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SPOILER ALERT: ‘Mad Men’: Bittersweet season finale

This TV publicity image released by AMC shows JHamm as DDraper left JessicPare as Megan Draper scene from 'Mad Men.'

This TV publicity image released by AMC shows Jon Hamm as Don Draper, left, and Jessica Pare as Megan Draper in a scene from "Mad Men." The season finale airs Sunday, June 23, on AMC. (AP Photo/AMC, Michael Yarish) ORG XMIT: NYET402

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Updated: July 25, 2013 6:46AM

Maybe there’s hope for Don Draper.

SPOILER ALERT. The brilliant adman who has been living a lie started telling the truth in the sixth-season finale of Mad Men Sunday, first revealing his less-than-savory upbringing in a meeting with a potential advertiser and later showing his children the decaying brothel where he grew up.

It marked a significant moment for Don (Jon Hamm), who had been in a season-long downward spiral on the AMC series, a four-time Emmy Award winner for best drama.

“That was the story of the season for me from the beginning, that he was going to eventually be forced to take a look in the mirror,” Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner says. “I wouldn’t say that he has been redeemed or that he’s changed, but there’s certainly the beginning of a moment of reconciliation, which is that he can’t keep living with that person on the inside, not with his family.”

Don’s willingness to reveal his past to daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka), who felt profoundly betrayed when she saw him having sex with a neighbor, is a major shift for a man who had hidden his upbringing from those close to him.

“I hope people get the idea of someone descending into hell, that this is his chance to at least recognize that he is the problem,” Weiner says.

Other characters had meaningful moments with their children, too: Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), caressing the hair of his young daughter before leaving for Los Angeles; Roger Sterling (John Slattery), trying to become a part of his son’s life; and Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm), seeking refuge in California to get away from Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and keep his family together.

There’s “the idea that in this time of chaos, there’s somebody right in front of us [the children] who is pure and who should be taken very seriously and is really our only chance,” Weiner says.

At work, however, Don found himself in a deteriorating situation, forced to take a leave of absence by his partners.

“His bad business is impulsively forcing his partners to merge, then fighting with the person they’ve merged with, divorcing themselves from the day-to-day activities. Businesswise, you can’t blame that on the partners. There’s a point where you say, ‘How much will these people tolerate?’ ” Weiner says.

“You’re supposed to feel this kind of bittersweet sense that Don has finally come clean, that he has relieved the tension of his identity to some degree. Has he been punished for that, or is it just too late?” he says.

The state of Don’s marriage to Megan (Jessica Pare) is uncertain, especially with the possibility of a bicoastal arrangement after Don decides not to move to California so that Ted can go there. Megan “has got to know at this point that she can only bend so far before she breaks,” Weiner says.

In the episode, Peggy and Ted finally consummate their deep longing, but their talk of being together is scuttled when Ted announces he’s going to California.

“Ted did what he should do,” Moss says. “Unfortunately for Peggy, it’s not great for her, but that’s why she loves him, because he’s a good man.

“It’s just kind of another pie-in-the-face moment and brings up that question: Is Peggy ever going to find love, or is she going to be a very successful businesswoman who’s single?” she says.

Weiner says he knows how he wants the series to end, but he hasn’t started thinking about the upcoming seventh and final season.

Gannett News Service.

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