Mad Men’s unpardonable sin

We weren’t planning on covering Mad Men’s season finale, but with all the Jesus talk going on in the show last night – and our ongoing interest in the program – I felt a quick nod was deserved.

Even for Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the miserably dissolute 1960s advertising executive at the show’s center, this season finale represented a low point (spoilers ahead). After being told off by his teen daughter (Kiernan Shipka) - who is understandably still upset about walking in on him when he was on top of a female neighbor - Don goes on yet another bender. While drinking alone, he’s approached at a bar by an evangelizing pastor and they end up arguing over whether or not Jesus has had “a bad year” (the year in question is 1968). This leads to a flashback to another encounter with an evangelist, one who gets kicked out after trying to preach the Gospel in the brothel where Don grew up. As the door closes on him, the pastor yells, “The only unpardonable sin is to believe God cannot forgive you!”

Debates about the theological concept of unforgivable sin aside, this is a telling line in the sand for Mad Men to draw. Is it not the booze, the women or the lying, but rather this false belief that has kept Don from even trying to live a life for anyone but himself? Will the simple message that anyone – yes, even Don Draper - can be forgiven be enough to turn things around?

I highly doubt Jesus will factor into the Mad Men narrative this heavily again, but we certainly seem headed toward a (supposedly final) season of redemption. More importantly, the season finale suggests that the series will handle such a journey with wisdom and nuance. Already, the storyline recognizes that coming clean, especially for someone like Don, will be complicated. Last night's episode acknowledged that loss will be inevitable, perhaps even the loss of Don's second wife (Jessica Pare), who walks out on him. The episode's final scene considers the notion of shame, both misplaced and deserved, as Don shows his kids the dilapidated remains of that brothel where he was raised. If redemption comes on Mad Men, it’s not going to be an easy fix. Never is.

Comments (5)

Leave a Comment
Actually, the only unpardonable sin is to blasphemy the Holy Spirit. Does this man not know his bible?

Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:31-32).

Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation—because they said, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30).

And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven (Luke 12:10).

Nuff' said. Amen!
Last night's episode was a great one to talk about--that quote from the visiting preacher almost knocked me out of my seat. It will be interesting to see what happens next season. I'm not sure I have as much hope as you do that this falling man will finally find redemption, but isn't it pretty to think so?
If I were writing Mad Men, I think I'd be inclined to let Don fall, and sprinkle redemption among the supporting characters (yes, even Pete). Don has become such a culturally beloved character, partly because of his bad behavior, that I confess I don't have much sympathy left for him. I also think it might be an equally true, if much harsher, reflection of real life: that sometimes people this lost aren't ever found. All in all, though, this episode showed me that if Mad Men is intent on redeeming Don, it will do so in an artful way.
I was surprised to see what seems like a distinctly christian hope in this episode of Mad Men, which is not a show I guessed would provide such a thing. There was a lot of hope for renewal and forgiveness in this episode, even though it was always tinged by sins of the past (I'm thinking of Ted's choice to honor his marriage, Pete and Trudy's peaceful interaction, Roger, Joan and Bob sharing a meal with baby Kevin, and of course Don's truthfulness about his childhood with everyone, but especially his own children). It will be interesting to see if this tone continues into the final season.
My prediction for how Mad Men will end - Early in season 6, we learn of Don's secret talent for playing the guitar. By the end of the season, Don reinvents himself yet again and becomes... wait for it... Larry Norman!


Leave a comment

A login account is required to leave a comment

See the latest in:


promo 1 promo 2
promo 3 promo 4

Donate Now