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Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?




In 2007, a little over a month after the final episode of The Sopranos aired, a new television show began on AMC. Called Mad Men, it was the creation of one of The Sopranos regular writers, Matthew Weiner, though he had come up with the concept years earlier while working on comedy-drama series Becker and gotten the gig on The Sopranos based on the strength of the pilot script.

Centered on a fictional advertising agency in New York during the 1960s, the series was a period piece and an immediate success for AMC. It would run for 7 seasons and win a multitude of awards and launch or enhance the careers of multiple members of its cast. It remains to this day a series regularly spoken of as well-deserving its company with other great prestige dramas.

And I've never seen it.

When the show came out, it was lauded and absolutely on my radar to watch. But I just never did, the one episode I ever saw I loved, but then I figured I'd wait for it to finish and catch up, and when it finally did I just never got around to it. Every time it came up I thought,"I must get onto watching that show" and then something else would get in the way and I'd forget about it. But while doing write-ups of episodes in The Sopranos thread, people asked me to do Mad Men next, and became very insistent when I admitted I hadn't seen it. Since the old Mad Men thread appears to have fallen into the archives, I decided that is just what I'd do.

This thread is intended as a watchalong thread, but also a discussion one. I'll be doing write-ups for each episode in the same vein as I've done in The Wire thread and The Sopranos thread. Unlike both those series though, I'm not coming into this having seen the entire show multiple times and knowing everything that happens backward, forwards and sideways. I am going to watch each episode blind, not knowing what is coming or where anything is going.
As a result, my write-ups (which, be warned, tend to be extremely long) are likely to have takes or cover themes that end up going nowhere or prove to be hilariously wrong or misguided. I think that will be part of the fun though, seeing the show unfold as it happens and seeing where I get it right and where I get it wrong.

This is intended to be a discussion thread, and I will try to keep new episode write-ups coming frequently. That said, I understand people may be eager to talk up things that happen in later episodes and I would kindly ask you make use of spoiler tags when doing so. This is going to be a long-term project and I'm eager to encourage as much discussion as possible, but it would be nice for me and anybody else who is coming to this show for the first time to get the chance to be wowed by events as they happen.

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Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Episode Index

Season One: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes | Ladies Room | Marriage of Figaro | New Amsterdam | 5G | Babylon | Red in the Face | The Hobo Code | Shoot | Long Weekend | Indian Summer | Nixon vs. Kennedy | The Wheel

Jerusalem fucked around with this message at 15:20 on Oct 25, 2020

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Season 1, Episode 1 - Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Written by Matthew Weiner, Directed by Alan Taylor

Don Draper posted:

We can say anything we want.

Following an incredible set of animated opening titles showing a suited man seemingly falling/leaping to his death from a high rise only to end up relaxing in self-assured comfort, an informative but frankly clumsy descriptor of what the term "Mad Men" means takes up a black screen. There was surely a more elegant way to get this information across, but it does offer a VERY important little tidbit: it was the advertising executives of Madison Avenue who came up with their own nickname. With the three words "they coined it", the show has already made it clear that the subject of their show will be utterly full of their own perceived self-importance.

It's 1960 in New York, and one of those Madison Avenue advertising executives - a man called Don Draper - sits alone in a crowded, smoke-filled bar scribbling notes on a cocktail napkin. Handsome, middle-aged, and well-dressed, he looks for all the world like somebody who should be enjoying the prime of his life. Instead he looks agitated, concerned even, his indecipherable notes bringing him no solution to his concerns. A waiter stops by to ask permission to clear his table, and Draper asks him for a light, spotting that the waiter smokes Old Gold and pointing out he himself is a "Lucky Strike man", seeing no issue with identifying either of them by the brands they choose to consume: if anything it is a point of pride.

Here though, even moreso than the smoke-filled room, comes the first reminder that this is a show set firmly in the past. Because before the waiter has any chance to respond to Draper's polite, charming observations, another waiter arrives at the table and asks if "Sam" is bothering him, scowling at his workmate and pointing out with derision that he can be "chatty". Because Sam is black, the other waiter is white, and the unspoken rebuke is that it isn't Sam's "place" to make conversation with the patrons, just quietly, invisibly clean up after them.

Draper is annoyed, not out of any particular liberal mindset or desire for racial equality (this is almost half a decade before the shamefully late passing of the Civil Rights Act in America) but because he'd spotted in Sam a chance to do what would eventually come to be called market research. He asks the other waiter to refill his drink, then continues to question Sam: why Old Gold as a brand? Is there anything he could say to make him change brands? What if Old Gold ceased to exist etc?

Sam, who clearly enjoys chatting but is also painfully aware of the dangers of doing so, offers short answers even as in spite of himself he feels himself warming up. When he was in the service (20+ years before the Civil Rights Act passed, guys like Sam were still considered "American" enough to fight in the war) he was given Old Gold as part of his supplies, and now that's all he smokes. He loves Old Gold and he loves smoking, even if Reader's Digest and his wife keep warning him they're bad for you.

Draper cringes a little at hearing the Reader's Digest article referenced, but he is delighted by Sam's "I love smoking" and scribbles it on his notepad. It's the closest he's come to an answer to the problem that has been bedeviling him all night. But as he looks around the bar, full of happy, laughing couples, groups, dates and one nights stands, all smoking heavily and drinking, he grimaces. Is it distaste? Jealousy? Desire? Does he simply not understand why or how they can seem happy when he himself clearly is not. Or is it more simple than that? The music playing in the background is Don Cherry singing about wanting somebody to share a life with. Is Don Draper simply just... lonely?



