Resolutions

I didn’t blog about last week’s episode, and in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t try to figure it all out, because it worked much better with the season finale. (I’d like to say that was my long-term plan, but unlike “Mad Men,” I don’t have one.) I’m scribbling down my thoughts now in a hurry, and I wish I had more time to think about it. Now that the season is over, I want to rewatch it again. And then maybe I’ll finally delete the episodes from the DVR. (Sorry, honey.)

So, “wow.” That was my first reaction to the season finale.

Remember so long ago, when the season began on a beach in Hawaii, our lovers bathed in golden light? Nearly all the major scenes in this episode happened in the darkened bedrooms, bars, jail cells, and conference rooms, including the one in which Megan, the one who has tried to look past all Don’s demons, has finally had enough.

I know a lot of people never liked Megan to begin with, and I’ve been sort of on the fence, but now I’m finding I’m a little reluctant to see her go. As a foil to Don, one who spoke the truth to him when he needed to hear it, she has been a welcome character.

Megan has been an outsider in so many ways. At SCDP, she was the exotic flower who brightened up the lobby. To Don’s kids, she was the calming governess who sang in French. (At least she was, until Sally hit puberty.) Now she’s finally realizing she’s an outsider in her own marriage. Of course, we saw in the finale how out of touch she is with who her husband really is. “You can have one before dinner,” she tells him as he pours an evening drink. Does she not realize that he’s been drinking since he wakes up? Or is she just burying her head? Whatever the case, when he plainly states, “Megan. I love you,” it’s too little, too late.

The escalation of Don’s alcoholism in this season has been hard to watch, as it has been every time he falls off the wagon, but it really rings true. “Don has difficulties” was the hilarious understatement of a synopsis provided for this episode. I felt a little bored last week during the penultimate episode. I was not bored this week; instead, I felt tense the entire time. I have heard some people were disappointed there wasn’t a huge surprise, but to me, Don finally reaching some level of self-awareness was a surprise! Sorry to those of you who were hoping Megan would get whacked!

Betty breaking down on the phone and Don calling her “Birdie” — arresting. Don’s meltdown in front of the Hershey’s executives — heartbreaking. But the moment that really struck me was when he looked right at Dawn’s face as he was leaving the office before Thanksgiving and called her “Sweetheart.” It was as if he finally noticed her… and everyone around him. Everyone he’s stomped all over — Ted, Peggy, his children, Megan, Stan, most recently.

He shows up for the emergency Thanksgiving meeting on time, to the surprise of the partners. The Twitterverse was irritated that Joan and Roger stayed silent, but what has Don done for them lately? Don and Roger stayed silent in an earlier episode when Harry basically called Joan a prostitute for how she landed Jaguar; later, Don fired Jaguar and expected Joan to kiss his feet. What has Don done for his old pal, Roger? Well, he vomited into an umbrella stand at Roger’s mother’s funeral. Roger knows where his bread is buttered, and right now, it’s with aligning himself with the majority.

The mystery of are-Peggy-and-Ted-or-aren’t-they was finally revealed. Ted obviously was familiar with Peggy’s apartment, and he took off that dress like he’d done it before. I think Don, like Ted, has been revealed as a true-to-life character this season. Usually through little hints: his need to take risks, his intolerance to alcohol (at least in relation to Don), his interactions with his wife and kids, his remark to Don about his father trying to quit drinking. I was a little afraid he would try to ship Peggy off to California, but he took the high road, or at least the highest road left to for a man who really is trying, desperately, to do the right thing. His explanation to Peggy that she would be glad he’d made the decision might end up being true, but it is no less chauvinistic, as Peggy rightfully pointed out.

