12 Don Draper Scenes In Mad Men That Are Unforgettable

"Mad Men" is one of the greatest television shows of all time. Until recently, the disparity in quality between television and that of feature film was significant. HBO genuinely changed the game with the release of "The Sopranos," which proved that fully realized character dramas had as much (or more) potential on the small screen than the big one. Audiences were surprised by the level of quality in early HBO shows of the "peak TV" era, including "The Wire," "Oz," "Band of Brothers," and "Six Feet Under." 

However, HBO wasn't the only network that was producing great content during that period. AMC Networks proved they were also committed to great storytelling when they released the first season of Matthew Weiner's "Mad Men" in 2007. Weiner had been a writer and executive producer on "The Sopranos," but here, he told the story of a very different type of anti-hero. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) wasn't a New Jersey crime boss — he was a ruthless advertising executive, whose personal and professional obligations clashed throughout the 1960s.

"Mad Men" is a period drama centered around Don and the employees of Sterling Cooper, an advertising firm on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. Don is gregarious and sociable when he's pitching ideas to clients, but he hides his dark past from many people who (claim to) care about him. "Is Don a good person?" is a question that "Mad Men" fans had to ask themselves every week. Even after the series finale, that question remains.

Here are 12 of the most unforgettable Don Draper moments from "Mad Men."

Don's final moments on the beach, Person to Person

It is very rare for a beloved television show to end with a perfect final episode. A show's legacy is often determined by whether the showrunners can "stick the landing," and prove to the loyal viewers that the time they invested in watching the series was all worth it. Shows like "How I Met Your Mother," "Game of Thrones," and "Dexter" ended with such disappointing conclusions that it became difficult to recommend them at all.

The "Mad Men" finale, "Person to Person," was facing high expectations. Not only had "Mad Men" maintained a consistent level of quality throughout its seven seasons, but the final episodes promised to bring the characters into a new decade. The first season wrapped up with the election of the U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the fall of 1960, so it only made sense for the last season to end at the dawn of the 1970s.

"Person to Person" showed how out-of-touch Don had become. His womanizing, mischievous activities now felt like the desperate actions of a man who was clinging to any shred of relevance that he still possessed. Don had isolated himself, and lost contact with his friends and family. But here, in the last scene of "Mad Men," Don is relaxing on a beach and meditating. The iconic song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" begins to play. It's unclear what Don will do next, but it's heavily implied that he will go on to create the iconic 1971 Coca-Cola "Hilltop" ad. Regardless, in this moment, he has finally accepted his fate — and himself.

Don's breakdown in front of Peggy, The Suitcase

Don's relationship with Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) is one of the most fascinating dynamics within "Mad Men." In the first season, Peggy begins her job as Don's secretary at Sterling Cooper. Although Don doesn't think much of Peggy initially, she begins to impress him with her creativity and professionalism. Peggy eventually becomes a copywriter — a rare position for a woman in this industry in the '60s. Even though Don barely acknowledges her efforts, it's clear that he admires her hard work. Don pushes Peggy to her limits in the same way that he pushes himself; they are much more similar than either of them would ever want to admit.

"The Suitcase" falls within the center of both the fourth season and the series overall. Both Don and Peggy are very stressed, trying to prepare an advertising campaign to present to the suitcase manufacturer Samsonite. However, Don has other things on his mind: he is afraid that he will receive a phone call from the niece of his friend and ex-wife, Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton). She has terminal cancer, and Don does not want to receive the news of her death.

Over the course of the evening, Don and Peggy begin to bond. They learn more about each other's priorities. They even both fall asleep in Don's office. When Don wakes up and learns that Anna has died, he begins to cry. It's the first time that he has been completely vulnerable in front of Peggy (or arguably, anyone), and it sets the groundwork for the rest of their relationship in the series.