Perhaps so, because despite the late hour Draper isn't done for the night. He knocks at the apartment door of a female artist named Midge Daniels who seems amused but not all that surprised to see him. She's burning the midnight oil too, working on greeting card designs for "Grandmother's Day", drawing little babies and cute puppies: work she clearly finds creatively unfulfilling but financially rewarding. She teases Don that he's lucky she was both up AND alone, and actually seems surprised when it turns out he really did come up to discuss work with her rather than looking for sex (which she seemed inclined but not enthusiastic to give him).

Draper is fixated though, admitting that he's spent all night trying desperately to come up with a new advertising campaign for Lucky Strikes. As ridiculous as it seems to modern eyes, for decades before 1960 advertising had sold cigarettes on their health benefits. Not anymore, the Trade Commission won't let tobacco companies claim that cigarettes are good for you anymore, and Draper can't figure out a way to spin the increasingly known fact that they are actually potentially lethal. 5 years earlier advertising companies responded to health scares by having doctors say they smoked, but all that is out the window now.
Enjoying his display of despair, Midge laughs at the idea that he's come to have her fire him up by telling him how smart he is. Hell, she thinks all this is a precursor to wowing her with a solution he's already come up with, but he insists it is the truth: he has nothing. Tomorrow he has to go to work and pitch a solution to the tobacco industry's enormous public relations nightmare, and he has nothing but an old waiter's shrugged,"I love smoking" to offer. Tomorrow everybody is "finally" going to know that he's done, a spent force, and the young advertising executives will sense the weakness and tear him apart.

There's a lot to pick apart in that "finally". It's almost 20 years before the term "imposter syndrome" would be coined, but that one word seems to indicate that Don Draper is somebody who has been living for some time with a fear of exposure, that his carefully groomed appearance belies an inner belief of his own inadequacy. Maybe it wasn't there when he was younger, but as he has gotten older he's found it harder to keep up the pretense. After all, he's an advertising executive, so it really any surprise? His entire worldview is about appearances, about the fact that the actual quality doesn't matter so much as your ability to sell the idea it has it.. but also about selling the new model, about in-built obsolescence, about something better always coming up right behind you.

So if she can't offer him any advice on how to sell killer cigarettes, Midge offers him the next best thing: a distraction. Popping open her shirt and enjoying the chance to get off the treadmill of pumping out saccharine greeting card designs herself, she lets him join her in a temporary distraction from their respective job troubles.

The next morning they lie in bed, and of course despite what they both know about the dangers, they're smoking. Don seems relaxed at last, and casually comments that they should get married. She's amused, does he think she'd make a good ex-wife? Still casually, he lists off the reasons they'd be a good match: she runs her own business and she doesn't mind his late comings-and-goings, what more could he want? But amused as she is, she isn't going to accommodate his flights of fancy, dangling his watch in front of him and reminding him he knows the rules. This isn't a relationship, it's an accommodation, two professionals who every so often get together to discuss the business and maybe enjoy a little sex. Midge is surprisingly modern (or rather, a reminder that our own view of 1960 is colored by media representations), and it's interesting to note the pleasure that Don seems to take in her independence.

Getting dressed, he complains that he now only has nine hours till his meeting with Lucky Strike, and he still has nothing to offer. Once again he raises the specter of that younger model coming to pick at his bones, mentioning a young executive who has clearly been eying up his office. All Midge can give him in return is a joke about trading in for the younger model herself, but also a deviation of what Sam told him the previous night: it doesn't matter what anybody says or knows, the fact is that people still love smoking. She clearly can't imagine anytime that smoking would ever not be a vice enjoyed daily by a majority of the American population.



On Madison Avenure, a tall building houses the Sterling Cooper advertising agency. Three of the hotshot young executives that Don Draper is feeling breathing down his neck ride up in the lift - Ken, Paul and Harry - demonstrating the cocksure arrogance of princes of the city. A young woman stands in front of them as they ride up, and they take great pleasure in openly and without any subtlety throwing "charming" comments her way about how much they're enjoying the view. Talk shifts to the bachelor party of another young executive called Pete Campbell, all while they openly leer at the young woman.

Once off the lift, they chide the lead instigator since the new girl will probably be assigned to one of them as a secretary. He's unmoved, smirking that you have to show secretaries the kind of guy you are so they will know the kind of girl THEY need to be. The others are amused but don't let this go uncommented on, joking that they're unlikely to be attending HIS bachelor party anytime soon. Despite this barest nod to the idea that women might be people too, though, they ignore and openly dismiss the protests of Campbell's secretary as they burst into his office to see him, where he's taking a call from his fiance.

Earlier, Draper told Midge about a "kid" who was eying up his office. It must surely be Campbell, because kid is exactly the right word for him. He looks all of 17 years old, a baby-faced little boy in a suit, and he simply exudes arrogance as he tells his fiance to go shopping and assures her the bachelor party will be a staid affair (as he is gleefully shown a pamphlet for "The Slipper Room"). He promises her that he loves her, after all, by marrying her he's "giving up his whole life for her" and with that "romantic" declaration hangs up. When the others laugh that her old man being rich probably had a fair bit to do with that, he simply smirks, and it's unclear if he's just playing along with the joke or has no qualms about admitting they're right on the mark.

The girl from the lift, meanwhile, is being shown her new workplace. She's Peggy Olson (played by the wonderful Elisabeth Moss), and today she starts as a secretary at Sterling Cooper. Showing her around is Joan Holloway, the officer manager who clearly adores her role as the major female authority figure in the firm. With practiced self-assurance she strides through the desks past secretaries, offices and account executives (who toss back openly appreciative glances at both women) giving Peggy happy assurances that with the right moves she can move into the city like so many of the other staff... or even better, hook up with an executive and never have to work again.

