Don Draper is an island. He has always isolated himself ever since he was a little boy. Like any true escapist, he leaves when he lands in hot water. In episode twelve of season one we find that Pete’s been snooping around to find the perfect angle to receive the promotion he has been looking for. When he reveals that he knows Don’s true identity, Don begins to jump ship.
Don’s flashbacks are always in great clarity. Natural light illuminates the space. This often happens when Don saves another client presentation with his great last minute ideas. It almost makes it seem as if he is divine, unscathed by flaws or failure. The opposite is true when he wants to escape his life and his thoughts are muddled.
The scene between Rachel and Don, when he is trying to convince her to leave with him is a particularly low-lit scene. The dark shadow that almost always dominates Don is ever present. Rachel tends to weave in and out of the rays that burst through the window. When they are seeing eye to eye, they stand in Isolation, but when she is refusing his offer she stands apart.
The light creates the mis-en-scene by physically depicting hostility. This is the end of his second escape. The lights give an air of ambivalence that characterizes Don’s hasty plan.
There is a need for the writers and directors to single out Don. This is not just because his tragic heroism drives the story but also to reveal his complexity.
It is also interesting that there is never more than three-quarters of their bodies shown at all times. Each shot often cuts to them in their own frame. The back and forth is conveyed by a shot reverse shot technique. This type of focus formulates the importance of their words as the space becomes smaller. They have limited space the more they grow apart as if the space mimics the relationship’s movement and lighting changes.
This is not the first time Rachel is put in a similar point of view as she often leads and commands every conversation she has. Her words are what are always important even more so as their relationship fights its previous mold.
It is no surprise however, that in this scene the effervescent relationship begins to fizzle out. She is not an escapist, but like Midge she sees the need for change, as any modern women should. She stands firmly in the bright warm light that Midge often stood in too. There is a shallow focus on the two subjects as Rachel pulls farther away. She realizes that Don is not the man she thought he would be. She is the most knowledgeable about Don’s past, but this does not salvage the relationship.