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Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



I think the subtlety of the show is best expressed in some of the acting, ironically in a way that seems to draw a lot of attention to it. So often you see these little flickers of doubt in the eyes of the characters, eyes darting back and forth in spite of expressed confidence or indifference or ignorance of a particular situation, people desperately trying to hide how they're truly feeling/thinking or what they fear might be exposed. Don is obviously the one who does it the most, because he's got the fraud that sits at the core of his identity threatening not only his social standing but his legal one as well, but plenty of the other characters do it too. Things like those moments you find Pete sitting alone in the dark, that almost never gets commented on (and has been replaced by him listening to music with headphones at home now), or Cooper just constantly being around "casually" reading the paper but really obviously wanting to be involved/play a more active part in the Agency again etc.

One of the core themes of the show I think is quite deliberately pointing out the importance of image, and the attempts to mask or hide true feelings, motivations and actions in favor of being perceived to be successful, competent and in control of their own lives, which they're anything but. The writing seems to encourage this, even if sometimes it can be a little obvious it has its fair share of writing that has a a basic surface level reading that invites the viewer to think about what might REALLY be going on.

I like that the show doesn't mind experimenting with things, even if sometimes it doesn't pay off or just feels a little too clever for its own good, like when Don "remembers" his biological mother and father conceiving him and the origin of his name, or especially his fever dream from this season where he "murders" his former mistress.

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sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







in a sense don draper is 'donning' (putting on) a 'drapery' of false identity to cover his real identity of dick (meaning 'penis') whit (meaning small) man (man).

i kind of love how on the nose some of its stuff is.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



sebmojo posted:

man (man)

ulvir
Jan 2, 2005



don and trump both share the first name for their public persona, makes u ,think

stromboni
Dec 22, 2008


People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once. They end up using more water. You canít wash your hands practically, thereís so little water comes out of the faucet. The end result is you leave the faucet on. It takes you much longer to wash your hands

kalel
Jun 19, 2012



On the subject of whether or not the show is subtle, here's a clickbait article about season 1 "Mad Men: 9 Things From Season 1 That Haven’t Aged Well" (note, light spoilers for seasons yet to be covered for some of the characters mentioned). I couldn't believe number 8!

quote:

Don Immediately Forgiving Roger

When Draper's boss, Roger Sterling, feels lonely after a long workday, he pesters his employee into a night on the town. His behavior escalates, his words slur, and they end up back at the Drapers.

After dinner, in the kitchen, Sterling gropes Betty while Don is out of sight. When Don returns to the room, he's aware that something has happened, but his anger is directed solely at Betty. Even the next day, when Sterling comes clean, Don shrugs it off like it's nothing. The words spoken and the actions taken are in line with the show as a whole, but that doesn't make it easier to watch in the 2020s.

if you remember the plot of the episode you'll know this is a baffling interpretation of events. This is what people mean when they say it's a subtle show.

Nail Rat
Dec 29, 2000

You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!!

Why did he think Don gave the elevator operator cash? We'll never know.

edit: that whole article is just awful, you're supposed to find the workplace behavior of 1960 Sterling Cooper appalling. It's a little better when the show ends in 1971 but 1960 was figuratively decades before 1971. It's why they picked the starting date they did. It didn't "age poorly" it was meant to be taken exactly as you take it now.

Nail Rat fucked around with this message at 17:15 on Dec 13, 2021

roomtone
Jul 1, 2021

The rising star of GBS!


I don't think it's a baffling interpretation. Like you said, it's a clickbait article and they're just churning out any bullshit to say. Making the observation 'sexism....oof, mad men' is y'know, missing the point completely, but I don't think who-ever wrote that is actually that stupid. They're just words to fill space. You'd have to point to a genuine analysis/observation of the show to make the point that it's still too subtle for most viewers. I don't really think it is, but I don't think it's especially heavy handed either. I think a lot of it is just that the show has a reputation for being smart and when, about half of the time, it's statements and morals are extremely clear, people kind of perk up like 'wait a minute, this isn't beyond me at all'.

There's only a few times when the subtext and symbolism of the show really boil over into being so obvious it is actually detrimental to the drama. I think Don's Shelly killing fever dream is one of those times, for example.

roomtone fucked around with this message at 17:23 on Dec 13, 2021

KellHound
Jul 23, 2007

I commend my soul to any god that can find it.

After the empty elevator shaft scene, I remember seeing an acquaintance tweet "I don't think I'm smart enough to keep watching Mad Men." They just didn't understand why that was there. I think it there was a bunch of people pulled into the show because of the 60s fashion and the surface level stuff. The symbolism frequently goes over those people's heads because they aren't used to TV doing those kinds of things. My mom recently started watching, I had to explain to her why Betty was shooting at the neighbors birds in the episode "The Shoot." It's a skill that has to be developed. I think that's mostly where the divide between Mad Men is subtle or unsubtle comes from.

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly



sebmojo posted:

in a sense don draper is 'donning' (putting on) a 'drapery' of false identity to cover his real identity of dick (meaning 'penis') whit (meaning small) man (man).

i kind of love how on the nose some of its stuff is.

Penis Smallman is my favorite character from Death Stranding

Blood Nightmaster
Sep 6, 2011

“また遊んであげるわ!”


KellHound posted:

After the empty elevator shaft scene, I remember seeing an acquaintance tweet "I don't think I'm smart enough to keep watching Mad Men." They just didn't understand why that was there. I think it there was a bunch of people pulled into the show because of the 60s fashion and the surface level stuff. The symbolism frequently goes over those people's heads because they aren't used to TV doing those kinds of things. My mom recently started watching, I had to explain to her why Betty was shooting at the neighbors birds in the episode "The Shoot." It's a skill that has to be developed. I think that's mostly where the divide between Mad Men is subtle or unsubtle comes from.

So, one of my college lit/humanities classes in about 2010ish~ comprised of playing different media in an auditorium and having us write mini essays on what we saw each day. For one assignment our instructor just straight up played that exact episode for us, no prior context; it was the first time I'd ever watched Mad Men. Looking back I'm kind of glad my initial exposure to it was in an academic setting like that versus just catching it on TV, that probably helped cement it as something that needed to be "thought about" rather than just be entertained by

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



Season 5 Retrospective

As Mad Men moved into its 5th season, the show had long since moved past being the new kid on the block. Now it was one of the staples of prestige television drama, with Jon Hamm's Don Draper being eclipsed probably only by Bryan Cranston's Walter White in Breaking Bad as one of the leading lights of television drama in the early 2010s.

There are elements of this present in the show's internal story as well. After the relative shock of the escape from Sterling Cooper, the new status quo had finally arrived by the end of season 4. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was now clearly the work setting of the show through which almost all storylines revolved. I argued in Season 3 and Season 4 respectively that the show at the time was all about change: either the inevitability of it or the frustration over the slow and uneven way in which is occurs.

By the end of Season 4, that change had finally tipped the balance from the old status quo to the new, helped along of course by Don's reckless, shocking and seemingly doomed spur-of-the-moment decision to propose marriage to Megan Calvet. In that sense, it was a showcase of old patterns repeating despite the changes in society, personal relationships, gender roles, mental health awareness etc - the old saying goes that the more things change the more they stay the same after all.

But change HAD come, the world that the characters of Mad Men found themselves in at the end of season 4 was very different to the world of the first episode of season 1, or indeed any of season 2 or 3. People had come and gone, there had been professional and personal shake-ups, disasters, recriminations, self-examination and even pigheaded refusals to change even as everything shifted around certain characters.

Season 5 then starts in an interesting place, we know things had changed massively with the loss of Lucky Strike and burning of bridges with the tobacco industry, and especially Don's decision to marry AND to insert Megan into being a copywriter. So how would those changes be reflected in 1966, as the back half of the 60s carried the show and its characters ever forward into the future?