She brings Peggy to her desk, just across from Joan's own, as they'll both be taking care of Don Draper until Peggy is more firmly settled in. Being his secretary mostly consists of having a 5th of rye, bandaids and aspirin in her desk drawer for when he needs it. Joan it seems is somebody who both respects and looks down on the men of her time: on the one hand they're valuable catches who can look after you and make your life a paradise, but on the other hand they're little boys who want a mommy to look after them. They're simple to manipulate by using your body, but also clever enough to design complicated technology in a way that is "simple enough for a woman to use".

For her part Peggy just drinks it all in, either naive enough to be awed by Joan's smarts, or savvy enough to play to her ego. She takes no offense at being told to put a paper bag over her head and look at herself naked in a mirror to figure out where her "strengths and weaknesses" are; she is thrilled to be told she has "darling little ankles" that she should "make sing" for the men in the office; she is awed by the hyper-modern technology of a single one-button intercom, telephone and typewriter, and betrays no sense of frustration at being assured she'll eventually get her head around it.

Don Draper arrives with an older man in tow and both women quickly greet them, but are offered no more than a brief smile and a "hello girls" before being promptly forgotten. Peggy isn't acknowledged beyond that at all, but seems thrilled all the same, she's just had her first encounter with both her immediate boss AND one of the owners of the company.



The owner is Roger Sterling, and he can't help but notice that Don isn't looking at his best. Is it the tobacco thing? Don, his guard back up after briefly letting it down with Midge, is all projected confidence and swagger now: the tobacco meeting at 4pm with the owner of Lucky Strikes doesn't concern him at all. In a classic case of reversal, he asks Sterling if HE is concerned, and Sterling promises him if he was he would be asking Don what exactly he planned to pitch at 4pm.

The basis of their relationship is established expertly in this scene. They clearly know (and like) each well enough to be open about certain things, to joke in a half-serious fashion but also to take each other at their word. Sterling has enough confidence in Draper that he hasn't asked him to tell him what he will actually be pitching at this vitally important meeting with a gigantic client, but also aware enough of the firm's position to drop meaningful hints about how they can't afford to gently caress this up. Don hides his failure from Sterling, but makes no bones about having been out late at night, going so far as to change into a fresh shirt from a draw full of them right in front of him. It's a different culture, a different age, where men going out drinking all night and needing to take aspirin and a little day drinking to get through their hangover was considered completely normal. These "mad men" lived wild lifestyles, "rockstars" of their industry, and it was not only tolerated but encouraged... so long as they kept delivering the goods come pitch time.

That's the problem Draper has to consider after Sterling leaves (in search of a "Jew" employee to help make a Jewish department store client feel comfortable with them at an 11am meeting). He was easy and relaxed with Sterling, but the truth remains he's still no closer to anything to pitch to Lucky Strikes. The aspirin he swallows, the fresh shirt, the luxurious (for the time) corner office.. none of them are helping inspiration to strike, and time keeps on ticking.



He reaches for a chest expander to exercise with (while smoking, of course) and knocks a small box as he does so. What falls out is a purple heart, and he tucks it back away in its box with his name on it: it seems he was a Lieutenant during the war (presumably Korean rather than World War 2). He's interrupted by the arrival of his Art Director Salvatore Romano (an Italian-American, Draper offered him up as the closest thing to Jewish he could think of when Sterling asked) who wants to show off his prospective art for the Lucky Strike people.

There's not much to it, a sketch of his neighbor shirtless on a hammock with RELAX written in one corner, but as he correctly notes he's the artist, not the writer, this is all he has had to work with so far. Don notes that Lucky Strike will probably want sex appeal so he'd like a girl in a bikini next to the guy, and Salvatore - so clearly gay that I actually can't figure out if he actually is or not - completely overcompensates with his enthusiasm for the chance to sketch a sexy girl.

They're joined by Greta Guttman, a German psychologist who works in the Research Department, a division that both Don and Salvatore obviously have little time for. They're not research people, they're "ideas" people: inspiration, art, a catchy jingle, something that preys on people's emotional reactions. So they're less than impressed by the older woman's officious manner (they're used to women fawning over them, not lecturing them) and insistence that her surveys have found a solution to the problem of cigarettes killing people: market them to people with a death wish.

Those aren't her exact words, of course, rather she points out that Americans enjoy feeling like they're exhibiting an independent streak by ignoring or dismissing warnings about danger. Salvatore, in a very clumsy bit of on-the-nose writing, says the idea of somebody pretending to be something they're not is ridiculous. Guttman is insistent though, talking glowingly of her studies with Adler in Vienna before the war, of Freud's musings on the "death wish", and it's those words that give Don the ammunition to dismiss her entire argument. Calling it perverse, mocking the concept entirely, reminding her that it was her who found them the medical testimonies 5-years-earlier to claim smoking was fine, he goes so far as to dump her research into his wastepaper basket. He warns her to share her findings with nobody. Satisfied that she has done her job and now his failure will be entirely on his own head, she makes a dignified exit, knowing that neither man takes her seriously if only because she is a woman who dares to speak her mind or to insist they refer to her by her proper title of Dr. Guttman.

But once she and Salvatore are gone, Don lets the mask slip again. He's talking a great game, full of confidence and self-assurance, but he has nothing. Nothing. The meeting grows ever closer and he's tired and old and past his prime and that revelation will soon come to everybody else too. He settles onto his couch and sleeps, too exhausted to think, feeling like the fly he can see caught behind the panel of one of his ceiling lights.

