This is pure spoiler, just in case you were wondering. So, a courteous little “continued” link…
As I re-watched 5G the other night, I recalled the first time I saw the episode. The big question, of course, was, what was in Don’s case? We all know how it turned out—5G was in Don’s case. But the question in everyone’s mind was, Is it a gun?
At some level, that’s kind of a cheesy bit of misdirection. There’s a lot of it going on; the careful way Don has the money locked away, the way he agonizes over it, and especially the way Don opens the case, and then quick cut to Adam saying ‘What have you got there?’ Very murder of the week on Law & Order, that.
Part of me wondered, that first time, if the show could get away with murder. Don undoubtedly could. A nobody with no family (and Don’s careful inquiry about that was more misdirection); Peggy had seen him, but Peggy was sure Don’s missing time was all with Midge. No one would miss this guy or connect him to Don Draper. No, the real question to me was, could the show keep us caring about Don Draper after he’d done such a heinous thing. And there was a meta-level of consideration; you know, watching it, that this is written by Mr. Sopranos, so you know that he can make you care about murderers. Although one lone, secret, secretive murderer amongst people much nicer is perhaps, stretching it.
What is true when you’ve only seen five episodes, is that you don’t know who Don is at all, or what he’s capable of. You don’t know if he gives a shit about Adam. Adam says “Did you miss me at all?” and Don’s pause is loooong, his face is pure deer in the headlights; Is he lying when he says “Of course I did”? After 13 episodes, I think we all know he wasn’t lying, and his anguish was fueled by how deeply he cared. But then, the mystery of Don’s briefcase contents was fueled by the mystery of Don himself. He was a fascinating character, and yet he was still a character who might, maybe, be capable of shooting his long-lost kid brother.
And here’s the other thing. None of the “misdirection” touches were really misdirection. Don really was anguished. Really was conflicted. Really wanted to find a way to make the problem go away. And if we think of the contents of the case as the contents of Don/Dick, yes, it’s locked away tightly with a key his wife doesn’t know about, and yes, it’s terrible, terrible to decide to bring it out, to have to act, and the pain in there is murderous.
And finally, it’s not misdirection because, well, it does kill Adam in the end. What was in that case was rejection, and rejection killed Adam.