In my opinion, what happens in season 5 demonstrates that change for its own sake - even when for the greater good - doesn't necessarily result in a happy ending, or even a satisfying one. For the characters, just as for people, there comes a frustration and an unsettling concern as they grapple with the unnerving idea that somehow the benefits or growth that should have come with all this upheaval has passed them by or that they've somehow missed their shot. What is the theme of Season 5?

People aren't what they want to be.





Happiness, or the lack thereof, is a constant presence/absence over the course of season, leading to some wild and dramatic decisions, and in one particular case a fatal one. This happiness is, in many cases, an idealized idea or concept that real life - with all its little roadbumps, pitfalls and unexpected detours - will NEVER live up to. Some characters come to terms with that, some push themselves harder in pursuit of a white rabbit they'll never catch, others just surrender to despair that not only is (permanent) happiness impossible but that unhappiness is therefore the best they can hope for.

Even though this is a show about people who largely make their living trying to present/sell illusions, it isn't at all unrealistic that they are as much subject to the fairytale promises of "happily ever after" or the American Dream. Never was this shown more clearly than in an earlier season where Pete enthusiastically explained how ANYBODY could achieve success in America... to a young black man in the early 1960s.

As is traditional, I'll leave Don Draper to last to look at how he more than anybody else frantically pursues happiness... as well as what happens when he actually gets it. But for now I think reflecting on the journey of multiple supporting characters will demonstrate how strongly this theme permeates through Season 5: unhappiness, dissatisfaction, a needling whisper in the back of your mind that you aren't who you wanted to be.

Look at Roger Sterling. Here is a man who started the show the second-most powerful man in the Agency, the king of the Account Men, AND was considered the true active managing force of Sterling Cooper. He eagerly agreed to the buy-out by PPL, he was happy to consider straight up retirement and just living in peace with his at-the-time exciting and invigorating new wife counting fat stacks of cash. When he joined in on the heist/escape to form SCDP, he carefully orchestrated events so he would only have ONE client but it would be such a powerful one that his position would be secure forever.

Come Season 5, he's in a very different position. Lucky Strike are gone. Pete Campbell is getting plaudits from those inside AND more importantly outside of SCDP. All his own networks are retired, aged out of relevancy or dead. He's reduced to scrambling after Pete's own leads, trying to inject himself into client lunches, even casually manipulated by Pete into a wild goose chase. Even when he manages to get a Client, it's because Pete deigns to give him one, which in turn leads to his humiliation when Pete makes a public point of cheerfully "assuring" everybody that he will be supervising/monitoring Roger's work.

Even his office, a status symbol and one of the few large offices in the cramped environment of SCDP, comes under risk. Again and again he finds that people who used to jump to do his bidding are either resistant or openly refuse to do as told when he tries to exploit them for his own benefit or to cover up his mistakes. Again and again during the season we see him forced to fork out cash to get what he wants.

It becomes apparent his cash reserves are largely the only thing keeping him in somewhat of a position of power, and what starts as him smugly giving out cash to get his way - paying off Harry to switch offices with Pete - becomes an increasingly aggravated affair as he has no choice but to pay up large to get help from Peggy Olson and Michael Ginsberg respectively.

Even then, with the money doesn't come respect. Peggy takes great pleasure in having him over a barrel. Michael openly demands more cash that Roger expects to be able to wow him with. The money that once guaranteed him respect, envy and even a little fear is now no more than the last crutch he has to hold onto the semblance of relevancy at an Agency he co-founded.

As seen with Don at the end of Season 4, Roger forces change as a way to try and recapture some sense of purpose or meaning, and to find that ever elusive happiness he last felt in the honeymoon period after marrying Jane. Ironically, this time that means... divorcing Jane! After an incredible sequence in which they take LSD together as a bonding process and actually end up sharing their thoughts and feelings with each other, they admit with some melancholy but also a sense of relief that their marriage is over.

Roger, being Roger, has a very different approach to "enlightenment" than others. Feeling invigorated by both the separation and the revelation that came about from his trip, he of course becomes the guy who won't shut up bragging about how wonderful taking LSD was. He also comes to realize some great truths of the universe, truths that other characters note are just... basic human empathy! He reconnects with his ex-wife both to show appreciation for the work she once did to aid him early in their marriage, and also to try and create new networks of far more powerful business people than the ones he once held.

His "therapy" essentially consists of doing slightly better at mitigating old bad behaviors. He still drinks too much but isn't wildly out of control. He wants to do the right thing by Joan but doesn't push her (too had) when she declines. He's sleeping around again, but actively seeking another person to share his life with, even if the person he has his eyes on is a disaster waiting to happen given she is the married mother-in-law of one of his Partners. When the "enlightenment" from the LSD trip wears off, he misses the insight it gave him, though of course this just leads him to take LSD again rather than realize the chemical high was incidental to the actual benefit of talking openly with somebody about your feelings.

He is engaged again with his life, both business and personal. Whether it will last remains to be seen, we've seen before that Roger tends to grab onto new things eagerly and then bore of them relatively quickly, but the underlying nastiness/entitlement that once underpinned that seems to have been worn down by both age and the empathy that comes from being on the other side of being used/looked down on by others for a change. Not that he's still not without his moments of utter selfishness, such as his unexpected one-night stand with Jane after their separation, and the fact it never even seems to occur to him to apologize even after admitting he shouldn't have "ruined" her fresh start.

I wouldn't say Roger ends the season happy... more than he ends it happier. There was a deep trough of what he'd realized was depression if he'd ever allow himself to go into actual proper therapy, but he came out the other side with an actual renewed sense of purpose. In that sense, he does better than some other prominent characters in the show, but it wasn't an easy ride.



On a briefer synopsis, other supporting characters also run through their own struggles with happiness/acceptance of where they are in their lives. There is Ken Cosgrove, caught between wanting to be a writer and his talent as an Account Man, and fighting a losing battle to keep his personal and professional lives separate. In every way personally his life is a bigger "success" than Pete Campbells: he actually seems to appreciate his wife, her powerful Executive father Ed Baxter is even more powerful/wealthy than Tom Vogel, he has an outlet for his creative work, he is highly regarded as an Account Man but also - unlike Pete - genuinely well liked by everybody.

But Ken is a "failure" in the respect that he seems to lack the killer instinct that Pete has in spades. It certainly seems to wear on Ken, at the start of season 5 you can see he has accepted Pete's pointlessly petty "revenge" on him and openly calls him "Boss". He doesn't give his all to client lunches/drinks anymore, finding ways to hold off on fully committing to the heavy drinking culture so he can go home in a fit state to spend quality time with his wife AND do his writing.

Personally he is thriving, professionally he is stuck in a rut. He holds no particular loyalty to SCDP beyond preferring the Creative-lead ethos of the Agency to others he has worked at, but makes it clear to Peggy that he's completely open to working elsewhere. Ken SHOULD be happy, but he isn't, because part of him remains competitive even if he long resisted the idea of putting his sense of identity into an industry/agency that has already shown they will happily discard him the moment it benefits them.

By the end of Season 5, when he discovers that Roger has done an end-run around him to avoid him being a stumbling block to their bid to get Ed Baxter's business, Ken has a choice to make. His choice is one that gives him great satisfaction in the moment but will probably have a long term detrimental impact. He decides to dive fully into the game, playing Roger's own end-run around on him and using it as leverage to sideline Pete (which is just fine by Roger) and backdoor himself into being "forced" to take Ed's Account (should they actually win it) so he can have what he thinks is the best of both worlds.

Ken is playing a dangerous game by the end of Season 5, which may end up blowing up in his face. The fact was though, he wasn't happy the way things were going. He could have just continued on punching a clock as an effective but unremarkable Account Man for the next 20-30 years, or he could have just jumped out entirely and dived deep into his writing where he has seen some modest success. Instead, Ken - like so many others - has decided that he's figured out a way to have it all, and what that usually means is that you end up risking having nothing.