This season has really focused on Peggy’s love life, which, I’ll grant, is really entertaining. (She stabbed Abe!) I’m really hoping the next season will show more of Peggy the creative worker. Obviously, the shot in the final moments of Peggy in a pantsuit, Drapering in Don’s chair, points to that. But “Mad Men” has fooled us before. A friend of mine pointed out (via Twitter — yo, Brian!) that Peggy’s really going to hate Don now for sending Ted to California in his place. They say looking good is the best revenge. Peggy looks good; Don looks like hell. Peggy smells like Chanel No. 5; Don smells like the bottom of a jail cell. Peggy’s sitting in his chair; Don’s been sent packing, at least until he gets his shit together. I’d say she might go on hating him, but she’s certainly on track to best him. Peggy has been mimicking Don all season. Remember when she was house-hunting and looked out over the bright city, and a few scenes later, Don looks off his dark balcony?

Pete deserves his own mention. “NOT GOOD, BOB!” instantly made it on my short list of favorite quotes (which I’ll share sometime soon). I also giggled inappropriately at his, “She always loved the sea.” Those sentimental Campbell boys. Pete’s problem has conveniently taken care of itself, apparently, and the poor guy can’t even decide how to feel. How sad is he now, though? His mother’s things are being piled up in the living room where he never even spends his time; his daughter will barely know him. What sort of empty life will he have in California? Most likely, the same sort of empty life he’s had in New York. As Trudy pointed out, at least he’s starting to realize it now.

The final shot of the episode, of Don showing his kids where he grew up? I loved it. Made up for any shortcomings this season (and really, I don’t think there were too many, although I’m sure some will disagree). I loved that it ended on a hopeful note, but my optimism doesn’t really extend to the final season. Don with his life together? Well, that doesn’t seem very dramatic. Maybe it’d be shocking in and of itself.

I might come back and add more thoughts as I think of them. In the meantime, a couple tidbits:

Really, no Ginsberg in the finale? What’s all that been going, then?

Friend Amy pointed out that Bob Benson’s frilly apron deserves a mention!

Thoughts? Love, hate, ambivalent — and predictions for Season 7?

 

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The kids’ table

I’ve been reading a big ol’ book about WWII, and it’s basically 350 pages of vignettes; one brief anecdote after another, occasionally connected, but usually not. It’s interesting, but exhausting.

That’s how I felt about the first 45 minutes of this episode, and last week’s, too. Too many plots, too many glimpses, when really, I just wanted a meaty story. Finally, though, everything came into focus — and doesn’t Sally Draper wish it hadn’t!

sally keys

I’ll save that for last. Let’s start with my girl Peggy.

“It will shock you how much this never happened,” Don told Peggy after she gave birth to Pete’s baby in secret*. Over the years, I’ve felt a little shocked myself at how much it never happened. Both Peggy and Pete seemed to have developed a remarkable ability to bury that piece of their pasts.

I thought the tipsy moment they shared over was the perfect way to acknowledge that, yes, occasionally it does cross their minds. (I’m assuming it crosses Peggy’s more often.) Please note: This is not me condoning, in any way, shape, or form, the possibility of a rekindling of what could barely be called a “relationship” between these two. Peggy. Please. You can do better.

Ted seemed happy to be there, but when he returned to the table after making a call and intruded on Pete and Peggy’s private moment, he looked uncomfortable. In the full context of the episode, that moment seemed to be one of several that drove Ted away from the office and pushed him toward his neglected home life. His home life, from the glimpses we get, is not something to escape. Then again, neither was Don’s, or Pete’s, or any of the many other homes we’ve seen break up over the course of the show. Unlike those examples, though, Ted seems to realize it, and possibly not too late.

Was he ever in love with Peggy? It’s hard to say, based on the little screen time these two get. To me, it smacked of infatuation, by a guy with a history of getting swept up in new adventures and risks. He’s coming down to Earth. It amused me that he still had to make a  grand gesture to secure Don’s promise for the office battle to end. (Don, rightfully, has no idea what he’s on about, because of course, Don’s main battle is with his own demons, not Ted.  Can you imagine early Don Draper jeopardizing an account with GENERAL-FREAKING-MOTORS over a personal issue with his former mistress?)

Peggy doesn’t seem to be too hurt by Ted’s waning affection in the long run. I died at her late-night phone call with Stan. I hope she names her cat after him.