He's woken just before 11am by Peggy, carefully shaking him awake to let him know Pete Campbell is outside so they can go to the Menken Department store meeting. That wakes him up, has Campbell - a clear rival if not now then soon in the future - seen him asleep inside? She promises him not, then belatedly introduces herself when he realizes he has no idea who she is. He asks her to entertain Pete while he freshens up, and is amused when she apologetically asks if she really has to, glad that she finds Pete as off-putting as he does. He also appreciates that she has brought him aspirin, and gulps it down before telling her to get Pete. As if he'd been outside waiting to hear those words, Pete is immediately an intrusive presence, walking through the door and smugly talking about Peggy as if she wasn't there, or was simply a nice piece of ornamentation to be admired without consideration of how she might feel.

That might be preferable to the alternative though, as he deigns to speak to her at last and immediately begins openly ogling her. He tells her to show off her legs, to tighten the waist of her dress, and actually has the temerity to be offended when she isn't wowed and asks Don's permission to go. Not unsympathetic to her plight, Draper gives her leave and she's straight out the door, though not before Don offers a mocking (towards Pete) apology for Campbell's behavior.



As Don and Pete head towards the meeting, Pete is laughing and joking with Don like they're two contemporaries, asking if he's coming to the bachelor party, wondering if he can have first crack at Peggy, making jokes about her reputation. Don waits till they're relatively alone and then oozing a sophisticated charm that completely knocks the 26-year-old Pete off-balance, lays out a withering indictment of his personality and character: advertising is a small world made smaller if he tries to sully the reputation of a young stenographer on her first day, and if he continues down the road he's on, then even if he does somehow get Draper's position (an admission he's fully aware of Pete's ambition) it's as far as he will ever go. He'll live and die in that corner office, a pathetic loser who women only sleep with out of pity.

"Because no one will like you," Don declares simply, the barest tug of a smile on his face, then turns and leaves a speechless Pete behind.

They enter the room, where Roger starts to introduce them to the client only for Don to gently caress up whatever confidence he'd regained from his takedown of Pete. Advancing forward, he shakes the male's hand and warmly greets Mr. Menken... only to discover that the woman beside him is Rachel Menken, and SHE is the client they're trying to woo. Making things worse, Don asks who the clearly uncomfortable man is, and Sterling tries as smoothly as he can to "remind" him that this is David Cohen from their art department. Don immediately pivots to declare David is a rising star, but as they take their seats he quietly notes to Roger that Cohen is wearing one of his shirts, and Sterling admits that he pulled Cohen from the mail room.

At the Midtown Medical Building, Peggy is using her break to suffer the utter humiliation of meeting with Doctor Emerson at Joan Holloway's direction to request birth control. Commonly to be known to history as "the pill", the oral contraceptive had only been approved for use by the FDA in 1957, but by 1960 it was still only available in certain States and then only under certain conditions. Doctors were only allowed to prescribe it to married women, and then only with their husband's written consent. There was of course always a difference between theory and practice, but Peggy's situation was far from unusual. Forced to lie on her back and undergo a gynecological exam by a (smoking!) doctor who simultaneously makes inappropriate sexual comments AND moral judgements, she is warned that he will take her off the medication if she "abuses" it, and warns that even in the modern times of 1960 America, "easy women don't find husbands."

But modern times are coming to America, whether men like it or not, as Don Draper is quickly discovering. He's been so focused on his 4pm with Lucky Strike that he hadn't considered the 11am Menken meeting might be anything but a walk in the park. After detailing a completely standard advertising campaign of television spots and 10% coupons to get people into the department store, he's flummoxed when Rachel Menken is utterly unimpressed. The best he can offer her is coupons? She doesn't care if they work, her store has six decades of history and shares a wall with Tiffany's, she's not in the discount market. Don doesn't know how to react when she reminds him that her father isn't here and SHE is, and it is HER whose opinion matters.



Things go from bad to worse when Pete tries to dance around the fact that she's Jewish and her store is likely to only attract a Jewish clientele. She cuts through the bullshit to straight up ask if that is what he means and he seems relieved to agree that yes, yes her being Jewish is the problem! Disappointed in the fact they offered the exact same strategy as her old (Jewish) advertising firm did, she critiques Sterling Cooper which was supposed to have a reputation for innovation. Don has had enough, declaring that he's not going to sit around and be spoken down to by a woman! Sure he's impressed by Midge's independence, but the idea of a woman actually giving him instruction or looking down on him - a man! - is beyond the pale. He storms out, quickly followed by Pete, and Rachel makes her own offended departure soon after. That just leaves Sterling and poor Cohen, who reaches for a drink and thinks better of it when he sees his employer glaring at him.

Pete follows Don down the corridors, assuring him he agrees that Menken was way out of line. Don, who already knows he hosed up, and more importantly that he pissed off Roger as well, comments that this is probably going to work out in Pete's favor. Pete stops him to give him a speech about how he admits he wants Don's job but not yet, and not at Don's own expense. He admits his own faults, agrees that Don's earlier assessment of him was accurate, and for a second Draper actually seems touched and starts to apologize for being so hard on him. But when Pete pushes it too far by declaring he'd follow Don into combat blindfolded and throws out a hand for a handshake, Don sees right through it. With a sardonic line about not wanting to get pregnant, he walks away and leaves Pete with arm foolishly extended. Looking around to make sure nobody saw his embarrassment, Peter grunts out a tiny little,"gently caress you" under his breath and storms away.