There's Stan Rizzo, who came to SCDP in Season 4 a confident (arrogant), cocky (Arrogant) and self-assured (ARROGANT) Art Director. In Season 5 we see that while he and Peggy have a pleasant and friendly working relationship now, he's been somewhat humbled by both Peggy's confident demolition of his superior air and realizing what Sal Romano also feared: that his chosen talent/career is at risk of being phased out quickly by rapidly developing technology.

When Peggy leaves, Stan is left with Michael taking the brunt of pressure from Don which she usually shouldered herself - the flip side of the special relationship they held that Stan probably thought at the time she was somehow benefiting from/taking advantage of. He's fed up by the end of the season, feeling neither creatively, personally or professionally rewarded by his work, and certain that he's gone from a "visionary" to utterly replaceable in only a couple of years.

There's Dawn, who - though she doesn't know it - was only hired because the dipshit "children" who are two of the Agency's Senior Partners made a classified ad to prank a rival Agency. She is attentive, professional, polite and efficient at her work. She provides none of the drama or concerns that Don's old secretaries once did, often she is simply invisible - a feeling she probably knows all too well - because she just goes about doing her job.

But her race is the elephant in the room. I'd argue it is deliberate that outside of the first episode featuring street protests by black people who wanted the chance for Employment, the hotbed of the Civil Rights Movement is largely ignored, sidelined or simply not noticed by the characters of the show. Dawn gets the job because of a prank gone wrong, but she does a great job. Which makes it all the more galling when the few times she is singled out or noticed it is so a casual racist jibe can be made at her expense.

In one episode, various characters are repulsed and fascinated by the murders of 8 student nurses by Richard Speck. At one point, Peggy Olson discovers Dawn has been sleeping in Don's office at night, and when she explains her brother is too concerned for her safety to let her ride home at night Peggy just immediately assumes it is due to the same morbid fascination with the case everybody else has (Speck hadn't been caught at that point). It takes far too long for Peggy to "remember" that there were race riots happening at the time, despite her own boyfriend covering it as a journalist. Because for all that she - and other characters - have her own very real problems to deal with, even Peggy has a degree of privilege that somebody like Dawn is denied.

Which makes it even more heartbreaking when Peggy takes Dawn to spend the night at her house in a gesture of female solidarity for another colleague, only for her own inherent racism to spring up unbidden to her great dismay and shame. It serves also as a sad reminder for Dawn that no wonder how good she is at her job, how friendly she is to people, how much in common she might have with Peggy or Megan or Joan or Carole or Scarlett etc... in their eyes she remains "other". Not only that, she remains a figure of some suspicion, all for no reason beyond her skin color.

There's Michael Ginsberg. A brand new character who IMMEDIATELY makes an impact and becomes a welcome regular. He's hyperactive, over-enthusiastic, far too open in speaking his mind, and can't keep his racing Creativity from constantly spilling out. His work is impressive, as is his work ethic, and he has a father who loves him and takes great pride in his employment.

He's also deeply unhappy, seeking validation in the success of his pitches to try and overwhelm or at least for a time overshadow his deep-seated sense of alienness: at one point he literally claims to be a Martian! When people like (or love) his ideas, he is over the moon. When his ideas get Don's nod of approval over others, he is in ecstasy.

The high never lasts though. His mind keeps racing, his thoughts keep spilling out, his sense that he doesn't belong or that he needs to constantly keep himself valuable speaking to a deep-seated fear of abandonment. Understandable, given that we learn he was born in a Concentration Camp, an orphan child who was adopted and brought to America and thus has not only never felt like he belongs.

When his idea clearly edges out Don's own idea when the Boss actually decided to throw his hat in the ring and join in pitching ideas, Michael is over-the-moon. Here is real validation, he's not just as good as the legendary Don Draper, he might actually be better! So when he learns that Don discarded Michael's idea in favor of his own, it is devastating. Not just because Don used his position to "win", but because he lost the chance to see what the Client thought of both ideas.

It rankles him, of course, he can't let it go, and when Don hits him with the,"I don't think of you at all" line is even more devastating, especially as he has no idea that Don is lying through his teeth and is equally horrified at himself for having to stoop to such a pathetic ploy.

So it is that when Peggy leaves and he finds himself unexpectedly the Senior Copywriter by default, all those rejections or complaints that she usually took the brunt of are suddenly hitting him, and OF COURSE he takes it personally. He never saw that side of things, and he has to assume that Don is somehow taking it out on him, while also perhaps suspecting that maybe just maybe he isn't as good as he thought, suffering the same sense of imposter syndrome that ironically Don Draper himself suffers from.

For each of these characters, Season 5 saw them suffer in some way from the uneasy feeling that what they did, who they are, and what they wanted were somehow irrelevant in the face of an unfeeling world. Ken has tried to play the game to force himself into feeling a sense of control. Stan has fallen into irritated despondency. Dawn, as she has sadly had to all her life, just has to keep on pushing on through the injustices without ever rising to the bait because of course she would get blamed for doing so no matter how provoked she was or how unfair her situation. Michael, seemingly the happiest person in the show throughout the entire season, ends it miserable and frustrated in spite of his many successes, the high demand for his work, and more authority than he could have ever dreamed. None of them can really be said to be happy. At best there is Ken's quiet, nasty satisfaction, or Dawn simply being content that at least she has a respectable job and that progress keeps being made, however painfully slow it might be.





Beyond that are the supporting characters with more meaty parts: Joan Harris, Lane Pryce, Pete Campbell, and of course Peggy Olson. Each of them face massive challenges in this season in their quest for a happiness that seemingly eludes them no matter how successful they are (or appear to be), and each come through them in very different ways... and one of them doesn't come through it at all.

Joan Harris begins the season a new mother, exhausted but pushing her way through the days with her (exhausting!) mother there to help out with baby Kevin. As she has for most of her life, Joan keeps pushing on ahead with the promise of a Prince Charming just around the corner. She did everything right all her life with the mindset that she would marry, retire from work and spend the rest of her life raising children and being a housewife to her successful, handsome and loving husband.

The reality behind the fairytale showed what an empty promise it all turned out to be. Even before he returns, Joan has been aware on some level for a long time that Greg isn't the man she wanted him to be. When he does return, they have essentially a few hours of bliss before he manages to gently caress everything up all over again. Still, after a tearful breakdown in the first two episodes because she misinterpreted Don and Roger's stupid Y&R prank, she managed to regain her formidable composure.

So it is when Greg returns and she learns that he VOLUNTEERED to abandon his family for another tour of duty in Vietnam, where he revels in the authority and respect he has felt was owed to him all his life... and because he fears that he can't make it in the "real" world after he already failed miserably in his effort to become Chief Resident Surgeon. Joan has a momentary outburst but when she emerges from a sleepless night she does the bravest and smartest thing she has ever done, and tells her lovely-rear end husband to gently caress off and never come back.

Though she would never reveal the truth that Kevin isn't actually Greg's real father, she also knows she and him will be better off without Greg in their lives. After a lifetime of believing marriage and parenthood was the only way to truly make it, Joan learned that while it might be tougher, single-parenthood would be preferable to remaining trapped in a marriage to a man as pathetic, needy and selfish as Greg.

In any other show, a storyline that intense would be more than most non-main characters could dream of in a single season. That wasn't it for Joan though. One of the rocks upon which SCDP was built (it literally couldn't have been built without her, the others were woefully lost about Sterling Cooper's filing systems without her), a highly competent administrator and able assistant financial officer... Joan was still "less" than the other founding figures of SCDP, including Peggy Olson.

So it was particularly galling that when she finally got recognition for her work, when - as Don put it - they couldn't go without rewarding her with a Partnership and revenue share any longer... it wasn't because of her competence, her work ethic, her management skills etc. It was because of her body.