Don's affair with Joy, The Jet Set

One of the reasons that "Mad Men" was so successful was the show's willingness to break from the format of traditional narrative storytelling. "Mad Men" is very realistic in the way that it recreates the historical details of the 1960s; however, there are episodes with extended dream sequences and events that are not supposed to be taken literally. One of the most peculiar moments in the entire run of the series is in the season 2 episode "The Jet Set." While there is nothing in the episode that could be deemed "unrealistic," it feels like an extended fantasy.

In "The Jet Set," Don and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) travel to Southern California for a business trip. Don is slightly annoyed because the airline that they were using lost his luggage. Pete begins working by reaching out to their local contacts, while Don spends the afternoon at the pool of their hotel. He becomes attracted to a young woman at the bar named Joy (Laura Ramsey). They form a passionate relationship over the course of Don's stay — one that feels almost too good to be true. 

Is Joy real or is she just a figment of Don's imagination? Even when Don is at his most successful, he never seems to be truly happy — him "pursuing joy" is a major theme in "Mad Men." A relationship with Joy (the character) is everything Don seemingly wants: she offers him pure contentment and satisfaction without the burdens of commitment. Perhaps, it's "Joy" that he is searching for throughout the entire series.

Don tricks Roger, Red in the Face

"Mad Men" does not shy away from the sexism and intense discrimination that took place during 1960s, and as a result, Don is not always a likable character. Case in point: his cruel treatment of women. Don makes a habit of breaking the hearts of the people that he leaves behind: Don struggled with his marriage to Betty (January Jones) before finally getting divorced, and he is unfaithful to his partners throughout the series. However, Don proves that he does care for Betty in the episode "Red in the Face."

At the beginning of the episode, the employees of Sterling Cooper are discussing their weekend plans. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) is beginning to feel depressed; he sees a group of women that are more interested in Don than they are in him. Roger invites himself over for dinner at Don's house, and Betty then goes out of her way to make him comfortable. She even abstains from eating her main meal so that Roger can have it. But when Don leaves the room for a brief moment, Roger tries to flirt with Betty.

Don eventually hears both sides of the story, and while his initial response to his wife isn't exactly supportive, he does stick up for her in his own way. In order to get revenge, Don takes Roger out for seafood before a meeting. He then bribes the boy working the elevator at their office to tell them that it is temporarily out of service. Roger — who is much older than his antics would suggest — quickly becomes nauseous from walking up the long flight of stairs. It's a hilarious moment in an episode all about adult immaturity.

Don takes Sally to his family home, In Care Of

Don is at a personal and professional low at the end of "Mad Men" season 6. He has been temporarily suspended from work after embarrassing the company during a pitch meeting with the executives at Hershey's Chocolate. Don then decides that he will not move with his wife, Megan (Jessica Pare), to California. This makes Megan extremely upset; she had already ended her job in New York, and was excited about the change of scenery.

Don's relationship with his daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka), is also at an all-time low. Sally has grown distant from her father over the years, and detests him after discovering he was having an affair with his neighbor, Sylvia Rosen (Linda Cardellini). Sally is finally beginning to understand what kind of man her father really is. However, Sally has other things on her mind in the episode "In Care Of." She was caught buying beer and getting drunk at school, and has been temporarily suspended. In order to mend their relationship, Don offers to pick her up and drives her home.

During their drive, Don makes a detour and takes Sally (and her brothers) to an old, broken down house, telling them that's where he grew up. Sally gives him a knowing look — suggesting newfound appreciation for his past adversity. Although he doesn't share any specific details about his upbringing with Sally, Don helps her realize that he did not always live the illustrious lifestyle that he currently has. It's clear that Sally has learned something about her father; perhaps, his experience with poverty is why he is so indulgent now.

Don makes the Carousel pitch, The Wheel

There are few scenes in "Mad Men" that are as captivating as the moments where Don is selling his ideas. When Don is in a room with a client, he is putting on a performance. It's part of the reason that Jon Hamm's acting is so impressive. Hamm had to show the mix of showmanship and plasticity within Don's pitch sessions. Don is rarely genuinely excited about a product, but he's able to amaze his clients with his creative marketing ideas.

