Monday, June 17, 2013

In Which I Review Mad Man (6x12)

Confession: I would like to write a letter to one Mr. Ted Chaough. 
Dear Mr. Chaough:
We don't know each other but please allow me to explain what exactly happened to you on this weeks episode of Mad Men. You see, my friend, you just got Draper'd. The act of getting Draper'd has happened to many characters on this show over six years--from clients to coworkers to wives. Everybody at one point gets the full on Don Draper. What exactly is getting Draper'd? I'm glad you asked. Getting Draper'd is when you are beaten into submission by Don; in which you are pulled apart, string my string, until you acquiesce to Don's demands. You are humbled and highly confused. Using words like a surgeon uses a knife, Don manages to humiliate you all while looking dashing, confident and incredibly charismatic; somehow he manages to sell you an idea you didn't want, all while making you look small and petty. In this case, Don managed to sell your idea and point out that you are not as noble as you might imagine, and that Don takes a perverse delight in taunting you with your clandestine affairs. So congratulations, Mr. Chaough. You're officially part of Mad Men! 

Don likes to ruin people's lives, doesn't he? Sometimes he does it intentionally (Peggy and Ted) and sometimes it is an honest accident (Sally)--but whatever the reason, he is awfully good at it. The title of this weeks episode, The Quality of Mercy, is a bit ironic as the stories revolve around people who show no mercy, do not offer apologies or contrition for their actions, but instead wield knowledge and power for the betterment of themselves, not others. In other words, the quality of mercy demonstrated by Don, Sally and Pete this week is zilch. Don has no mercy when it comes to ripping apart Ted and Peggy's happiness--though he'll hide behind the lie that he's "just looking out for the company." Sally has no mercy when she lies her way through an uncomfortable situation and realizes that she has the power to turn men into little boys; she has no mercy when she declares that she doesn't want to see Don again. Pete has no mercy when it comes to belittling Bob and turning him into a plaything, an object he can toy with and use for his own ends.

Let's start with Don, Peggy and Ted. Don's in a bad place at the start of this episode; it's obvious that he's been on a long bender after Sally found him "comforting" Mrs. Rosen in last weeks episode. His wife, Megan, is so oblivious to everything that has been happening that her only advice is to "pull back on the throttle a little." Wow. Even by this point Betty would have recognized that something has gone horribly wrong with Don. The gulf between Megan and Don continues to grow; in their last scene together, Don can neither see nor hear his wife. She stands in the background of their living room, blending into the surroundings and can't tear him away from his darkness. Why is Don so dark right now? In the wake of losing Sally, Don is also confronted with other people's happiness, specifically Ted and Peggy's budding (maybe full on) affair. Ted and Peggy have no idea how to keep this a secret; it's painfully obvious to everyone: Joan, Don, Ted's secretary, Megan (IRONY ALERT). Whatever jealousy and emotional disconnect Ted and Peggy experienced in last weeks episode, they've moved on from it and have become way too cozy with each other. Running into Megan and Don in the movie theater highlights this: they might claim to be on a work project, but that scene read "date night." How uncomfortable were Ted and Peggy trying to quickly lie their way through the encounter? Of course, we are reminded of last years movie theater scene where Peggy and Don run into each other while on legitimate work projects. It's "their thing" and now Peggy is stepping out with another man! Hussy! (and we all know how Don feels about prostitutes). This is the first step toward Don's building anger at the two. Having figured out about Ted and Peggy, Don then learns that the new ad pitch for aspirin, inspired by Rosemary's Baby, has gone over budget and that Ted doesn't want to pull back the throttle because he wants Peggy to get a Clio. How sweet. Don's perfect opportunity to ruin Ted and Peggy's relationship is now presented. At a board meeting with the client, Don takes over the pitch and lays out--in no uncertain terms--that he knows all about Ted and Peggy and he wants to make sure everyone does to. Also, cheating whore-ish Don, does not approve.
Why does this affair bother Mr. Draper so much? Does he have romantic attachments to Peggy? No. At least, not in the traditional sense. He doesn't want Peggy for himself as a romantic partner, but Peggy has become a substitute daughter in the wake of the loss of Sally. In this episode, the editing and scene structure play up the connection between Peggy and Sally. Directly before the boardroom scene where Don and Ted more or less fight over Peggy, we are treated to a young Sally Draper receiving unwanted advances from a very creepy boy. She calls for Glen (hi Glen!) and the two boys get into a scuffle over Sally. This scene is reiterated in the next scene where Peggy stands in for Sally. Having lost the most important woman in his life, his daughter Sally, Don is now confronted with losing his substitute daughter, Peggy, who is also the woman he needs the most. Peggy is the woman who knows him, understands him, and has been with him at his lowest (when he lost Anna). Not only is the Sally/Glen/creepy boy scene replayed, we are also treated to a reinterpretation of the Sally and Don scene from last week. Don lies through his teeth as to why he just Draper'd Ted and Peggy in the board room.
Last week he was "comforting" (or looking after) Mrs. Rosen; this week he's "looking out for the company." Peggy, older than Sally, does not buy it. She flat out tells Don, "you're a monster." This is an exact echo to last week where Sally screamed, "you make me sick!" to Don before running off to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her, just like Peggy does in this scene. The episodes opens with Don in a fetal position in Sally's bed, mourning the loss of his daughter, and it closes with Don in the a fetal position on his work couch, mourning the loss of his substitute daughter.