That's the problem with Pete. At 26 he's clearly smart and talented, and has a bright future... but the speed of his ascent has only added to his arrogance. He's the kind of guy who not only thinks he is smarter than everybody else, but that everybody else is too stupid to see the contempt he holds for them. His crude attempt to work Draper just not was embarrassing, not just because he was left with hand extended like a jackass, but because he thought that line about being a soldier under Don's command would work.

In addition to her humiliating visit to Dr. Emerson, Peggy has also picked up some specific gifts at Joan's command, the purpose for which she'll learn now. She's taken to the switchboard room, which Joan classifies as the nerve center of the entire office. These are the women she must always approach as a supplicant, never giving orders but only making requests, bearing gifts and never demanding anything. Opening the door, she points out Marge, Nanette and Ivy, who are expertly taking multiple calls and redirecting them via the switchboard even as Joan introduces them.

As they're handed gifts, Peggy listens wide-eyed as they chat with Joan and she picks up several key points: Don Draper's former secretary "moved on" because Don "wasn't interested"; She also couldn't get any calls through because she was rude to the switchboard operators; and they note she has good legs and that Don Draper would be impressed by them... if he could see them. Joan thanks them for their time and they wave a cheerful goodbye as they return to their calls.



The dreaded 4pm meeting has arrived at last. Lee Garner Senior, owner of Lucky Strikes, is complaining bitterly about "Government interlopers" who aren't satisfied with their "safer" cigarette. All the men cough in the smoke-filled room, another one of those clumsy little writing moments, before Garner goes on to warn that one of his rivals is now being sued because of the health claims they made about their cigarettes, a fate Garner wants to avoid. Roger explains that "media manipulation" is what has caused the public to believe cigarettes are somehow linked to fatal diseases like lung cancer. Garner and his son dismiss this, pointing out their father/grandfather died at 95 from being hit by a truck after a lifetime of smoking... besides, they pay Sterling Cooper to manipulate the media for them! Sterling agrees with them but points out regardless of the reason, the law now says they can't claim health benefits... and then turns at last to Don Draper for the moment of truth.

Nothing comes.

As he feared all along, there would be no last second reprieve. No flash of inspiration. Don is lost at sea, he cannot think how to advertise cigarettes without avoiding the public perception that they're dangerous. He opens his notes, he stammers, he mentions how he is a Lucky Strikes man.... and that's it, that's all he has to offer.

So Pete makes his move.

Standing up, reveling in the attention, the chance to shine, he holds forth on his brave new campaign: so what if cigarettes are dangerous? Likening it to driving a car despite the fact people die in those too, he proclaims the answer is to say people know cigarettes are dangerous but don't care, if you're a man you'll smoke anyway because you have to. Garner Jr, middle-aged but used to being the young man in the room, isn't entirely put-off by this idea, "if" cigarettes were dangerous then maybe this might work? Garner Sr is having none of it though, because cigarettes AREN'T dangerous, and is Pete really suggesting a slogan of,"You're going to die anyway. Die with us"?

Pete is warmed up though, and says the fatal words: death wish. This knocks Draper out of his daze as he recognizes the term from his earlier meeting with Dr. Guttman. Pete explains the psychological principle of the death wish and says they just need to tap into that. But Garner is revolted, selling death? They're not selling rifles, they're selling cigarettes! Disgusted at the notion that this is what America - which he claims the Indians "gave" to them - has come to, he can't believe Sterling Cooper is throwing this at them as an advertising idea. Seeing his father has no interest, Garner Jr says it is time for them to go, and they all raise from the table, Sterling as well, watching one of his biggest clients about to walk out the door. As they go, Garner Jr admits at least every other tobacco company will be having this problem too, and that finally does the trick. Don Draper finally sees the light.



All this time, he's been trying to think of a way to do business as usual, to get around the restrictions that prevented their successful prior advertising campaigns. What he hadn't truly considered until Garner Jr mentioned it is that it is a level playing field, a blank page. Because NONE of the other tobacco companies can advertise the way they used to, everybody has to change up their game, and that gives them the opportunity to get in first.

He asks Garner Jr how they make their cigarettes, and Garner Sr is outraged to discover his son actually doesn't know. So he takes Don through the process, who seizes on the word "toasted" in the process. Eagerly he writes on a blackboard "Lucky Strike: It's Toasted" and beams with pride back at the Garners, who are confused. Garner Jr points out that EVERYBODY's tobacco is toasted, but here Don corrects him: no, everybody else's tobacco is POISONOUS.... Lucky Strike's tobacco is toasted.

Beaming, Sterling turns with pride back to the still confused Garners, so Don gives them the sell, charming the socks off them as he explains that advertising is about happiness: the smell of a new car, the assurance of driving down the road and seeing a billboard that tells you that everything is okay. "You... are okay" he says almost wistfully, in complete denial of Guttman's (and Pete's) embracing of the death wish. Garner Sr finally sees what Don is selling, assurance for the customer, and returns to his seat happily, already seeing the returns from this campaign with the added bonus of his competitors still scrambling to find their own twist. Sterling is thrilled, his confidence in his old friend has paid off yet again, while Pete almost protectively touches Guttman's red folder and considers how badly he misplayed his hand.

Don and Roger celebrate in Don's office, where Sterling admits he was worried and Draper in turn admits that he really did have nothing and simply pulled this win out of thin air. That doesn't bother Sterling though, the point is that he DID pull something out, and reminds him that he's still hoping to convince Don to work on a Presidential campaign too. Draper isn't keen in spite of Sterling's selljob on the obvious pluses of the candidate: a young, handsome Navy hero... yes, America is going to fall in love with Richard Nixon!

