SPOILER ALERT: This post may not be suitable for silly people who have not watched Breaking Bad or the first six seasons of Mad Men. It may still be entertaining and hilarious, mind you, but be warned that character developments and plot may be spoiled for those of you who are behind. Carry on.
There are only so many things to do to pass the time until Mad Men returns April 13th with its final season. As my mind wandered to useless, delightful places, I got to thinking… Don Draper or Walter White – Who’s better?
There is of course no real way or reason to compare these two men, but I’m going to do it anyway. AMC’s two heroes or antiheroes or monsters — whatever you want to call them — will soon be gone forever, excepting Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul and its potential for Bryan Cranston cameos. The debate is difficult given that Don’s fate is still unknown, but each man possesses powerful traits that we can weigh and compare, sort of…so let’s break it down into several important categories.
As you may have noticed, they both have it. On the surface, I have to say Don seems to use it more. His name exudes strength and confidence in a world that requires both; meanwhile, we usually hear Walter referred to as Walt, Mr. White, or BITCH. Moreover, Walter avoids his name at all costs, becoming “Heisenberg” to protect himself and those close to him. Thus, the answer seems obvious. BUT WAIT! DON ISN’T DON! He is, in fact, Richard “Dick” Whitman, and is therefore eliminated! Walter might not be proud of this victory, but you gotta take what you can get.
Winner: Walter White
We’ll get to emotional and psychological health later, so I’ll start with the bodily states of the leading men. To be frank, it’s not looking great for either of them. Walt, you know, has cancer, so that certainly puts him at a disadvantage. Closing the gap, however, is the fact that Don drinks enough to kill a third-world country. He also has enough sex to re-populate that third-world country, though, so he must be staying in shape. I cannot condone either lifestyle, as cooking meth while dying and smoking and drinking relentlessly both seem to wear thin on Don and Walt. Until we get our final glimpses into Don’s world, it’s hard to declare a winner. Then again, Walt did die. Tie game!
Winner: Don Draper
You may think this one is easy because Don Draper kills it on a consistent basis, but I don’t think it’s such a cakewalk. Neither character shows off much versatility, sticking to what works for their purposes, but Walt does go bold with his signature Heisenberg hat. We do see Walt and Don shirtless quite often, though for the former this does not always occur in a typical sexy situation. It’s usually something like this. Don, on the other hand, struts his stuff on vacation and constantly manages to go from disheveled in bed to dapper and ready for work in the span of minutes. I’m a big fan of Bryan Cranston’s ability to dorkify himself, but he simply can’t quite hang with Jon Hamm’s macho aloofness, which may seem like a bit much to some people but inarguably rocked the house in the ’60s.
Winner: Don Draper
Don thrives in his menacing mystique, the mysterious aura he exudes making you think he may or may not have killed a drifter at some point. Walt transforms from lovable loser to a crazed man, doing what is necessary in order to carry out his will. Both men flaunt great efficacy — Don in conference rooms and dim restaurants, Walt in deserts and warehouses, but the meth world simply calls for greater, more dangerous measures. Don’s abilities to turn a meeting around or manipulate his coworkers and competition are admirable, but Walt takes badass to whole new levels as his journey nears its end, placing vengeance over millions in his final moments. Both men score high here, but Walt’s circumstances force him to up his game.
Winner: Walter White
Walt’s health issues compel him to work the shaved-head look for much of the show, so this category seems a bit questionable. I admire Don’s precise, coiffed look, and his aforementioned ability to get it together in a hurry after debauchery, but it doesn’t feel right declaring a winner. Full disclosure, I would really choose Roger Sterling’s silvery locks over Don’s immovable follicles. I’m going to have to call this one off for Don and Walt, for the forces causing the latter’s sickness were out of his control. Onward we go, tied.
Winner: Roger Sterling
As we enter these final deciding categories, let me remind you that Don’s final season will give us a more complete picture, and whatever happens to him could change the landscape of these contemplations. That being said, we already know both of these guys have their struggles on the home front. Don has cheated on Betty and Megan prolifically, with everyone from neighbors to schoolteachers, and daughter Sally even got a glimpse of her father’s misconduct. Walt breaks his family apart with his deception and lies, pushing Skyler to the brink on many occasions. Financially, both men provide for their loved ones, though Don cedes much of his power to Henry Francis once Betty moves on. I suppose this debate partially comes down to your interpretation of Walt’s fantastic final moment with Skyler. Personally, I understand Walt’s words as true but also as an attempt at appeasing Skyler. There is no denying his love for her and his children, shown in part by the lengths to which he goes to secure their economic future in the final episodes. Again, we’ll have to wait and see what Don does in his final episodes, but as of now I find it hard to picture scenarios in which he rectifies his standing with Sally, Megan, and Betty.
Winner: Walter White
I don’t think I can get too far into this one because I will get extremely sad, and we’ll be left with little hope for humanity, at least in Don’s case. He enters April’s final season having lost everyone and just about everything, with no set plan for a future on either coast. For Walt, he of course fails in his quest to fully reconcile with his family, and leaves Hank and many others dead, but I think we have to trust he died as content as possible, a hefty chunk of his money in safe hands and his tormented protégé speeding away from the volatile world he helped create. I don’t want to go on and on without knowing Don’s fate, but it feels wrong calling the fight here. Don’s memories and misdeeds haunt him on an increasingly regular basis, and he seems almost unable to escape his insidious cycle of alcoholic maltreatment of others and himself, but he does have time left. Both men get sucked into dark worlds that drag them down. Walt finds a way to rule his, but he still succumbs to it. Don wields great power but wants to be free of it. Maybe I’m too sentimental, but I’m holding out hope for Don’s westward trek, an escape from advertising not unlike Jesse’s fleeing in the clip above. I’m sorry to rely on my own whim, but Don still has a chance, and I have to cross my fingers.
Winner: Don Draper
Ah, here we are. After much thoughtful and educated deliberation, we have settled the debate. What’s that? We didn’t? They tied? Oh. Well at least I still got to talk about two awesome characters from two wonderful shows. Keep in mind, there never could have been a true winner, as this is a completely subjective and baseless argument (but thanks for reading!). Personally, I can’t even decide. I do not know if you can love two people at once, but you can certainly love two characters and shows wholly and to an unhealthy extent. Bryan Cranston and Jon Hamm, along with their shows’ directors, writers, and creators, have molded Walter White and Don Draper into two pillars of television history, figures that will endure in the pantheon of small-screen delights. Just like you’re better for having read this post, our television world has improved thanks to the presence of Walt and Don. They may have tied here, but that should simply remind us we’re all winners.