One thing I really liked about this episode was the theme of the innocence of children. Sally and her friend are obsessed with Junior Rosen; they completely miss the undertones of tension during the meeting in the lobby, when Sylvia arrives and sweeps him out of the building. Ted’s children, climbing over his back and eating cereal on their parents’ bed, seemingly serve as a reminder to him that here is where he belongs. They don’t pick up on any of the tension between their parents.

The best example is the final scene in the Draper apartment, when sloppy drunk Don stumbles in after his bender. Obviously, he hasn’t come to any conclusions about how to deal with Sally’s discovery. Julie and Megan continue with their dinner, assuming the war is about something else, ignorant to the major drama of the day. Sally has become an adult, yet Megan is lumped in with the innocent children.I really didn’t see the subplot of Arnold and Sylvia’s son being so important, in so many ways, until the pivotal moment when Sally looked up and saw… oh, poor Sally! I’m still not sure why Sylvia deserves so much of Don’s devotion, and maybe she doesn’t, and that’s just, finally, the fickle nature of love working on him. She alluded to this when she told him on the phone that he was better to her than she was to him.

Leftovers:

  • Bob Benson, I’ll tell you what I told Peggy: Please. You can do better than Pete Campbell.
  • At least someone loves Pete!
  • I sort of want to watch the earlier episodes of this season again, to look for glimpses of this Benson-Campbell infatuation. What exactly has Pete done to be so desirable?
  • Tom & Lorenzo make the weird connection that the two main gay characters on the show, Sal and Bob, have the same names as Sally and Bobby. Whaaa?
  • Did the doorman ever get his keys back after Sally dropped them in Sylvia’s apartment? (Practical detail that nagged at me!)

*I forgot all about another of Don’s lines in Peggy’s postpartum scene: “Move forward,” the same words Peggy used on him earlier this season.

Talk amongst yourselves!

Off the deep end

Too much going on this week to write a proper post. Family reunion, out-of-state relatives staying here, and a plague sweeping the house. (I’ve dodged the third, so far.)

I watched “A Tale of Two Cities” Monday morning, and it was an eventful episode, in terms of setting up potentially big developments. Feel free to water cooler-talk it out in the comments.

Father Abraham

I’m still here! I watched Sunday’s episode with one diehard (thanks, Michele!) and a couple of disinterested chatterers (grrrr), which made me feel I needed another viewing to say anything intelligent about it. Finally, today, I had time to watch it again — and I’m still not sure I can speak intelligently about it. Sorry, Internet!

One line jumped out, and it was Don’s, in response to Peggy’s complaint that Ted never makes her feel the way Don does:

“He doesn’t know you.”

Does anyone on this show know anyone? Peggy doesn’t know Abe anymore; he’s become so radical that she is shocked when she discovers she’s become nothing more than fodder for his article. She doesn’t know what Ted’s feeling, after his initial (and really abrupt) declaration of love. Pete doesn’t know his family, as Duck points out. Megan obviously doesn’t know Don. Roger doesn’t know Joan anymore… or his daughter, or his son, or his grandson. 

And no one knows Bob Benson!

Betty, at least, seems to have finally cracked the code of Don Draper. Mrs. Francis got her groove back in a big way, from reviving her old flirtatious ways at Henry’s business event, to getting jumped by her jealous husband in a taxi, to seducing Don, just like the old days. Or is it like the old days? She can see that he’s changed, except at an essential level when it comes to his marriage to Megan (or, let’s be honest, his relationships with anyone): “That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.” Nailed it!

Speaking of knowing people: My faithful readers have been sending me all sorts of links this week! When Bob Benson opened Joan’s door to Roger, he asked, “Who are you?” Good question! 

And the Sharon Tate-Megan Draper theory! I love this one. I agree that the ominous tone of this season seems to be building to something big. During both viewings of this episode, I was distracted by the loud sirens during Don and Megan’s brief conversation at their dinner table. I’m sure that’s not sloppy sound editing, but a deliberate reminder that the city is darker and more dangerous than ever before, and that includes the Draper apartment. There were sirens all over this episode.

Leftovers:

No Sylvia! Hurrah!