Ken, Paul, Harry and Pete come spilling into the room barely seconds after an attempted warning from Peggy via the intercom. They've brought alcohol to celebrate Don's success in the meeting, Pete saying he told them all how amazing he was. Don flashes the briefest scowl Pete's way before his calm face returns, while Sterling decides to make his exit now that the "mid-level" executives have arrived. Before he goes though he asks Don to consider turning his charm on Rachel Menken to make up for the disastrous 11am, and Don says it's really been enough magic for today... so Sterling offers back the magic words: "she's worth 3 million dollars."

Funny how seemingly locked-in gender, race and religious beliefs completely fall apart the moment large amounts of money get involved.

The executives want Don to join them for Pete's bachelor party but he begs off, an unmistakable snub that Pete tries to blunt by insisting Don will join them later and leaving a Slipper Room pamphlet on his desk. But Draper stops Pete as he is leaving to remind him of something: he'd have used Greta's research if he thought it was worth using. He ignores Pete's protests that he doesn't know what he's talking about, reminding him he had the only copy of the file and there's no magical machine that can make a copy of a paper record in an instant! Pete, to his credit, shows a little backbone by noting that even if the pitch fell flat, he still thinks Greta's research was right. Don, perhaps just because he's in a good mood, maybe because he sees the value in not making unnecessary enemies, steps up and gives Pete the handshake he denied him before, and wishes him a fun party.

Pete makes his exit, and Peggy approaches to thank Don for making her first day so easy, as well as congratulate him on how well the meeting went. Taking the opportunity after a full day of hearing how important it was to get "Mr. Draper" to like her, she lays her hand on his meaningfully, staring at him waiting for the inevitable.... and he removes her hand and offers her two pieces of advice that Joan should have: he's her boss, not her boyfriend, and if she ever lets somebody like Pete into his office to rifle through his wastebin again she's fired.



Horrified, she promises that Pete told her he'd left a fountain pen behind and had no idea he stole the file. He's said his piece and moved on already though, dismissing her with a request to put through one last call for him before she leaves for the day.

At the Slipper Room, Salvatore has joined Ken, Paul, Harry and Pete, where he insists that he plans to do more than look at pretty woman tonight. Several show up right then, having spotted well-dressed young men without dates throwing around money to the waitresses and figuring they're likely to welcome them with open arms and buy them drinks. As the women take places between the men, Salvatore agrees happily with one who says how much she loves a place that is hot, loud and filled with men (very subtle writing here).

One of the girls flirts playfully with Pete, but he goes from 0-60 in a second, reaching down and strokes one hand up her leg. Still laughing but insistent, she pushes his arm away, but when he continues to try his luck the laughter stops and she tells him firmly that enough is enough. He still isn't done though, and when she tries to suggest to the others they go he clamps down firmly on her wrist. "You're hurting me" she grits through a forced smile, and this gets the attention of the other men as well who cast him questioning looks. Realizing at last he's taken things too far, Pete releases her, promises sulkily he will be good and tosses money on the table, telling the waitress to bring the girls whatever drinks they want. His would-be conquest quickly slips over to join the safer Ken Cosgrove, and asks what they do for a living. They're the best drat ad-men in New York... hell the world! is the answer, and they all laugh, except for Pete, who continues to sulk at being told no not for the first time today.

At a far less hot and loud Zebra Lounge, Don Draper has taken out Rachel Menken to follow up on Roger Sterling's request to make up for his disastrous morning performance. She sips on an enormous Mai-Tai as he apologizes for treating her like anything other than a client, assuring her it was mostly down to stress over a different client before admitting that this really doesn't matter or excuse it anyway. She admits in turn it was actually refreshing to hear somebody say out loud all the things she's always assumed people think about her anyway. She's no stranger to being overlooked or dismissed purely because of her gender (or religion), but it's usually couched in polite or coded terminology.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, he asks her with obvious fascination WHY she wants to run her father's business. It's a genuine question from him, he is after all a product of his time, and he simply doesn't grasp why any woman would choose the headaches of business (and dealing with people like himself) when she could simply get married, have kids and be "happy". Irritated, she points out that as a woman she is not allowed to ask him questions like that, and if she was a man she wouldn't have to make that choice. In any case, all she has ever dreamed of is turning her father's store into the success she always thought it could be, and even if she hadn't, she's never been in love anyway.

Don, feeling on firmer ground now the apologies are out of the way, is amused by the notion of love. He declares love is simply an invention by people like himself to sell things like nylons. She's never felt in love because it doesn't exist, at least not in the storybook, billboard advertising sense. There is no happily ever after, no perfect relationship, no perfect partner. It's why he lives like there is no tomorrow, because there isn't, only the enjoyment of today. Rachel listens to all this and comes to a realization, that he doth protest too much. He was too impassioned in his defense of his lifestyle, too fired up after the laidback mockery of her concept of love. With disturbing precision, she notes that she suspects he understands too well her own condition of always feeling somehow disconnected, an outsider. For her it is due to be Jewish AND a woman... so why does HE feel that way?

Now he's shaken again, his usual smooth patter replaced by awkwardly failing to meet her eye and nervous asking if she wants a drink. She doesn't, but she will let him off the hook in another way, he can tell Sterling he charmed her, and she will see him on Monday morning... for a REAL campaign pitch. He gratefully accepts this, for all his joking that Sterling was a whore, he can't deny that a client worth 3 million dollars is more than worth forgetting silly little things like gender over.

