I have mixed emotions about the Season Six finale. It was either brilliant or the moment the show jumped the shark.
Like DJ, I didn't believe that Weiner believed in redemption. But last night, he started Don on the path of redemption IMO, there's no turning back without the risk of making a mockery of the first six seasons.
It was brilliant, IMO, how Don's path to redemption began: His own realization that things had "Gotten out of hand". The first step in rectifying wrongdoing is realizing that you've been behaving poorly. Don did that last night and seemed content with whatever blowback would happen, whether it be with Megan or Sally or even Ted.
I don't think for a minute that Don didn't realize what he was doing in the Hershey's meeting or the blowback (i.e., firing) that would occur. I think he felt they were necessary steps in order to come to grips with massive downfall. One has to look in the face of the devil in order to be redeemed, and IMO, that's exactly what Don did last night.
I also found it interesting that several of the characters WERE Don Draper last night: Pete, dealing with the loss of his overbearing mother. Ted, acting like Don, having an affair, asking for forgiveness from Don in order to rectify his wrongs and Peggy, sleeping around, finding no fulfilling relationships or triumphs other than professionally, with her taking over Don's office and view. Her arc is the most interesting and I'm quite possibly more excited to see how it ends next season that Don's.
Ted and Pete are on their own path to redemption as well. Both are trying to reconcile with their families (although Pete's is more mental than anything else). Roger is attempting to connect with his bastard child because it's clear that there's not much hope for a loving stable relationship with his daughter. She's seen too much.
Where the show ultimately lost and confused me last night is that nowhere, not once, did anyone of Don's friends, whether it was Roger or Joan (or anyone other than Peggy "Monster!") confront Don and try to help him get it together. Don and Roger palled around as much as anyone on this show and they'd both shared good times and bad, but in the hour of Don's most discontent, Roger fires him? That seemed very unrealistic to me, especially since Roger too is on a path of redemption.
Also, the one thing that never seems to be mentioned or even hinted at is that Don doesn't need the ad business. He doesn't need SC&P or any of its previous incarnations because he's a millionaire. And being a millionaire in the mid 60's is akin to having $10 million today. And we've never seen him lead a lavish lifestyle or live beyond his ample means. If anything, he's probably got even more money stashed away.
So in terms of "What does it all mean?", the guy can go buy a beach house in Santa Monica and live comfortably without ever working another day in his life. Losing his job is fairly meaningless, especially given the fact that if he DOES clean up, there would be a massive bidding war for his services, whether it be in Manhattan, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco. The guy is well-known, hot commodity and a little tension for a few months at SC&P would not hinder anyone from pursuing his service.
On another note, according to this interview today with Weiner, he has no idea where the show is going in its final season. He doesn't know what year the show will be set and he doesn't even know if the final season will be a "stand alone" season with its own ending or if the final season will actually be a final season
. It may just be an ambiguous end.