Megan’s costar making a pass at her… Meh. As they sat giggling on the couch, my husband (one of the chatterers!) joked, “They’re gonna do it.” I threw a pillow at him, and then Megan’s costar tried to kiss her. I felt like the entire scene was a cliched male fantasy, or at least an interrupted one, and I’m just not sure what the purpose was. Someone fill me in. 

Don and Betty in casual camp clothes, singing along with Bobby. To repeat: Donald Draper, singing. Michele and I looked at each other and said in unison, “What is happening!?”

I loved the last look at harried, sweaty Peggy as she glanced from Ted’s closed door to Don’s. She looked like she wanted her knife back. There are so many great themes of pairs and couples in this episode, as the name suggests; if you want to read a better recap than mine, Vulture is great as always.

Line that slayed me: Abe: “Your activities are offensive to my every waking moment. I’m sorry, but you’ll always be the enemy.” Peggy: “Are you breaking up with me?”

Bob “Bunson”’s short shorts!

Talk amongst yourselves! And I’ll try to be a better blogger next week. 

 

Whiskey in your water

What in the holy name of Anna Draper was that? No guarantees, but I’ll try to be a little more sophisticated than I was in my text message to dear friend and loyal reader Michele:

Photo May 20, 10 08 03 AM

My husband wasn’t paying enough attention during “The Crash,” to my tastes, so I turned to the loving arms and equally hysterical arms of Twitter. I don’t know about you, but about the time Minny Jackson showed up in Don’s apartment, I was

Let’s look at this sequence of events in the cold, sober light of day.

  • Don is exhausted, in mind and heart.
  • Don, a 40-year-old man, chooses to take the injection from Harry Hamlin’s quack doctor, despite not knowing what’s in it.
  • Don trips the trippiest trip that ever was tripped.*
  • Don flakes on the Chevy account.
  • Don’s obsession with Sylvia leads him to leave his home unattended (and his door unlocked, in hopes she’ll return?) and the safety of his children is compromised.

All these actions begin win Don. But when Don returns to earth, presumably feeling even more exhausted in mind and heart, he lays the blame at the feet of everyone else:

“Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.” 

Conclusion: Don still doesn’t understand that actions have consequences. The Tin Man discovered his heart, though, so that’s something?

Part of me felt that a lot of this goes back to Peggy. I’m not saying that Peggy is a stand-in for Sylvia or anything like that. We saw that Sylvia is a twisted mother figure to Don, down to the headscarf she wears at home that matches the headscarf in the soup ad that became Don’s obsession. 

But as the shot took effect, Peggy, touching Ted’s arm in comfort, was Don’s last sober sight. Don hasn’t been the same since Ted and Peggy came on board and Don saw the way she had slipped into the role of caretaker to Ted — presumably without the adversarial undertones that came with her similar relationship with Don. Her dynamic with Don has changed, and he can’t seem to handle it. “Change isn’t good or bad. It just is.” Season 3 Don laughs in Season 6 Don’s bewildered face. The world is changing, and Don’s bad trip show he’s not up for that ride, either. Peggy sees this, and I feel like there’s a sense of longing on both their parts for the old days. She seems regretful that the relationship has changed, but resolute.

I’m curious to know what others thought of this episode! As disorienting as it was, the more I think about this episode, the more I think it was great. It had an undertone of sadness that couldn’t be eclipsed, at least permanently, by any pharmaceuticals.

Uncategorized observations:

  • Peggy Olson is always the classiest person in the room. This time, it’s when she refused to bad-mouth her departed boss. “I liked him.”
  • Peggy and Stan!?** I wanted it to happen, but I didn’t, and was so relieved it didn’t happen, and

  • Betty is back to blond and skinny. “Henry is running for office!” Yes, sweetie, we assumed.
  • Clearly Megan as Maria von Trapp is long gone, but she didn’t deserve Betty’s “casting couch” dig.

*What kept running through my mind was Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come” (written, as so many good songs are, by Randy Newman). “Don’t know what it is, but I don’t wanna see no more!”