How horrible that everything she has done, all she has accomplished, her clear skill and talent, all meant ultimately nothing beside the fact that an important wheel in the bid for Jaguar business got a hard-on from looking at her and made having sex with her his condition for voting for their pitch. How horrible that it was Lane Pryce's own financial malfeasance that caused him to suggest she hold out for Partner and an ownership stake rather than accept a one-off 50k "finders fee" if she agreed to prostitute herself. How horrible that by the time she found out Pete Campbell had orchestrated the false impression that the Partners were united in agreeing pimping her out was fine, it was too late and she'd already done the deed.

Joan, as she has done so often in her life, took that unpleasantness and put it behind her. Unlike others, she doesn't wallow in past mistakes or the seedy reality of sexual harassment and revolting expectations of vile men who treated her body like nothing more than an object for their gratification. She did a revolting thing, but she did it to secure a hard-fought for future for herself and her child.

The fairytale with Greg turned out not to be real, and the bullshit lie that hard work will be rewarded in America speaks for itself... but Joan Harris (soon to be Holloway again given Greg's passive-aggressive serving of divorce papers to her in the office) ended up writing her own happy ending after all. She isn't happy about what she had to do, but she is happy that she has finally attained some level of security for herself and Kevin at last, and didn't have to rely on the goodwill of anybody else to do. Not Greg, not Roger. Just herself.



Lane Pryce is the most difficult to write about, because his ending came as both a horrible shock as well as being sadly all too inevitable. At the start of the season, while he seems bothered by financial matters it seems to be more about the petty frustrations of expenditure now to guarantee income later. His insistence they hold back paying their son's school fees could almost be seen as lashing back about the fact that he is expected to pay his bills immediately while others get to hold out for months.

If anything it seemed more likely that his season's arc would revolve around an obsession he formed over a stranger's photograph found in a lost wallet, in spite of the seeming improved state his marriage. Then it even seemed like maybe this initial fantasy would be replaced by an inappropriate lust for Joan Harris. Maybe his marriage would end up falling apart? Instead, we saw from Rebecca Pryce nothing but pure support and love for her husband, a complete 180 from the nervous, bitter wreck from her first season.

No, the girl in the photo was a red herring. If anything, the return of the prop in the final episode was almost as much a shock to us as Don, and we at least knew the story behind it! Throughout the course of the season, we see Lane's financial straits lead him to make drastic choices that result in fatal consequences. But to say "lead him" is overstating things, or perhaps downplaying that many of Lane's issues are entirely self-inflicted. Here is a man who made a mistake, and then continued to dig himself ever deeper rather than take the simple but humiliating step of admitting he made a mistake and needed help to fix it.

After Lucky Strike's departure and Don's bridge-burning letter regarding the tobacco industry, each of the investors were required to put up a stake to show their own dedication to keeping the Agency alive, in order to secure credit from the bank to keep the lights on. While Pete Campbell flew into a panic only to be saved unexpectedly by Don paying his share, Lane simply stated that it was an imposition on him too and moved on.

Only, as we discovered only late in the season, that imposition wiped him out entirely. Liquidating his stock portfolio and paying the money as his own stake raised the ire of Her Majesty's Government, demanding their tax on presumably British stocks Lane had sold. A comparatively small sum of $7500 (about 50k in 2021) was needed to clear his debt and avoid the British Government making an example of him as a warning to other expatriates.

But to admit that he didn't have the money would mean Lane would need to admit to his wife that they were short on money rather than him being fiscally prudent. It would mean telling his Partners - whom all agreed that he understood company finances far better than any of them - that he'd wiped out his own personal funds and needed help from one of them.

It would mean humiliation.

I'm sure he justified it in his own paranoid mind that they'd kick him out if they found out, because they'd consider this "proof" that he couldn't even do the one thing they thought he could. When Jaguar spectularly imploded on them due to the brothel incident, Lane's worst fears regarding his standing with the others seemed to be confirmed when when Pete smugly told him that they ceased needing him the moment he fired them from Sterling Cooper and thus freed them to form their own Agency.

So rather than face humiliation, Lane doubled down, he dug deeper, and he made things so, so much worse for himself. All in a bid to keep his "dignity", to save face in the eyes of his wife and his Partners. He extended the Agency's credit under false pretenses purely to create a phony "surplus" to justify Christmas bonuses to cover his tax penalty. But that "solution" only caused more problems, as the bonuses were delaying "forcing" him to forge Don's signature on a check, and then canceled entirely. That left him with the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head, knowing that it would take months for him to build up the cash to quietly replace the money he "misappropriated" and even then risk the canceled check for a Christmas Bonus being spotted (most likely by Joan) if he didn't get to it first.

But of course, like gamblers, cheats and the desperate before him, Lane continued to dig deeper, and even allowed himself to start to relax, to think that maybe he'd gotten away with it and everything would turn out okay. The Agency was back from the brink of death and the money was starting to flow, they'd landed Jaguar, the 4A's wanted him to award him a prestigious chairmanship of a Financial Committee etc.

That's when it all went wrong, and Lane continued down a path of making the absolute worst choices possible. Confront by Don, Lane panicked and ran the gamut of emotions as he realized there was no way out of a predicament that was entirely of his own making? What did he do then? He continued to pretend everything was all right, he continued to lie to his wife, seeing the comical irony of her rewarding him his "discipline" by spending money they couldn't afford to buy him a vehicle that symbolized everything that had gone wrong in his life.

Every choice he made was the wrong one, and every choice was one he felt he had NO choice but to make. He never told his wife the truth. He didn't leave a suicide note. Even his resignation letter was boilerplate? Why? Because to put it in writing would be to admit the truth, to face the humiliation of exposure even if it would no longer affect him personally. Lane Pryce desperately wanted to be a successful New York Advertising Executive, and when he realized he couldn't be that, he killed himself rather than admit the truth. And among all the horrible things surrounding this?

He WAS a successful New York Advertising Executive!

When Rebecca harangued Don for daring to let a man like Lane be "ambitious", it was an understandably bitter reaction. But the truth was, in spite of his own fears, doubts and paranoia, Lane Pryce absolutely was what he'd wanted to be. Which made the fact he couldn't see it hurt all the more. The man from the 4A's Club wasn't bullshitting when he pointed out that Lane shepherding SCDP from the brink of bankruptcy to becoming a hot Manhattan Agency was astonishing.

His own personal financial issues were humiliating, but they were his own and in service to keeping the Agency alive. Had he swallowed his pride and asked somebody for help (most likely Don) he would have continued to reap the benefits for years to come. Had he swallowed his pride and shared their mutual problem with Rebecca, it might have risked his so-recently restored marriage but it also might have lead to a strengthening of it as they worked their way through it together, sharing it only between themselves, treating each other as partners.

Instead, Lane died, leaving behind nothing and doing so deliberately to - among other things - get a pathetic kind of petty "revenge" on Don for doing the right thing and demanding his resignation for embezzling Agency funds. He did that in the hopes that it would guilt Don into keeping his secret... which, again, Don was already going to do! He even gave Lane the weekend to think up an "elegant exit" so he could leave with his secret safe and his dignity intact. But that would mean the loss of his Visa and a humiliating return to the England he so happily abandoned. Lane couldn't tolerate the idea, so he left everybody else to pick up the mess for him instead. A sad, ignominious ending to a fantastic character played by a superb actor.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



What of Pete Campbell? Who Lane so accurately called a "Grimy little pimp!" in one of the most amazing scenes of the season, wherein he defends his honor/reputation after his usefulness is taunted by Pete and proceeds to have a literal fistfight with the little rat-weasel of a man?

What will bring Pete happiness? Who does he want to be? He wants to be powerful. Like Lane, he is what he wants to be, and like Lane he either doesn't or refuses to realize it. The rising young star of a hot Agency, his name being bandied about as a face to watch, his dream of achieving everything he once saw Don Draper had when he was just one of a number of interchangeable Account Men at Sterling Cooper... he's achieved it all.

He's not happy.

