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Don Draper's Tarot Reading


1 comment
In the latest episode of Mad Men, Don Draper gets his cards read by somebody whose identity I'm not at liberty to disclose for fear of violating the unbreakable social rule about "spoilers."

The reading itself was sparse--only two of the cards were actually mentioned in dialog--but if you rewind and pause at just the right moment (about the 44-minute mark), it's possible to make out the entire Celtic Cross spread. The show's writers are notorious sticklers for detail, leaving nothing to chance. Those Tarot must have been carefully chosen, which means the writers either deliberately chose them to provide clues about future events in the series--or they deliberately chose them not to for some reason. And that would be no fun for the writers who, after all, hold Draper's fate in their hands. So here's my take on Don Draper's cards:

At the center of the spread is THE SUN, reversed, crossed by the EIGHT OF CUPS. This represents Draper's central conflict--his life to this point has brought him only superficial happiness, and he feels the need to turn away, abandoning his life's work and starting over again.

Above and below are JUDGMENT and the PAGE OF PENTACLES: He is on the verge of a profound rebirth--"resurrection" as it was put in the show--and is beginning to take the first practical steps toward changing his life.

In Draper's immediate past is the THREE OF CUPS, reversed, possibly representing that the sybaritic fuckfest he enjoyed in the previous episode may have been fun, but was not of lasting value or importance. His immediate future--the FIVE OF SWORDS--looks very troubling indeed: discord, conflict, dishonor, self-interest. Doesn't look like he and Betty will be making up anytime soon (excluding the possibility of hot, hot, angry grudge sex); there may be a divorce, and it will be ugly.

As mentioned in dialog, at the bottom of the "staff," Don himself is represented by THE WORLD card, probably the most fortunate card in the deck. He's got all the resources he needs at his disposal, and the universe is conspiring for his success. However, the NINE OF WANDS indicates that those around him are on the defensive and may not give up without a fight.

THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE may represent his fear that all his chickens are coming home to roost--he knows he's deceived all those around him, and has exhausted himself spending so much energy just trying to ensure that nobody finds out about his past. But he's ready for a dramatic life transformation, remember--which is likely to happen very quickly considering the EIGHT OF WANDS in the final-outcome position. (Actually, since there's only one more episode left in the season, it'll have to happen pretty damn fast!)

My guess? Draper's redemption will have something to do with cars, and he and Betty will not get back together. Still, it's hard to imagine the series continuing into a third season with Draper living the good life in California--I doubt a spinoff is in the works* so some complication will arise that will force him back into a false and tragic existence in New York--just what we love to see.

(Come to think of it, the entire opening title sequence, depicting a man falling out of a tall building, is reminiscent of THE TOWER card.)

(Brandon Burt)

* ... Although I am pitching a spinoff: In the pilot episode of Don's World, Draper moves in with a ditzy blonde and a supposedly sensible brunette in Santa Monica, creating trouble with Mr. Roper the nosy landlord.