Holy crap. I’m a million years behind on writing up everything but I just watched this week’s episode of Mad Men and holy crap. I’ve been swamped with my own TV writing and the all important day job but folks. Wow. Matthew Weiner. Holy crap. The fast version of the last few eps was a lot of foreshadowing, a fight at the Howard Johnson’s Corral, Sally Draper Grows Up and Finds Sometimes It Is Crappy, then she cops a ‘tude, Don has some work related insecurities and sabotages Kinsey, Betty’s truth bombs fail since Don is living a reasonably truthful life, Peggy cannot banter under pressure, Paul Kinsey good lord what the what!?, Harry does the first human thing he has done since his first meeting with TV and media people, Joan is officially getting divorced, Roger is tripping balls…did I miss any major bumps? Oh, Rory Gilmore was frightfully miscast opposite Pete and I found the whole thing so distasteful I’m going to pretend it didn’t happen.
So, this week, we saw Pete go full Machiavelli (never go full Machiavelli!!!), Lane continues to try and cover his tracks (super badly) under the guise of doing something nice for Joan, who is considering something so drastic and startling I can’t even…Don pulls “that’s what the money is for” a time too many, Ginsburg writes the rallying cry of the creepy misogynistic male car enthusiast, and Pegs…Pegs buys a friend a slice of pie and entertains other offers.
I totally understand Joan. When Pete first goes into her office, after some leering dealership bigwig throws her into his negotiation for the Jaguar pitch like she got those curves in a poker chip factory, she is insulted. Pete doesn’t give a flying gearshift whether he’s insulted her, he’s just suiting up for the Manipulation Olympics. And then she hears from Lane, who is after all just trying to protect his own fraud, that all the other partners–Sterling who fathered her child, Cooper who relies on her like a child, of course fucking Pete, and Don….Don who she thought was, with all his foibles, the anchor on the ship to which she was the steering wheel….even Don was signing off on paying her for some kind of corporate prima notte. Ewwwwwwwww. She thinks she is alone so she thinks and acts as though she were alone. Weiner’s chronological flip so we don’t know what we’re seeing when, was great because it allowed us to read the scene between Don and Joan in two sharpened lenses instead of one. Don’s realization that his copy may talk a big game about owning women, but in real life he loves that he doesn’t control Megan. He respects (when he’s not focused on the hurt) that he can’t control Peggy. And he is horrified to think that the company might actually control Joan.
Peggy, rightly, has had it. It does her a world of good to separate her feelings from her career– it helps her move on to the offices of something something and Chough, and lets her see through Don’s defensive pain to the gorgeousness of his gesture–taking the hand she offers him and kissing it, simply and wordlessly. Joan refused to shake Pete’s hand because he was beneath her contempt. Don took Peggy’s because she was above his reproaches (not that it stopped him from making them). I loved that his first reaction was to think she wanted on the Jaguar account; his refusal to “put a girl on it” actually illustrates as much of why she needs to leave as anything else has. Then he assumes she wants a raise, and is impressed by the bluff. She’s a woman, in his mind, a girl even, not a colleague, so any decision must be a ploy to get something instead of an action unto itself. But it’s not a game. Peggy wants and deserves a future where nobody can throw money in her face, especially when she’s had a good day and delivered a quality moment of advertising dazzle.
And Megan. When we see Megan’s audition suddenly we know what Don’s fear is all about. What he sees happening to Joan, what he saw when Betty tried on the two piece bathing suit, why he’s afraid of Sally in the mod boots….that “step forward, sweetheart, and turn around” encapsulates. He knows other men will want his women, on a lowly lizard level. And he is afraid that means he will lose his women. “His” women — whether he treasures their minds, bodies or both — are all leaving him in this episode. I’ve been hearing from (pronounced “arguing with”) my friends over this season how they hate seeing Don happy, that it dissipates the magic of the show or robs it of its momentum.
My response is to look at season 4, when Don’s downward spiral was so painful I hurt when I watched it, and the joy of seeing him emerge a contented father and husband…and now I am bracing for the fall. When Megan left SCDP on her last day as a copywriter, and Don watched as the elevator doors opened to an empty elevator shaft…I think this is exactly what he was afraid of. Don doesn’t have a lot of male friends. The women in his life see something more than his polished exterior, and if nobody can see that, how on earth can he hang on to it?
Anyway, I still think someone is going to kill themselves at the end of this season. There has jut been too much that’s ominous for there not to be some payoff. Pete wanting an office with a window, reminding us he has that gun, Rogers’s drug trip, Don’s elevator shaft, the serial killer in Chicago, Sally and the butcher knife, Megan’s disappearance…… It’s going to be fairly epic, boys and girls, this I think is true.