The best pitch scene in "Mad Men" takes place within the last episode of the first season. In "The Wheel," Sterling Cooper is trying to come up with campaign ideas for Kodak's new projector. Meanwhile, Don is struggling to determine where his priorities should be: he had just learned that his half-brother, Adam Whitman (Jay Paulson) — whom he had recently rejected — has died by suicide. As a result, Don decides to make his pitch to Kodak more personal than usual.

During the meeting, Don puts his personal family photo albums in Kodak's new projector, which he names "Carousel." Don summarizes the themes of the show when he discusses how memories "takes us to a place where we ache to go again." It's one of Don's most successful moments; Kodak is so moved by the presentation that they cancel their meetings with all of their other potential clients. However, when Don returns to his actual home, he realizes that he is all alone.

Don explains advertising, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Some great television shows struggle during their first seasons to define what type of show they want to become. "Mad Men" didn't have that issue at all. The pilot episode, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," immediately informed the viewers about the high level of quality that they could expect from the show each week. "Mad Men" pulls off a very difficult conceit with its period setting. While it never shies away from the systematic hardships of the era, it's hard to not get swept up by the charisma of advertising in the 1960s.

In the pilot, Don is struggling to come up with a new slogan for an advertising campaign for the tobacco company Lucky Strike. Sterling Cooper is facing a crisis: Lucky Strike is one of their most important clients, but the ongoing concerns about the danger of smoking cigarettes has made advertising more challenging. To make matters worse, Lee Garner (John Cullum), the owner of Lucky Strike, is unimpressed with the idea that Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) comes up with.

Luckily, Don saves the meeting by summarizing his thoughts on advertising. "Advertising is based on one thing," he says. "Happiness." After asking Lee how the Lucky Strikes cigarettes are made, Don comes up with the slogan "it's toasted." He explains that since none of Lucky Strike's competitors can claim that their products are safer, then Lucky Strike can at least make their cigarettes seem unique. Rather than acknowledge the health concerns head-on, Don suggests they change the conversation. It's a brilliant strategy in the moment that immediately sets the tone for the series: it establishes why Don has been successful in this cut-throat industry, while also foreshadowing that the seemingly fruitless pursuit of happiness will be a major theme. 

Don creates a new firm, Shut the Door, Have A Seat

Throughout the course of "Mad Men," Don has to come up with many last minute campaign strategies in order to satisfy Sterling Cooper's clients. As irresponsible as Don is in his family life, he rarely fails at work. However, Sterling Cooper faces serious questions about its future in the third season following a corporate merger. The company's new owners, Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe, send the financial officer Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) to trim down the expenses and get rid of some long term staffers. Don, Roger, and Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) feel that their life's work is being undermined.

In the third season finale, "Shut the Door, Have A Seat," Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe are bought by McCann Erickson. Realizing that the firm's future could collapse, Don comes up with a brilliant solution to save their relationships with the long-term clients. Essentially, he conspires with Roger, Bert, and Lane to start a new firm called Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, poaching the best clients before leaving — including Lucky Strike.

The scene of Don collaborating with the other ad men is thrilling. It shows Don at his most inventive. It also shows Don's loyalty to his friends and coworkers, as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offers employment to Pete, Peggy, Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), and Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks). It's a satisfying conclusion to the PPL story arc and an exciting step in Don's overall character journey.

Don proposes to Megan, Tomorrowland

Don's marriage to Betty collapses within the third season, and season 4 explores his life as a divorced man. Don questions what his future will look like. Even though he was not entirely happy with Betty, he still enjoyed having a peaceful home to come back to after work. Don also wonders what the future of his children will be like. This all culminates in the bold decision he makes in the fourth season finale, "Tomorrowland."

