So, last week I was speculating about Don at the train station in Marriage of Figaro. Was he suicidal? Was he thinking about running away again—was the train “escape” to him?
So on Saturday, there’s Matt Weiner, and of all the zillion questions I want to ask, well, that seems like the best one. After Roberta finished her question, I took the mike and that’s what I asked.
She has the digital recorder, so I’m paraphrasing, but here’s what he said:
Trains are profoundly important for Don. He got on a train as Dick Whitman, got off as Don Draper, leaving “his” corpse behind. In a very real way, the train is where Don Draper came from. So when he was lost, confused, bereft, and didn’t know where to go, he went to where he came from, where he began. The train.
Then Weiner talked about the CGI image of the train reflected on Don, and how beautiful it was, and how important, and how pleased he was to see it.
But the thing I came away with was that (a) I was right about the importance of trains as a symbol, and that felt validating, and (b) that Weiner’s response was more psychological, more nuanced, and less of an answer.
I love that. I was looking for “an answer.” As in “it meant this.” It meant suicidal. It meant running away. But no, it didn’t mean anything so specific, so packagable. Don sat there not knowing why he sat there. He sat there hoping an answer for why he was sitting there would emerge.
I hate movies and TV shows that are too answery. It was all a dream. She was really his sister. Ray Charles had a drug problem because of his brother’s death. Howard Hughes had OCD because his mother made him spell c-h-o-l-e-r-a. Movies and TV are full of “because,” but real life just isn’t.
Sometimes I’m on a date and someone will ask me why my marriage ended. And I want to ask, ‘Did your marriage end because of a “why”? Does any marriage end that simply?’
There’s an answer to Don’s past—he was Dick Whitman, “whoreson,” and he switched dog tags with his dead CO. But there also isn’t an answer. He’s a lost and fearful person who doesn’t understand why his happy life doesn’t feel happy, why he’s given his wife everything but her hands go numb, why he sits at the train and can’t make himself go home. And answers don’t come in neat little packages just before the last commercial break. Not on our show.