In another part of Sterling Cooper and Partners (did everyone catch the new logo, by the way? Very groovy and late 1960s with all its flourishes) Pete is dealing with his Bob-problem. Ken Cosgrove wants off the Chevy account and the partners appoint Bob to be his replacement. Small problem, Bob is totally infatuated with Pete and has made this clear. This revelation causes Pete to turn to Duck (hi Duck!) to get Bob a new job. Duck starts checking into Bob's background only to discover that Bob is not who he says he is. He did not go to Wharton, he did not work in finance, he did not do a partnership at a prestigious company. Bob is a fake; he is from rural poor West Virgina and spent the past few years as a manservant to wealthy men. In case you were wondering if we're supposed to be thinking "Dick Whitman/Don Draper" doppelganger, you're right. Bob Benson is Don Draper 2.0. Bob may not have adopted another man's persona, but Bob did make up his life. He went after what he wanted by lying and fooling everyone. The Bob = Don symbolism is complete when Pete confronts Bob on this information and decides that instead of turning Bob over the company, he'll keep Bob's secret but only so long as Bob does exactly what Pete wants. This scene literally could have come straight out of season one where Pete discovers who Don really is. Realizing that Pete knows, Don fears for his carefully constructed life (so did Bob), Don thinks about running (so did Bob). The change here is that Pete has learned from his past mistakes. Pete won't be played for a fool like with Don. He tells Bob that he has learned "not to tangle with  your type of animal." Instead of doing the right thing and turning Bob over to Bert (like he did with Don in season one) Pete works this angle to his advantage, which is what he should have done with Don.

Miscellaneous Notes from The Quality of Mercy 

--Kenny got shot! And if you didn't yell, "Oh my god! They killed Kenny! Those bastards!" then I pity you because you clearly have no concept of American popular culture.

--Sally is going to rebel in the worst way possible: she is going to become her mother. The scene between Sally and Betty at the end may have been the saddest moment in the entire episode, and not because it was actually sad. Betty is delighted that finally she and her daughter are the same age, mentally at least. They are both adolescents who have figured out that how men see them and having men fight over them is simply the best! Now they can gossip and gush like best friends.  Sally is not going to become a hippie; she is going to become Betty Draper 2.0. One of the running themes this episode was the idea of doppelgangers; Bob is Don's and Sally is Betty's, cigarette and all.

--Betty's line, "It's overwhelming to raise a young girl. I don't want to be one" had me laughing for a good three minutes. First off, Betty, when have you ever raised your children? Second, your entire psychological profile is that you see yourself as a young girl who needs a man to care for her. Don't fool yourself, you wish you were applying to boarding school.

--Sally's line, "my father's never given me anything," was heartbreaking. This relationship isn't going to be repaired anytime soon and the only thing Don has given Sally is a future as a therapist's patient. Note Sally's utter horror at the idea of sex. Sex has forever been cemented in her mind as something dirty, done behind closed doors by cheating, lying, adults. Like Don spying in the whorehouse and his traumatized psyche looking for a mother, Sally will probably spend her life looking for a father figure in her romantic partners.

--Holy matchy matchy outfits, Batman! Could Peggy and Ted have been dressed anymore alike? Especially in the final board room scene, both are dressed like the picked out each others outfits: and to drive home the adultery symbolism, both are in blue and green.

--Not nearly enough Joan this episode, but she makes the most of her time. The look Joan gives Ted and Peggy as they flirt with each other was priceless, full of "my god. I work with morons."

Season finale predictions:

We know no one is going to die this season, Matt Weiner has confirmed that at least. However I think the following will happen:

--Megan finds out about Don's affair with Sylvia and the married couple has a huge blow up.
--Sally continues to embody her mother with her hair and clothes
--Peggy, Joan, Ginsburg and Ted leave SC &P to form their own company.
--Don hits absolute rock bottom and our final image of him is drinking, whoring, and drugging his way through the last moments of the episode. This will set us up for the final season of Mad Men, in which our much beloved cast enters 1969, the final year of Don's life. I maintain that Don Draper cannot and will not enter the 1970s. He will throw himself from the SC&P building and become our falling man in the final moments of the show. 

No comments:

Post a Comment