This piece originally ran on June 5, 2012.
Don Draper sure has been around a lot of death over the show’s six and a half seasons. We’re not saying that he is an attractive version of the Grim Reaper — à la Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black or Robert Redford in that one Twilight Zone episode — but we’re also not saying he isn’t. We’ll let the following coroner reports speak for themselves.
Who: A young prostitute and birth mother of Dick Whitman.
Official Cause of Death: Complications from childbirth.
The Real Cause of Death: See above. Don’s always hurt the women around him. Why should this be any different?
The Don Reaper Meter: 10 out of 10. True, newborns lack intent, but you can’t get any more of a direct cause-and-effect situation than a mother who dies while giving birth.
Who: Son-of-a-bitch father of Dick and Adam Whitman.
Official Cause of Death: Kicked in the face by a horse when said animal gets spooked by thunder.
The Real Cause of Death: Kicked in the face by a horse when said animal gets spooked by thunder.
The Don Reaper Meter: 0 out of 10. Yes, Don was present, but it’s not like he Thor’d the thunder down himself.
Who: Dick Whitman’s lieutenant during the Korean War.
Official Cause of Death: Dies in explosion while building a field hospital.
The Real Cause of Death: Following a brief attack, an unnverved Whitman drops his cigarette lighter and accidentally sets aflame a line of gas, which leads to the explosion that kills Draper. Then, in the aftermath, he switches dogtags with the mangled corpse and stays silent when superiors take him for Draper.
The Don Reaper Meter: 10 out of 10. Accident or no, Draper killed Draper. And then covered the whole thing up. Bad boy.
Who: Dick Whitman’s half-brother.
Official Cause of Death: Suicide by hanging.
The Real Cause of Death: Don’s rejection. Despite his love for his half-brother, Don offers a bribe to stay away after Adam tracks him down. Wanting to keep his former life as far away as possible, Don shuts Adam out, despite Don being the only family the man has left.
The Don Reaper Meter: 8 out of 10. It’s understandable that a man who has illegally assumed the identity of another would want to erase all signs of his former life. But all Adam wanted to do was love you, Don!
Who: Betty’s father, namesake of Don and Betty’s second son.
Official Cause of Death: Collapsed while shopping at the supermarket, following months of poor health.
The Real Cause of Death: Gene and Don did not get along, and the old man was staying at the Draper residence at the time of his death. Is proximity causality?
The Don Reaper Meter: 2 out of 10. We’ll give Don some blame here — the stress of seeing his little princess married to this “clown,” as he once called him, couldn’t have helped his health.
Who: Wife of the real Don Draper, close friend and confidante to Dick Whitman.
Official Cause of Death: Cancer.
The Real Cause of Death: Cancer, though Don agrees to keep quiet after Anna’s niece Stephanie implores him not to tell her.
The Don Reaper Meter: 4 out of 10. There was likely nothing that Don could have done to save Anna’s life, but dude didn’t even try.
Who: Don’s secretary, former secretary to Bert Cooper.
Official Cause of Death: Apparently, old age. Or complications following cataract surgery. Both?
The Real Cause of Death: Daily proximity to Draper’s manly musk, combined with her inability to be the “queen of perversions” that she once was with Roger Sterling could have contributed too her demise.
The Don Reaper Meter: 4 out of 10. If Don hadn’t slept with his old (young) secretary Allison, Miss Blankenship might not have been working at his desk in the first place.
Who: Junior partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in charge of the company’s financials.
Official Cause of Death: Suicide by hanging.
The Real Cause of Death: When Don finds out that Pryce has forged his signature on a company check, he confronts the Brit and forces him to resign. By ignoring the distraught man’s pleas for amnesty and trying to convince Pryce that he’ll be able to start over just fine, Don ensures the Brit’s fate. Pryce’s suicide note, in the form of a boilerplate resignation letter written at Don’s insistence, is one big eff-you.
The Don Reaper Meter: 6 out of 10. Don pushed Pryce over the ledge, but the man put himself there to begin with.
Who: 35th president of the United States.
Official Cause of Death: Assassination, bullet wound to the head.
The Real Cause of Death: It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.
The Don Reaper Meter: 2 out of 10. We’re not saying Don was involved, but … he did do some campaign work for JFK’s old rival, Nixon. So.
Who: The founding co-partner of Sterling Cooper.
Official Cause of Death: Not specified.
The Real Cause of Death: Not specified.
The Don Reaper Meter: 3 out of 10. Did Don’s angry exhortation for Cooper to run out of his office and look at his breach letter jumpstart the old man’s heart a little too fast, thus leaving it in a weakened state for the overwhelming sight of a man landing on the moon?
Photo: Justina Mintz/AMC