**Groupthink:

So groovy now

Last week, Don pulled the ultimate “change the conversation” move. Sunday, we started to see the consequences. It starts with Ted’s introduction to Don’s unorthodox work ethic. (Had Ted asked “coffee chief” Peggy Olson about the merger before steamrolling ahead, she might’ve warned him.)

Don strolls into the first joint partners’ meeting late, as usual. (Hilariously, not as late as Pete Campbell.) Our first clue of his inertia should be his bemused eyebrow lift at Ted’s, “Fleischmann’s. Groovy.” Groovy is not in Don’s vocabulary.

Photo May 13, 11 06 44 AM“He’s mysterious, but I can’t tell if he’s putting it on,” Ted describes Don. The fascination is mutual. Ted doesn’t realize everything about Don is put on, even his name; Don doesn’t know how to react to this interloper that he himself invited into the conversation.

“Ted’s a pilot.” Is there nothing the new kid can’t do? Well, he can’t drink like Don, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Peggy points out. Peggy, for her part, seems to gain confidence with each scene, beginning with her unabashed “I’m for Bobby” and ending with her bold directive to Don: Move forward.

He does everything but, at least until the final minutes of the episode. Don lets himself live out every Madonna/whore fantasy he has with Sylvia, apparently with no thought that there might eventually be consequences. When she finally breaks off their relationship, his tortured* “Please” sounds pathetic and out of tune with the nature of their raunchy interactions. (There was an Internet-famous reel of Don Draper saying “What” a couple years ago. I imagine the “Please” reel would be much shorter.)

I need you.” “Take off everything for me.” Sylvia is every self-centered fantasy he has, until suddenly, she isn’t. The bubble pops, and Don’s back in a bleak world where Kennedys are being assassinated and his business is changing faster than he can keep up. Even when it seems like he’s having a moment of brilliance, his idea is pedestrian: romanticized Dorothea Lange farmers putting margarine on pancakes? Neil Armstrong will walk on the moon next year, and Don’s still in the Dust Bowl era. (ETA: The commenters on tomandlorenzo.com, and the TLo, rightfully pointed out to me that the farmhouse scene was the standard of margarine commercials for years to come. They see this as a sign of Don’s ability to tap into the American mainstream, not his lack of creativity.)

I loved the callback to Ted’s words in the final song of the episode, and especially loved it with the image of Don and Megan on the same bed, but far apart — I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together. Don is a man alone, at work and in his personal life.

Leftover thoughts, and I have a lot of them this week:

  • Burt Peterson is back — oh, just kidding! “Remember Ken Cosgrove? Like a six-foot version of Alan Ladd?” I felt a little bad for Burt, but not bad enough that I didn’t enjoy watching Roger fire him so elegantly.
  • “Now I see you’re about my height.” Ginsberg!
  • “Yes, Peggy, we risked our entire company just so I could have you in this office complaining again.” Don, of course.
  • Joan: “I’m glad you’re here.” Peggy: “Well, I’m glad you’re here.” At least someone’s happy to see Pegs!
  • Peggy: “I just spoke with Dawn.” Ted: “Black or white?” (Speaking of Dawn — where was she?)
  • How delightful was Ted giving up his chair after Pete takes the secretary’s? Outclassed and emasculated in a single sentence: “Moira, take my chair.”
  • Pete’s brother, Bud: “Maybe we can get the paperwork started.” I guffawed, but poor Pete has a lot on his plate right now, and he’s not handling any of it gracefully.
  • Ted’s hilarious slang, in addition to “groovy,” included “rap session,” “free associate,” and “yeah, man.” He manages to be so artsy and so dorky at the same time. (I guffawed again at his reaction to the copywriter who says he’s voting for Nixon: “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any hope?” :::headdesk:::)
  • What does it mean when Megan is talking and her voice fades out and the music swells?! That can’t be good.
  • Because it bears repeating … Don: “Peggy, he’s a grown man.” Peggy: “So are you. Move forward.”

*Someone give this man his Emmy already!

ETA: I just read TLo’s take this week, and as usual, I love it.