The sad thing is, Pete may never be happy. There is something deeply self-loathing at his core, and though Roger's own interior issues aren't quite on that level, both are the type who would seemingly never ever consider therapy when each would so clearly benefit from it. His feelings of powerlessness stem from inside of him, but he is forever looking for some external thing to fix him, or an external source to blame.

His beautiful, loving wife? He's disappointed that she no longer dresses up for him ALL THE TIME, and can't understand how she can prefer living in a quiet, wealthy suburb instead of in the heart of Manhattan. His sweet little girl who he never quite expected to have? He plays the part of paternal figure but almost seems to be surprised at times to be reminded of her or the affect she has on others, like when everybody oohs over her at the dinner party and he belatedly puts aside his own fixation on Don "emasculating" him to join in and offer the appropriate proud but depreciating statement about his fatherhood. If anything she serves as a prop for him to vent his fears and try to resist Trudy's efforts to lay down roots in Cos Cobb, like when he resists them putting in a pool in case Tammy drowns in it.

As noted about him in prior retrospectives. Pete's also somebody who isn't happy simply to win, but has to revel in somebody else "losing". That's how he tries to feel like a success, and why he continues to get upset when the fleeting high he gets from that quickly runs out, if it comes at all. He rankles at what he feels like as disrespect (his lovely office) but is quick to dish it out the moment he feels he has the upper hand in any situation: with Roger regarding Mohawk, or Lane regarding Jaguar, or Don regarding their brothel visit and Pete's own guilt externalizing as rage when Don didn't partake.... because what does that say about PETE that he did?

When he doesn't find fulfillment in his work, he looks for personal pleasure. Not by throwing himself into being a family man like Ken, but seeking out opportunities to cheat on Trudy. Except that isn't really accurate, he isn't trying to cheat on Trudy... because he's not even thinking about Trudy. He's thinking about himself. He wants to have affairs because he thinks it will make him happy, he thinks it will make him feel like a real man.

Revoltingly, he first tries it on with a young high school girl during Driver's Education classes, ignoring constant warning signs that she isn't just young but exceptionally immature. She never shows any interest in him, but he is enraged when a young, good looking man her own age "steals" her from him, sitting and fuming on how unfair it is that he couldn't cheat on his beautiful wife with an underage (or near enough to be just as bad) girl.

Then there is Beth, the wife of his frequent commute "buddy" on the train. They meet purely by chance, have an ill-adviced one-night stand and then... that's it. Beth got what she wanted, and makes it as clear as she possibly can to him that she has zero interest in pursuing this further. That appalls Pete, because the woman breaking it off with the man in an affair leaves him feeling like even less of a man than before. In a truly eye-boggling line for a show set in the 1960s, he complains to Harry that women have all the power in relationships and get to dictate their way with men all the time!

So he tries to force a renewal of the affair, tries to make the powerplays he thinks a "real" man would pull, and when they don't work he is mad at her but of course really at himself. Disgusted by his weakness, both in indulging in the affair in the first place and his inability to make it continue by sheer force of will/personality. When Beth renews them for one last encounter, he's further revolted that she is able to make him do what he couldn't make her do.

Pete is devastated by what happens to Beth, convincing himself that they were truly destined to be only for fate and cruel medicine to end what could have been a beautiful relationship. It's nonsense, of course. There is no reason to think he wouldn't have tired of Beth if their relationship had continued, or that she wouldn't have just cut it off again even if her memory hadn't been lost.

But this is what Pete does. He frames elaborate scenarios in his head, all designed around the notion that he is somehow the most important person in the world and also a lovely loser who is tossed around by a cruel and vindictive fate. When Trudy simply takes him at his word and shows only concern when he lies that he was in a car accident to cover up that he took (another!) beating, he feels immense guilt... but she also accepts his earlier demand that he get an apartment in the city for late nights at work.

How does that make him feel? Probably simultaneously satisfaction that he will get his own way AND resentment (towards HER!) that it is too late for him to take advantage of it for further liaisons with Beth. Plus of course the guilt, that he SHOULD be a better father and husband, but also that he wasn't man enough to beat Howard (or the train conductor!) in a fight, that he isn't "man" enough to take what he wants, when he wants, and for everybody to simply let him have his way all the time.

Pete wants to be powerful, and in some ways he absolutely is, but he doesn't feel it.... and he sure as hell doesn't feel happy.



Finally (before Don and Megan) there is of course Peggy Olson, as close to the second star of this show as you can get. Forever a fascinating character, season 5 is no exception as Peggy once again manages to come through largely the same process and pathways as the other characters on the show but reach as close to a conclusion of personal satisfaction as any character on this show ever gets.

After the shock of her pregnancy at the end of Season 1, Peggy has gone from strength to strength even as she has suffered through endless setbacks, problems or crises. At the end of Season 2, she had the poise and self-assurance to not be remotely attracted by Pete's decision to simply reignite their disastrous 2-night stand, and more than that the confidence in her own faith and virtue to ignore her priests frankly condescending warnings about how she would go to hell. She was one of the few characters who ended that season seemingly happy and confident about the future.

In Season 3, she didn't let Don just take it for granted he could have her in the new Agency. She made him actually sell her on it, made him admit that he needed her and valued her and that she wasn't just simply an extension of himself. She ended that season part of something new and exciting, working out of a (very nice!) hotel room but part of an energized start-up of a brand new Agency.

In season 4 we saw the fruits of that decision bear fruit, as SCDP continued to grow. When everything seemed at risk of falling apart, it was Peggy who got them their first new business. She found a new (and much better) boyfriend in Abe, she made new friends, she developed a life outside of the Agency, and even when she was stunned (like everybody!) by the news of Don and Megan's engagement, she took that onboard and wasn't shaken by the sudden turn of events. She ended that season sharing a rare moment of companionship/bonding with Joan, having a shared laugh over the utter predictability of men.

So what about Season 5? Who does Peggy want to be? Is she happy? I'd say in this case where Peggy stands apart is that she is focused on what she DOESN'T want to be. Is she happy? Absolutely, because she succeeded in making sure that the one thing she didn't want, didn't happen.

She doesn't want to be taken for granted.

In simplistic terms (and ignoring a bunch of minor things), that's the story of Season 5 for Peggy. Here is a character who has come shockingly far shockingly fast, but she's also suffered the fate of many who go above and beyond in their duties: it became taken for granted. All throughout the season we see it happen: Don simply gives Peggy responsibilities when his attention is needed elsewhere (or he simply can't be bothered). She is the one who has to find the new Copywriter for Mohawk. She is the one who essentially runs the Heinz Campaign while Don is utterly checked out. She is the one who has her valid criticisms of Raymond Geiger simply discounted because unlike Don she is a woman so her complaints are dismissed as "oversensitive".

When Don leads a full-court press on winning the Jaguar Account, it is Peggy who is left in charge of everything else. When the Chevalier Blanc advertising is at risk of being pulled, it is Peggy who saves it AND gets them another ad on top of it. Her reward for this? Getting to watch other Copywriters eat lobster; learning that Michael Ginsberg will be sent to Paris because it is "his" Account; being unceremoniously dumped from Heinz, and all of it being done without a second thought or a moment's hesitation because the expectation is that Peggy will just accept it and move on to be the workhorse on whatever else they give her.

Peggy doesn't want to be taken for granted, but she also at no point allows it to impact on her own self-assurance or in understanding the value of her own self-worth. Nearly every other character is at times paranoid or otherwise worried that their position is at risk, that somebody new is going to replace them or that they can't keep up with the pace of Advertising in the 1960s.

Not so Peggy. When Stan warns her not to hire Ginsberg because he's so good he will likely become her Boss, she isn't remotely concerned, simply stating that working with talented people inspires her, assured that her own work can stand up to anybody else's. When Don questions her New Yorker cartoon style pitch for Snowball, she isn't alarmed by his critiques, in fact she outright rejects them, confident in her work and utterly unfazed when Michael's (and Don's after) are seen as the stronger ideas. Somebody else had a stronger idea? That's fine, she'll just do better next time: a mindset utterly at odds with Don's and even with Michael's who relishes strong competition only because he wants to be the winner.

