'Mad Men' Fan Columnist: Desperate Times
Monday, October 11, 2010
This week's Mad Men felt largely transitional, as though the main point of the episode was to get us into next week's finale, which will no doubt be a powerful ending to a great season. In comparison to other episodes, it wasn't as strong and it served to reinforce that SCDP is in major trouble and Don's heroic measures aren't working (potentially) in the same way they did before. Perception is everything in this business and to their clients, SCDP is a sinking ship.
The Return of Midge
Midge's reappearance in Don's life looks to be just the refresher he needs after all his work problems, but of course, Midge has ulterior motives. She was always a starving artist, but she definitely wasn't always a heroin addict. When Don and her were together in 1960, she represented the beginning of Bohemian living and was full of art and life. She's still got some of the same spunk, but we realize quickly it's all a front and rather than just happening upon Don as she claims, we find out she searched for him in desperation for her next score. Her desperation in combination with her husband's not-so-subtle bartering agreement (money for sex with Midge) are enough to turn Don off -- who knew that was possible -- and send him on his way, wallet a little lighter, abstract "Number 4" in tow. Midge's line, "Glad you haven't changed," to Don was significant in that the audience knows exactly how much Don has changed in the last five years since Midge was a part of his life.
Who makes a better therapist for Sally: her actual therapist or Glen? Tie. Each provide Sally with better advice than her mother could ever give her. "Blowing Smoke" gave us a more stable, honest Sally. She isn't throwing tantrums and her interactions with Betty were surprisingly pleasant. Wouldn't be Mad Men if anyone actually remained happy. Once Bets gets wind of Sally's meetings with Glen, it's finally time to move. How pathetic that the only thing driving Betty's willingness to leave Don's house is what she thinks Sally needs. In reality, it's purely selfish, (surprise, surprise), although who knows what Betty is getting out of keeping Glen and Sally apart. Keeping her daughter as terminally unhappy as she is? Making sure Glen doesn't tell Sally about the secret lock of hair he has from her mother? It'd be nice not to end an episode of Mad Men thinking "Poor Sally." Betty's attempt at reverse psychology with the psychologist didn't go unnoticed by either of them. Betty in kiddie-therapy could work well since her maturity is forever stunted.
Red Leather, Yellow Leather
The company's desperation is palpable throughout the entire episode. Everyone's worried, nothing is going right, and Phillip Morris cancels the one meeting that could turn everything around. Rather than give up entirely, Don attempts to pull, well, a Don and turn everything on its head. Of course, this isn't the case of Honda execs being manipulated and no one is in the position they were two years ago when Don, Roger, Bert, and Lane decided to start a new company. Taking risks used to be less risky and not one of the partners is amused by Don's Hail Mary in the morning paper. Thank goodness Peggy gave him a small ego boost. Megan did as well, but her opinion isn't nearly as valuable.
At Peace with Pete
Pete's changed. Or has he? In the five years since we met him, his priorities have shifted. His loyalty to SCDP is admirable, and when he puts Trudy and his family before his job at the end of the episode, we understand why and are sympathetic to his plight. He's got Don to blame for much of this mess and it makes sense when everyone is sick of Don's golden boy attitude. After all, Don got them in this position in the first place (at this new company, made them give up a huge client, etc.), so it only makes sense that Don give Pete what he owes. Doesn't make it any less surprising to us, as the audience, or to Pete by the end of the episode that Don has floated Pete fifty grand. Have Pete and Don finally made their peace with one another?
Loved Peggy in this episode and that Don values Peggy's input so much that he wanted to know who was unnecessary of the creatives. Their relationship may be the only thing that survives the end of this season. By the way, any particular reason Faye declined a drink with Peggy?
Only time will tell whether Don's "Why I Quit Tobacco" stunt will work. And by time, I mean next week's season finale. I predict some nice parallels to the beginning of the season where Don addresses his identity, his relationship with Peggy and women in general, and the importance of perception.
(Image courtesy of AMC)