Pete, meanwhile, is not being a good boy. Drunk as a skunk, barely able to stand, he's not dropped around to see his fiance and her mother as promised. Instead, he's tracked down Peggy to her tiny apartment in Brooklyn, where the door is answered by her suspicious roommate Marjorie. Reluctantly she gets Peggy who assures her she knows the very drunk Pete from work, then steps outside and closes the door on her. Pete mumbles that he's getting married on Sunday, that she probably thinks he is a creep... then does himself no favors by stepping forward and sniffing her hair. But when he explains he wanted to see her, that he had to see her, she does a surprising thing. Calling out to Marjorie, she tells her she is going to bed, then quietly opens the door and reenters her apartment... and takes Pete with her.



Who IS Peggy Olson. In this first episode, knowing nothing else about her beyond what is shown, everything up to this point has seemed to indicate she is exactly what she appears to be: a young, somewhat naive girl stuck in an incredibly lovely part of history for her gender. But this move with Pete leaves me pondering everything before now in a new context. Is she playing a game? Putting on an act? Is the fresh-faced young girl act simply to make her more appealing to men she wants to trap? Once her move on Don Draper failed she was clearly off-balance, is this why she grabbed at this opportunity when Pete - who make no mistake is a GIANT creep - showed up at her door. Is he a backup plan? Does she intend a relationship? To be a mistress? Does she harbor fantasies of replacing his actual fiance? Blackmail? Or is she simply what she appears to be, a naive young girl overwhelmed by Madison Avenue and romantic ideas of the type of love Don Draper made up to sell nylons?

The episode is essentially over and there's more than enough there to have really captured my interest. The production design is of course top-notch, the actors are excellent and their characters well-realized, and there is a kind of horrified fascination in seeing the blatant racism and misogyny just nakedly in everybody's faces at all times without feeling forced. If anything, it is normalized, a reminder that not all that long ago in a time that was considered "modern" these backward concepts weren't just the province of a select minority but almost a blanket population-wide mindset. If the episode had ended with the Peggy/Pete scene I'd have been intrigued enough, but there is one more scene that acts as a double whammy on top of that one.

Don Draper rides by train through a raining night, then catches a cab that drives him out into the suburbs far from Madison Avenue, Midge, Rachel, the Zebra Lounge or the Slipper Room. He enters a charming, well-appointed suburban home and walks up the stairs to the bedroom, where a blonde woman lies sleeping. She wakes when she hears him, and a wide smile crosses his lips. She called his office and was told he had left for the day, so when he didn't arrive home she assumed he was staying overnight in the city again. There's food in the oven if he wants it, but he only seems interested in beaming with adoration at her, kissing her, loving her.

He tells her he'll be right back and heads to another bedroom, where two children lie sleeping peacefully, angelically in bed. Cupping both their heads in his hands, he is filled with happiness at the sight of his children. His wife steps into the doorframe and looks at the paternal scene with her own sense of adoration: Don Draper, loving husband and father.

Who IS Don Draper? Has every single thing he has said this entire episode been a lie? His marriage offer to Midge? His proclamation of hedonistic short term excess to Rachel? His contemptuous dismissal of love or happily ever after? Or is THIS the lie? This suburban home and perfect family? After an episode in which he dominated almost all the screen-time, in these last couple of minutes I find my entire idea of who Don Draper is completely thrown for a loop. I have no idea who he is. And, based on the final image of this episode...



...I'm not entirely sure Don Draper knows who he is, either.

Episode Index

Jerusalem fucked around with this message at 02:25 on Sep 27, 2020

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly



I just completed a first watch of Mad Men over the summer and was absolutely floored. I'm so excited to read your write ups!

Annabel Pee
Dec 29, 2008


I rewatched the show reading Matt Zollers companion book The Carousel, and look forward to living it again through these reviews.I prefer your reviews, especially coming from a newbie. I hope you end up liking the show as much or more than Sopranos, theres so much in there and you hit some of the themes spot-on so cant wait till you get to some of the upcoming twists.

God Hole
Mar 2, 2016


I really enjoyed your writeups for the wire... years ago at this point.

I also waited until the series was long over to watch it, and when I finally did, it was a binge-watch. so needless to say, I only really got a surface-level understanding of some of the more ambitious social commentaries the series was attempting. it wasn't until months after I finished it that I finally internalized the darker implications behind the last sequence in the finale.

I'm really excited for this! enjoy it, jerusalem. this series is a wild ride.

Bip Roberts
Mar 29, 2005





I am super up for reading along this thread. I probably won't rewatch until at least the last season which I never saw but I love these write-ups.

Bioshuffle
Feb 10, 2011

No good deed goes unpunished



Definitely looking forward to your posts!

I also finished the series for the first time ever. I felt ambivalent about the show, especially after the third season, but I plowed through it just to get it done.

GoutPatrol
Oct 17, 2009

Coal Jobs for the Coal God


Are you referring to Dick when you're talking about Paul Kinsey? Did they gave him a different name after the pilot?

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


It should really come as no surprise given the Sopranos alumni present in the credits, but it really is remarkable how assured and confident the pilot is. This doesn't feel like a show trying to find its footing, it feels like we've walked fully formed into a pre-existing, breathing world with characters who have real history. There are some clunky moments in the writing that stand out mostly because they're so few and far between, like the too-cute comment about there not being a magic machine that can make copies of things. The only thing that I was really sour on was the on-the-nose writing for Salvatore. It's one thing for him to be in denial (or overcompensating to hide) about being gay, but lines like,"Why would anybody pretend to be something they're not?" feels incredibly awkward. I'll be interested to see if that gets more subtle as the series continues, or how they adjust for the character.

