1. Mad Men: Dick Whitman Died in Korea
Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has been winking and nodding at us from the very beginning of his show. Look at the title sequence. I mean, look at the title sequence the way a creative executive (i.e., Don Draper, i.e., Matthew Weiner) would look at it. It's a goddamn guy plummeting to his death while his life flashes before him in brightly colored advertisements.
Huh, maybe all that midday drinking wasn't a sign of good mental health.
And by Don Draper, I mean Dick Whitman. As we learned in Episode 12, "Nixon vs. Kennedy," there was once this bumbling poor cursed soul named Dick Whitman, the son of a prostitute who named him after the business end of a man. Whitman is beaten by his father and abused by his stepmother, and eventually ends up in a far outpost of the Korean War. It's just him and his lieutenant, Don Draper.
But then, in some weird mishap worthy of The Three Stooges, Whitman accidentally blows up Don Draper and sets himself on fire. We see him switch dog tags and take Draper's identity. And somehow the new name makes him the ideal man: handsome, self-assured, successful.
Except, Whitman really did die in Korea. The entire show is the life he wished he had the courage to live (sort of like An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, except less high school English class 8-millimetery).
"You've got your whole life ahead of you," says a woman on a train in "Nixon vs. Kennedy." "Forget that boy in the box." Cigar is to penis as box is to coffin. And consider what Draper/Whitman himself says in the very next episode, ominously titled "The Wheel": "This is not a spaceship, it's a time machine. It's not called the Wheel, it's called the Carousel. It lets us travel around and around and back home again."
"Also, there's little-kid puke everywhere and touching anything gets you sticky."
As we've pointed out before, Woodstock was conceived of by a team of Madison Avenue suits just like the ones at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. While attending Woodstock with Peggy Olson, Don Draper drops acid and finally becomes fully enlightened. He realizes that Peggy is his true love, that love is not about power or expensive things -- it's about partnership. Love really is all you need.
As he kisses Peggy, the sound of spinning helicopter blades quickly builds. We're transported back to Korea, where Dick Whitman lays dying next to the corpse of Don Draper. Inside his acid trip back in time, he dies as the helicopter lifts into the sky. But he dies happy, knowing that none of the harm he's caused since assuming Don Draper's life has come to pass.
Outside his acid trip, we see that the helicopter sound was Jimi Hendrix arriving via chopper. As Hendrix plays his famous riff on the "Star Spangled Banner," we pull back and up from Draper/Whitman's motionless body. Did Don Draper die with Dick Whitman inside that acid trip? Acid isn't typically a deadly drug, but Don Draper was, in the end, a figment of Dick Whitman's imagination. Whatever the answer is, we're guessing that series creator and former Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner won't be telling anyone.
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