Any Mad Men episode with a lot of Roger Sterling in it is going to be among my favorites and that's a big reason why this first new episode after the show's big Emmy wins did not disappoint. There's a moment at a gambling club when a young woman approaches Roger and Don and asks if they're winners. His response is classic Roger: "Uh, losers tonight but winners in general." Another reason why this episode was good? That would be Betty's bone-chilling spiral into crazy-town, made even creepier with the suicide of Marilyn Monroe lurking in the background. The symbolism of Monroe's untimely death is rich with meaning and I can't wait to chat more about that after the jump.
It isn't just the ladies who have had it up to here with their lot in life. Apparently, despite the fact that they've long been having their cake and eating it too, the men are also feeling trapped. Roger and Don, in a scene that makes them out to be even bigger jerks than I thought possible, talk each other into a midlife crisis together. All of this combined with the sad and pathetic ending of one man's career at Sterling Cooper made for a very dark episode indeed. Ready to chat about it? Just
Betty Draper: One of the bestselling novels of 1962 was Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools, a totally depressing take on basically the whole world and human nature — which is exactly what Betty's in the mood to read! She's so out of it that she can hardly interact with her children. She roams around the house like a zombie, half-heartedly taking on a home improvement task or just falling asleep in the middle of the day face down on her couch. When Don finally pays a visit their exchange is filled with contempt for each other. Don tells her he's not going to talk her into anything and she spits right back at him, “I thought you could talk anyone into anything." Yes! Betty is not backing down and it seems like with each episode she sees more clearly the true identity of the man she married (even though, sadly, she doesn't even know the half of it).
Don Draper: Don's weird moral relativism and rationalizations are just making his character more unsettling than ever. There is this icky sense of entitlement that oozes out of the man and it's only made worse by his chauvinism. Can you tell he's really ticked me off? During his bonding session with Roger after they fire Freddy "that guy who played the symphony on his pants zipper" Rumsen, he confides that he doesn't feel badly at all for what he's done to Betty, that he's actually just relieved. And then, in the most nihilistic moment of the night, he waxes philosophic about what it is to live life: "You don't know how long it's going to be, but you know it's got a bad ending." Good grief, that's depressing. Where is that ray of sunshine Father Gill when you need him? Oh, and later Mona comes storming into Don's office, accusing him of making Roger leave her! Wow.
Some more thoughts:
- I know this sounds kind of strange at this juncture but you know what flashback I would love to see? Don and Betty falling in love. I think it would be striking to see how far they've strayed from whatever first bonded them together.
- Marilyn Monroe's death affects the women in the office differently than the men. Joan has to sneak into Roger's office for some alone time due to the emotional weight of it. The men, on the other hand, are hardly sympathetic. Don's reaction is basically, "Suicide is disturbing," while Roger comforts Joan with, "She was a movie star that had everything and everybody, and she threw it away."
- Don seems impressed when Peggy points out the obvious: that the Playtex ads they never ran in which they divided women into two groups (Jackie Kennedys and Marilyn Monroes) would have had to have been pulled in light of Marilyn's death.
- Tellingly, Joan explains to Roger that Marilyn's death was because "this world destroyed her." There's so much in that line, isn't there? Especially since Joan herself has been referred to as the Marilyn "type."
- The "Freddy's a drunk and peeing himself" scene was terribly awkward and horrifying. I mean, yes I laughed, but it was just so gross. And then the sloshing noise his shoes made on his way out of the office? Ew! However, some of the Freddy jokes around the office are pretty good ("He's a real whiz in advertising!").
- Somehow this display of drunkenness is considered over the line, and Roger decides Freddy must be fired. Kind of amazing considering that office is filled with people who don't have a problem drinking before noon, but OK.
- The hypocrisy gets even richer when Roger and Don tell Freddy he needs to "dry out," only to follow up with a farewell boozeathon in an underground gambling club.
- What's up with Don's secretary? Is she flirting with him? She buys him shirts (and did you notice the Mencken's bag?)! She seems to annoy everyone, and then in the end Don wants her gone.
- So, Don punches Jimmy. This took me by surprise and I felt badly for Jimmy.
- Peggy gets her promotion but it doesn't feel very good since it's only because of Freddy's departure. All's fair in advertising, though. It makes me wonder if a man in Peggy's position would feel half as conflicted. Isn't it amazing that Peggy was once Don's secretary? I kind of forget that these days.
What do you think about last night's episode? Was it as depressing for you as it was for me? Are you mad or glad Betty passed the hot horse guy onto her friend? Do you think she has bigger and better ways to get even with Don than something as predictable as sleeping with a younger guy? Do you feel sorry for Mona? As a matter of fact, do you feel sorry for all the women of the early '60s?
Photos courtesy of AMC