In fact, the one time she seems upset by somebody going with Michael over her is when she learns Roger hired him in secret to workshop ideas for a wine pitch. Not because she thinks Michael is seen as a better copywriter than her (he's not) but because she's pissed off that he didn't at least think to ask her: she did the Mohawk work for him, she could do this too! She doesn't like that he simply didn't think to ask her at all, or assumed she couldn't do it because she wasn't Jewish. Similarly, she rankles whenever she is told she can't be on a particular campaign because she isn't a man. Peggy KNOWS that she can pull these types of campaigns off, and she wants to be in the room and throwing out ideas herself, even if they don't end up being the ones that get picked: she wants to be in the game.

When Don - partly because he's distracted by other things, partly because he can really be a jerk! - throws money in her face she fumes over the fact that yet again he is not only taking her for granted but STILL seems to think that money is all the recognition anybody needs, just like in their screaming match during The Suitcase.

This makes her vent to Freddy Rumsen (after taking out some of her bitterness on Ken), who gives her the best advice possible: she needs to move on. It's a scary thought, one she initially treats like a joke before the enormity of what it would mean really settles in. But it's the best thing she could ever do, because the moment Freddy puts out feelers she gets confirmation of exactly what she wanted to believe: she is an asset most advertising agencies would kill to have.

She accepts an offer to become Copy Chief at CGC, and this leads to yet another example of why she HAD to leave. Because when Don hears that, after initially simply not taking her resignation seriously, he clearly assumes Ted Chaough hired her purely as a way to get at HIM. Peggy though knows this isn't the case, ignores Don lashing out when he realizes he won't get what he wants, and tells him what she knows to be the truth: she deeply respects him and values everything he has done for her, but she has to leave and if he was in her position she would do the same.

Her confidence in herself is validated. She immediately fits in at CGC, Chaough values her opinion and her talent, she gets a shot at winning a tobacco client, SHE gets sent to visit Richmond, and a chance meeting with Don Draper allows her to get her fondest wish when Don - his immediate shock and hurt now passed - admits that she was right to go and tells her with complete sincerity that he is proud of her.

Is Peggy Olson happy when Season 5 ends? Absolutely. She usually is at the end of a season, and it's usually well-deserved, and this is no exception. Even if things quite aren't glamorous as she might have thought (Richmond ain't Paris and the dogs humping in the parking lot aren't a moonlit walk down the River Siene with Abe) but she's where she wants to be, on her own terms, and she sure as hell isn't being taken for granted.





A lot has been written above, and it barely touches a lot of what was seen in this season: there's the Peggy/Abe relationship for one, or Betty's issues with her underlying unhappiness in spite of her seemingly perfect life, or everything going on with Sally's continued growth/maturity (or lack thereof), or Henry's sad realization that he backed the wrong political horse and "wasted" the last few years of his career. Megan's parents, Marie's affair with Roger and her relationship with Emile, Cooper seemingly becoming utterly sidelined only to reveal he continues to observe EVERYTHING going on at SCDP etc.

But the major point of focus as always ends up being on Don Draper. This time is different, though, because this time is near impossible to separate Don and Megan. Everything that happens in Don's life, and indeed in Megan's, revolves in some way around their relationship, about what each means to the other and their fears and concerns about losing what made them feel special together. Sure they have their own individual storylines, their own issues to work through... but even those end up involving the other, because they have to: they're husband and wife, and not in the way that Don and Betty were for most of their marriage.

Megan was constantly around in Season 4 but only truly came into focus right towards the end of the season, and even then her engagement to Don came as a complete shock. Still, it is remarkable how quickly/smoothly Jessica Parť slides into the place as a main cast member after mostly just being a background character. What we see right from the first episode of Season 5 is that their still relatively young marriage is impacted by both still not quite understanding each other, the result of their quick courtship/engagement/marriage. But we see something else too, something that is actually truly shocked.

Don communicates with Megan.

After the disastrous aftermath of Don gritting his teeth through the surprise party Megan threw for him, we discover that Don actually did seem to learn something from Dr. Faye Miller after all: he shared his past with his wife. She knows all about Dick Whitman. She knows about Anna Draper. She knows about Korea and taking the original Don's identity.

It isn't just that one thing, either. Throughout most of the season, we see frequent enraged arguments between the two, fiery moments where they say things they regret or lash out each other.... but we also see them then actually talk through their problems. Sometimes it's after some overly dramatic gesture or outburst, but they do continually communicate. Megan tells Don how she feels, what her fears are, how she worries about the gradual chipping away at "us" that these angry arguments are causing. Don does the same, even though it's utterly alien to him, he admits his flaws, he apologizes, he tries to make things better but most of all he actually. loving. listens.

Had he done anything remotely like this with Betty it's likely they'd still be married, but at least he's learned. And this leads to something quite astonishing through much of the first two-thirds of the season, outside of the big explosive arguments....

Don Draper is happy.

Really, genuinely happy. We see a Don Draper who has found contentment, and it creates an odd situation: a happy Don Draper is also not a hungry Don Draper. He mostly loses interest in work, despite SCDP once being his dream and the current financial situation being exacerbated by his anti-tobacco letter. He lets Peggy do most of the work, he continually pulls Megan out of meetings so they can goof around in his office or just skip work entirely. He enjoys himself, but his work is mostly just a place he has to hang out before he and Megan get to go home or go out, and the only reason he even bothers to go to work at all is because Megan works there too.

Then something extraordinary happens. He discovers that Megan isn't just a hard trier who will at least not embarrass them as part of the Creative Team... he finds out that she's genuinely a talented Copywriter! She salvages Heinz from the brink of disaster, she hits him with a fantastic tagline, she wows the Geigers and reignites his passion. Now he is thrilled to go to work, because his wife isn't just a beautiful, intelligent and loving woman but she's creative and talented as well! Life is suddenly great, everywhere he goes is where he wants to be, because Megan is there, and that's all he wants from life.

Which, of course, is when it all goes wrong.

Because Megan isn't just an extension of Don Draper. She is her own person. She loves Don too, she loves being with him. But she has her own things to do, her own life to live, and more importantly her own work to complete. She finds it endlessly frustrating that Don expects her to leap effortlessly from wife to employee just as effortlessly as he leaps from husband to employer.

For Don it is bewildering, because of course being in the "superior" position he doesn't understand why she would find this to be such emotional whiplash. He tries to understand, he tries to communicate, but he also gets irritated that she isn't enjoying their little "cheats" from work as much as he is, and lashes out childishly at times, causing her to do the same. Each time they have an explosive blow-up, they are able to claw their way back to equilibrium, but each time is a little harder.

When Megan, inspired by her father and realizing how little satisfaction she ultimately took from her Heinz success, begs Don to let her quit as a Copywriter so she can pursue her original dream of being an actress, it devastates him. Because to him this is a betrayal, a statement that she doesn't value working with him (and thus being with him) as much as he values doing so with her. He tries, he really genuinely tries, to be understanding, to be the bigger man and set aside his own wants and needs for a change because even he understands that denying her this dream would spoil their love.

But is it spoiled in any case? Don fumes inwardly (and outwardly at times!) over her decision. Work loses its flavor for him again, but this time without Megan to make it palatable, he ends up diving back deep into it in an effort to distract himself from his unhappiness, in hopes that this will allow her to be happy with the now reduced time they have together. When it looks like Megan might find success, he freaks out at learning this would cause her to disappear from his life almost entirely for possibly 2 months or more. When Megan fails, he comforts her but also is (not so) secretly happy because it means she remains around.

Megan runs through the depression of continually failing to land a part, to not get call-backs or for her call-backs to fail or be miserable reminders that just like advertising the world of acting is often more about image than any substance. In a moment of desperation she swallows her pride and asks Don to put her forward for an audition for a television commercial, and suffers the indignity of being told no.

