreaking to hear a 14 year old Sally say with such world-weary acceptance, “Ok”, in response to Don’s silly, messy lie. In moments like those, it feels so much easier to just accept whatever it is the addict is saying.
Watching Don break down in different ways throughout the series has been a study in addiction. After Sally caught Don with Sylvia, we watched Don operate as a full addict: that slow descent in the elevator to the lobby, disheveled, panicked, mind working so desperately to fix what was broken. Don looks like he’s about to break, like he can’t handle how much it hurts to know that he’s been caught, that a moment of pleasure has suddenly become a nightmare. And then we see it, that exact moment, as he stood in the lobby, when he turned it off, found a bar, and spent a night in solitude and Draper silence, trading his obsession for his addiction. It’s no matter; both keep him separate from the world around him, trapped inside his head, where he honestly believes he’s safe.
Don returns home, drunk, full of hesitation and dread. The coziest scene greets him when he rears up and enters, the only broken piece is his daughter’s devastated face, working in her own way to crawl inside herself and turn off the ache. Megan sweetly accepts Don’s drunken tardiness, lovingly embraces him when she discovers the kindness Don performed, and responds respectfully to Sally’s outburst. It compounds Don’s fear and guilt to such a strong, terrible degree that he can’t face her, can’t accept her embrace.
Don (and now I fear Sally) must exist in extremes: dangerous obsession or walls built strong and impenetrable around them. If Don loses himself inside a bottle or an unattainable woman, he never has to risk true emotion, and like the opening scene of this season, Don can exist safely, silently, simply observing, but not participating in the world around him.
The final scene of Sunday night’s episode reminds me of the poem “Interior” by Dorothy Parker. The last verse goes:
Her mind lives tidily, apart
From cold and noise and pain,
And bolts the door against her heart,
Out wailing in the rain.