Over the course of the fourth season, Don has had many lovers, but he has become especially smitten with his secretary, Megan Calvet. Don travels to Disneyland with his children, as he wants to go to Florida to see the home of his late friend Anna (she was married to the real "Don Draper," whose identity he, Dick Whitman, stole). Don decides to bring Megan with him, likely because he knows that she is great with children. Don and Megan grow even closer throughout the episode, and in a shocking turn of events, Don abruptly proposes marriage to her. It's a genuinely surprising moment that speaks to Don's state of mind — and impulsive nature.

It's clear that like all of Don's relationships, his marriage to Megan is doomed to fail. There is a heartbreaking scene at the end where Don confesses to his other lover, Faye Miller (Cara Buono), that he will not be able to see her anymore. The knowing audience realizes that the older, more mature Faye is the kind of woman Don needs, even if he himself doesn't realize it.

Don realizes he'll never be faithful, The Phantom

"Mad Men" season 5 takes the show to some very dark places. Don is forced to confront the ways in which the other characters are changing. His marriage to Megan isn't as perfect as he imagined, Sally has been growing more independent, and even Roger begins to realize that he cannot keep pretending to be the same young man that he thought he was. And it's the beginning of the end for Don's second marriage by the season finale, "The Phantom."

Don had power over Megan when she was his secretary, but now that they are married, he grows irritated by her desire for agency. Throughout the season, Megan has worked towards an acting career — and to Don's disappointment, she is succeeding. When Megan's mother, Marie (Julia Ormond), offers her some tough advice on making it as a professional performer, Megan gets drunk and passes out. Marie tells Don that he needs to take care of his wife, and he is not sure how to respond. The truth is, he wants to be the one to be taken care of.

In the episode's closing moments, Don watches Megan perform in a commercial. While Megan is on set, a woman in a bar begins to hit on Don. The last scene uses the Nancy Sinatra song "You Only Live Twice," which was released in 1967. Outside of being a fun homage to the James Bond series, it heavily implies that Don will resume a secret lifestyle of extramarital affairs. The use of the song symbolizes Don's two lives: He has one as Dick Whitman, and one as Don Draper. This duality is fundamental to his character, and is perhaps why he struggles to stay in the singular role of husband.

Don gets some advice from Bert's ghost, Waterloo

Don has an interesting relationship with Bert throughout "Mad Men." While he is not as close with Bert as Roger is, Don will occasionally consider Bert's sagely advice. In the season 7 episode "Waterloo," Bert dies after watching the "Apollo 11" astronauts land on the moon. This comes at the worst possible time for Don: He is almost fired by Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin), and he only barely saves his job after Roger convinces the other partners at the firm to agree to be acquired by McCann Erickson. Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) is considering leaving advertising, but Don convinces him to stay, essentially saying he'll never be happy otherwise.  

It's after all this that Don receives a surprising vision of Bert's ghost. At the episode's end, news of Bert's death — as well as the company's new direction — is announced to the office. As Don walks away, he sees Bert dancing with five secretaries in the downstairs office, singing the song "The Best Things In Life Are Free." Don steadies himself and fights back tears.

It's one of those beautiful moments in "Mad Men" that feels more symbolic than literal. Did Don really see Bert's ghost? Or is this a manifestation of Don finally acknowledging his grief?

Don breaks down crying, Person to Person

Don has always been rather closed off when it comes to sharing his feelings. He has long hid the truth that he is living under a false name, and perhaps used that as an excuse to be guarded from those closest to him. However, he also has deeper insecurities that stem from his traumatic childhood. Don is generally dismissive of other people, but in the series finale, he breaks down emotionally and shows a surprising amount of empathy for someone whom he would never usually associate with.

Don sits in for a group therapy session, and listens to a man named Leonard (Evan Arnold) share his story. Leonard says that he feels overlooked and depressed. He compares himself to an item in a refrigerator that is left to sit on the shelf. Surprisingly, Leonard's story strikes a chord with Don. Don gets up without saying anything and hugs Leonard. He starts breaking down and sobbing. It is the most vulnerable that he ever gets in the entire series, and signals a significant personal change for the character.