Who does Megan want to be? An actress. Who does Don want to be? A good husband. Both seem doomed to fail to accomplish this. Don fears an interior rottenness, revealed, as if we didn't already know, by two "fantasy" sequences throughout the season that are among the clunkier parts of the season: Don's fever-dream of cheating on Megan with an old mistress, and gassed-up hallucination of his dead brother Adam during a visit to the dentist. Megan fears that she simply doesn't have what it takes to achieve her dream, a depressing thought for anybody, but especially somebody who - like Peggy noted - simply seems to be good at whatever she puts her mind to.

When Don finally decides to set aside his own selfishness and his professional standards (like he once demanded that Faye do) to give Megan a shot at the part, he does so knowing that any success she has will simply take her further away from him. Megan is thrilled by Don doing this for her, and filled with love... but how long till she starts to resent herself AND him for the fact that she had to "cheat" to finally get a part? That she corrupted her dream in order to achieve it?

What about Don? He ends the season alone, walking away from Megan as she ecstatically goes to work in the profession she truly wanted to be in. A man who spent much of the season happy and contented is anything but when the season ends. His marriage is intact for now, his love for Megan and hers for him is still there, but it has been chipped away by the constant wear and tear of life itself as well as all the major events, arguments, blow-ups and tragedies they have been through.

Who does Don want to be? Good husband? Lauded Creative Director? Respected businessman? The engine that drives SCDP, wresting the driver's wheel back from Pete with the help of Roger? What about father to Sally, Bobby and Gene? One thing for certain is that he doesn't want to be alone, as he has shown over and over again he is TERRIBLE at it, and for one beautiful year at least he was anything but because he had Megan.

Will they still have each other in and through season 6? Will their marriage survive their respective careers and the choices and sacrifices they have made to make them work? Only time will tell, but Season 5 is done, and just like the four seasons that preceded it, it was excellent, possibly the best season of Mad Men so far... and that is one hell of a high standard to surpass.





Season Five: A Little Kiss Part 1 & Part 2 | Tea Leaves | Mystery Date | Signal 30 | Far Away Places | At the Codfish Ball | Lady Lazarus | Dark Shadows | Christmas Waltz | The Other Woman | Commissions and Fees | The Phantom | Season 5 Retrospective

R. Guyovich
Dec 25, 1991



Jerusalem posted:

Season 5 Retrospective

Ken is playing a dangerous game by the end of Season 5, which may end up blowing up in his face.

lmao

aBagorn
Aug 26, 2004



hahahahaha good catch

kalel
Jun 19, 2012




:lmao: :laffo:

roomtone
Jul 1, 2021

The rising star of GBS!


good write up for s5 jerusalem. i like to read these while i'm eating dinner sometimes.

i've said it before i think but s5 is my favourite season. it's the one i always think of first when i think of mad men just because of how the cast has now expanded (-1) and settled in. the power dynamics have flattened to an extent that interactions between people like peggy and roger are just really fun to watch.

i think pete's storyline with beth is one of my least favourites of his. even though it's very in character and demonstrates further that pete will probably never be happy, it's really maudlin.

for someone who is apparently as smart and aware as megan is, her decision to pursue acting is such a cliche move for someone in her position and i understand don's disappointment about it. a lot of it for him is that he liked having his wife fully integrated in his life, but i think some of it is also that this is the decision she's choosing to make with her new level of privilege.

her getting out of advertising wasn't motivated by any kind of principle or desire for something more meaningful, but just because she didn't feel validated enough by the kind of success she could have doing that. i'm sure don's dominance in her life was pretty suffocating, too, but again, i was expecting something more out of her as a response to that. her glee at being cast in a commercial is kind of pitiful, suddenly invigorated by advertising now that she's in front of the camera. it isn't that i look down on people pursuing acting, it's just that she is only doing this because she has a safety net. it seems like she's just taking the easy road, which i guess is fine, but y'know, a mundane development for her as a person. maybe i'm being harsh. i don't mean this as a criticism of the writing at all but of the character, it's well written.

ram dass in hell
Dec 29, 2019

posting power flows from an av with the barrel of a gun




Xealot
Nov 25, 2002

Showdown in the Galaxy Era.



roomtone posted:

i don't mean this as a criticism of the writing at all but of the character, it's well written.

Yup, every criticism here is one a character feels or expresses within the actual text. "It looks like you skipped the struggle and jumped right to the end," however Emile says it.

That shot of Don walking away from Megan on set is so perfect. There's this little island of light, where Megan is a literal princess in a fairy tale, but as Don realizes the absurdity and the self-delusion in the ways he idealized her, he leaves the entire artifice behind him and ventures into the darkness. Don's second marriage arc in less than a minute.

I agree that it's disappointing that Megan had to rely on nepotism to get a gig, and a pretty lame gig at that, but she plainly doesn't deserve the reaction Don gives her. She's a human being, who's fallible and insecure, and she took the opportunity she could reach. If her behavior feels like some betrayal, it's because Don expected way too much of her. I can only assume that Don felt some quality of Megan would redeem him or transform him, that she was some magical external force that could fix everything wrong inside of him. But that's clearly impossible: even if she WAS literally perfect, Don isn't and his problems are his own to deal with or ignore and let fester as he sees fit.

kalel
Jun 19, 2012



great write up jerusalem.

I love the conversation Peggy and Don have in the last episode. the interesting thing for the audience that Peggy probably isn't aware of is that Don is also talking about Megan when he says, "That's what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on." He's expressing not just his sorrow at losing Peggy, but his fear that what happened to her will parallel what could happen to Megan if Don helps her—and what could happen to his perception of her. Which makes Peggy's response heartbreaking: "don't you want them to?" He does, because he wants her to be happy, but he also doesn't, because in his mind it would mean she won't need him anymore. For Don, there are a lot of parallels between these two women.

Also, it's interesting to see Pete demonstrate such self-awareness in his conversation with Beth in the hospital. He knows he isn't happy, and he feels trapped in his own life. Again, the similarities between Pete and Don are apparent.

kalel fucked around with this message at 05:44 on Dec 16, 2021

kalel
Jun 19, 2012




Dependency appears to be something Don finds necessary in relationships with women. He controlled Betty and treated her like a child; he took care of Anna financially until she died; he discovered Peggy and made her his protege—and workhorse. He deliberately sought out lovers with an independent streak, the women you can't have, as if to gain control over them somehow*.

But now, each and every one of these women is gone, and he blames himself for it. And now, with Megan, he sees her leaving as inevitable—either she succeeds, becomes independent, and doesn't need him anymore, or she doesn't succeed, grows to resent him, and leaves. So, if she's going to leave anyway, why not help her? And, too, if the relationship is doomed anyway, why not seek other women? He has a perfect fairy tale happily ever after with a beautiful wife radiating pure love.... and he turns and walks away. It's necessary for him to create the truth he's already decided about himself. "Even though success is a reality, its effects are temporary." "Happiness is the moment before you need more happiness." Don walks into the darkness and starts to look for The Next Thing, because he "knows" that it's just a matter of time before Megan leaves him, like every woman in his life before her.

(*This need for dependency and control will come up again in season 6 when we get a better look at how the women in Don's childhood robbed him of his agency.)

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



kalel posted:

I love the conversation Peggy and Don have in the last episode. the interesting thing for the audience that Peggy probably isn't aware of is that Don is also talking about Megan when he says, "That's what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on." He's expressing not just his sorrow at losing Peggy, but his fear that what happened to her will parallel what could happen to Megan if Don helps her—and what could happen to his perception of her. Which makes Peggy's response heartbreaking: "don't you want them to?" He does, because he wants her to be happy, but he also doesn't, because in his mind it would mean she won't need him anymore. For Don, there are a lot of parallels between these two women.

Oh absolutely, and this is reflected in Don's conversation earlier in the season with Roger, when he is trying his best to convince himself that he should be happy/proud of Megan leaving SCDP, acknowledging that she would be miserable otherwise and it would be selfish of him to hold her there... but he clearly, clearly, clearly can't help but still feel sick about it and even betrayed, even if he would never tell Roger that.

I think the line he uses is,"I don't want her to end up like Betty or her mother (Marie)", which is kind of indicative of Don in general: he understands that his way of "handling" Betty was wrong and caused problems, but he also seems to kind of hold her in quasi-contempt for being the way she is regardless. For every stride forward that Don makes in terms of empathy/understanding or acknowledgement of his own mistakes, he continues to slide back because he still underestimates just how much power he had/has in his relationships with women.

Paper Lion
Dec 13, 2009






Xealot posted:

Yup, every criticism here is one a character feels or expresses within the actual text. "It looks like you skipped the struggle and jumped right to the end," however Emile says it.

That shot of Don walking away from Megan on set is so perfect. There's this little island of light, where Megan is a literal princess in a fairy tale, but as Don realizes the absurdity and the self-delusion in the ways he idealized her, he leaves the entire artifice behind him and ventures into the darkness. Don's second marriage arc in less than a minute.

I agree that it's disappointing that Megan had to rely on nepotism to get a gig, and a pretty lame gig at that, but she plainly doesn't deserve the reaction Don gives her. She's a human being, who's fallible and insecure, and she took the opportunity she could reach. If her behavior feels like some betrayal, it's because Don expected way too much of her. I can only assume that Don felt some quality of Megan would redeem him or transform him, that she was some magical external force that could fix everything wrong inside of him. But that's clearly impossible: even if she WAS literally perfect, Don isn't and his problems are his own to deal with or ignore and let fester as he sees fit.

i dont think thats the reason for don being in shadow there. it has nothing to do with him being sad she had to ask for help as though its a character flaw, but it ties back into his statement about helping someone until they leave you. hes helped her, and now feels like the other shoe is going to fall and he has set in motion events that will result in her leaving him. this is reinforced by the question "are you alone?"hes right, but its a self fulfilling prophecy, because of the choices he makes due to the sadness about this perceived inevitability which create actual material reasons to be sad, which is the loop that causes his spiral down to rock bottom.

roomtone
Jul 1, 2021

The rising star of GBS!


This is reminding me of what Don says to Rachel in season 1, 'you're born alone and die alone and society just drops a bunch of rules on you to make you forget those facts, but i never forget'. When he said this, he was mainly putting on what he thought would be an enticing persona for Rachel - who was too smart for that crap, but anyway - I think this is part of Don's pathology. That he is ultimately alone is an affectation he finds comforting in some way. The thing is though, he absolutely did 'forget those facts' for most of this season on his love leave with Megan. You could see that he was flying a lot of the time due to this constant endorphin rush that maybe life with other people wasn't as he had always forced himself to believe it must be, maybe he'd finally found that thing he'd been searching for. It was putting Megan on a pedestal and looking at her as a solution, so of course it fell apart when she started behaving in ways Don didn't expect. It's just a relationship and it won't be the thing to fix him. He's looking for something to grab on to in the wake of that realisation and he finds his familiar old line of bullshit that he never forgets that you are alone in the world. That's what makes the line 'are you alone' at the end and Don's smile work so well.

roomtone fucked around with this message at 19:14 on Dec 16, 2021

Bismack Billabongo
Oct 9, 2012

Wet


Dan drapl

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Doonal Drapner

Lady Radia
Jul 13, 2021

Despite everything, it's still you.


dolan darpo

Gaius Marius
Oct 9, 2012



roomtone posted:

This is reminding me of what Don says to Rachel in season 1, 'you're born alone and die alone and society just drops a bunch of rules on you to make you forget those facts, but i never forget'. When he said this, he was mainly putting on what he thought would be an enticing persona for Rachel - who was too smart for that crap, but anyway - I think this is part of Don's pathology. That he is ultimately alone is an affectation he finds comforting in some way. The thing is though, he absolutely did 'forget those facts' for most of this season on his love leave with Megan. You could see that he was flying a lot of the time due to this constant endorphin rush that maybe life with other people wasn't as he had always forced himself to believe it must be, maybe he'd finally found that thing he'd been searching for. It was putting Megan on a pedestal and looking at her as a solution, so of course it fell apart when she started behaving in ways Don didn't expect. It's just a relationship and it won't be the thing to fix him. He's looking for something to grab on to in the wake of that realisation and he finds his familiar old line of bullshit that he never forgets that you are alone in the world. That's what makes the line 'are you alone' at the end and Don's smile work so well.

I think this is a misinterpretation in parts, Don does literally believe he's always alone, that's why the guys talk of the fridge gets him so hard. He doesn't want to be alone, but he cannot shake the feeling of being unwanted and unloved even in an intimate relationship. He always feels like he has to sell himself to people, to be what they want him to be, professionally and personally and it leads him into increasingly self destructive spirals as the series goes on.

The series from the start sold us on him being a cool, calm professional, but in truth he never stopped being that young farmboy. Alone and unwanted

kalel
Jun 19, 2012



Deepak doprah

Paper Tiger
Jun 17, 2007

🖨️🐯torn apart by idle hands



Donnie Draker

JethroMcB
Jan 23, 2004

We're normal now.
We love your family.


Ronald McDonald (Draper)

Blood Nightmaster
Sep 6, 2011

“また遊んであげるわ!”


All these Don Draper riffs just made me realize that both "to don" and "to drape" are basically synonyms for wearing or otherwise concealing something. Which is like, so incredibly on the nose I'm mad at myself for not noticing before

Don Draper is basically just two kids in a trenchcoat

Vitruvian Manic
Dec 4, 2021

by Fluffdaddy


Don Draper

Serial Raper

Don Draper

Serial Raper

DON DRAPER

SERIAL RAPER!

Devorum
Jul 30, 2005



Blood Nightmaster posted:

All these Don Draper riffs just made me realize that both "to don" and "to drape" are basically synonyms for wearing or otherwise concealing something. Which is like, so incredibly on the nose I'm mad at myself for not noticing before

Don Draper is basically just two kids in a trenchcoat

Indeed.

sebmojo posted:

in a sense don draper is 'donning' (putting on) a 'drapery' of false identity to cover his real identity of dick (meaning 'penis') whit (meaning small) man (man).

i kind of love how on the nose some of its stuff is.

roomtone
Jul 1, 2021

The rising star of GBS!


Gaius Marius posted:

I think this is a misinterpretation in parts, Don does literally believe he's always alone, that's why the guys talk of the fridge gets him so hard. He doesn't want to be alone, but he cannot shake the feeling of being unwanted and unloved even in an intimate relationship. He always feels like he has to sell himself to people, to be what they want him to be, professionally and personally and it leads him into increasingly self destructive spirals as the series goes on.

The series from the start sold us on him being a cool, calm professional, but in truth he never stopped being that young farmboy. Alone and unwanted


I don't think what we're both saying is really contradictory here, you're just focusing on some stuff from later seasons while I was keeping it to what has been shown on the show up to the end of s5. It's the same general idea.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



Just as a catch-up, given the time of year I'll try to get at least the first episode of season 6 done before I head out of town for the holidays, but there is a chance I won't have a chance and Season 6 will have to wait for the very end of December/start of January.

Torquemada
Oct 21, 2010

Drei Gläser


You can just say ĎSanta isnít real so youíre not getting any write ups for a monthĒ

Scallop Eyes
Oct 15, 2021


Don's also been on the other side of "You help people, and then t hey move on", with dr. Miller. She helped him with the Heinz contact (even if it ended up not saving the company), and then Don moved on to Megan.

Torquemada
Oct 21, 2010

Drei Gläser


*sign creaks*
*tumbleweed rolls past*

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GoutPatrol
Oct 17, 2009

*Stupid Moddie*



:f5:

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