GoutPatrol posted:

Are you referring to Dick when you're talking about Paul Kinsey? Did they gave him a different name after the pilot?

I ran off the pilot script for the names of people that weren't explicitly named in the first episode, it's possible I had an older version that gave him a different name (or I just screwed it up!). The names of the three young execs hanging out with Pete were listed as Ken, Dick and Harry, is that inaccurate?

Gaius Marius
Oct 9, 2012


Yeah kens the guy who starred in LA noir, Paul is the one you refered to as dick, and harry's the guy with the glasses.

I didn't comment during the Sopranos rewatch, but I really enjoyed rewatching the show along with your posts. Excellent work. And yeah similar to the first episode of the sopranos mad men early on does have a few moments that are a little on the nose. I think it starts coming together better once the writers find their footing and the viewers are fully able to internalize the 60's setting without being reminded smoking used to be cool.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Thanks, I've edited Paul's name in and removed Dick's, hopefully it won't take too long for me to become more familiar with the various supporting characters' names.

JethroMcB
Jan 23, 2004

We're normal now.
We love your family.


Hell yes, I'm pumped for this. Perfect excuse to start a rewatch. When I first watched it via Netflix by mail in 2008, as a young naif, I was genuinely shocked by the family reveal at the end of the pilot. They did such a good job of making Don such a cad, a man seemingly committed to projecting a very specific image to the people around him, that I expected him to see him wind up alone in an empty room.

I maintain that Mad Men is the show that most directly carried on the legacy, voice and attitude of The Sopranos. I watched a lot of this series before I finished The Sopranos and as a result I could readily identify a later season Sopranos episode that Matt Weiner had a script credit on, just based on the mood (They were usually the ones where Tony's ennui was suffocating, where it's clear that he has everything yet longs for something. Weiner's really fixated on that concept. His other two main story tracks are "Wow, LA is really different from NYC, huh!" and "Everybody who works in television is a piece of poo poo." That seems like I'm highly critical but I do love this show; there are a few storylines I have my qualms with but overall I don't think there was ever an outright bad episode. I'm not exaggerating when I say I think about or reference this show on a daily basis.)

JethroMcB fucked around with this message at 04:14 on Sep 27, 2020

SLICK GOKU BABY
Jun 12, 2001

A Little Known FACT: Burger King's Bacon King is superior to the Baconator.


Mad Men was good. Can't think of too many dramas that match it. Probably due to give it a rewatch myself at some point.

Escobarbarian
Jun 18, 2004




Grimey Drawer

Hell yes!!!!! I am so glad this thread is finally here.

First recap was great, and Iím really impressed at your perception. There were honestly moments where I was like are you SURE you havenít seen this show before? Really good stuff.

Bookmarking this thread so it doesnít take me two days to notice it again

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Season 1, Episode 2 - Ladies Room
Written by Matthew Weiner, Directed by Alan Taylor

Joan Holloway posted:

You might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Don and Betty Draper enjoy a relaxed, enjoyable dinner with Roger and Mona Sterling ats Toots Shor, where the booze keeps coming at Sterling's laid-back but insistent direction. Their salads are prepared at the table while the conversation flows smoothly, Sterling fondly remembering his childhood nanny Belva (the German girl with the enormous bosom who preceded her was fired after the Lindbergh kidnapping) and the meals she would prepare him as a child. Betty, eager to be involved in the conversation, notes they've flirted with the idea of a nanny but are so far sticking with a part-time maid/babysitter.

It's all very charming and enjoyable until the conversation naturally comes around to Don himself: what about HIS childhood? Did he have a nanny? Betraying not a iota of unease, he smoothly rejects answering the question, first joking that he is saving the story for his autobiography before insisting it's a rather dull story and not worth knowing. Betty, adoring wife, claims that she knows better than anybody that her husband doesn't like to talk about himself, an idea that Roger seems surprised and amused by: an Ad Man who DOESN'T like to talk about himself?

Roger, of course, DOES like to talk about himself, and like so many incredibly wealthy people, he likes to complain about how tough he has it. His sixteen-year-old daughter is going to see a psychiatrist, a notion he finds ridiculous even if Mona points out that many young people see them nowadays. It seems she wouldn't get out of bed, and the word "depression" would have a different connotation to this foursome than our modern sensibilities. Roger's reply probably goes a long way towards explaining her dejection though, as he "jokes" that he can't wait till he can marry her off and she becomes another man's problem.

The ladies excuse themselves to use the bathroom, leaving the men to relax alone for a moment in companionable silence. Roger makes an astute point that largely went unnoticed due to the focus on Don: Mona doesn't talk about herself either, in fact he jokes he feels like he knows Betty better than his own wife.

In the ladies room, Betty struggles and ultimately fails to open her lipstick, her fingers fumbling over it. Forcing a smile, she asks Mona to please help her, noting that her hands appear to have gone numb as if it might just be a common occurrence. Mona of course notes that she's never experienced it, but is happy to do Betty's lipstick for her, complimenting her lips while sternly telling her not to smile and make it harder to make her look pretty. (gee I wonder why their daughter has depression). Betty enjoys the compliment though, but admits things have been tough recently what with the kids and running the house... and timidly mentions that her mother died recently. Mona simply stares back, a friendly acquaintance but certainly not a friend, offering no comfort. The words,"I'm sorry" come not from her but a bathroom attendant, who is politely asking them to move on so other women can use the mirror. The two wives leave, with the African-American attendants watching them go and commenting sourly on their fashionable but tiny purses and the lack of tip, all but invisible to the other women.



Don and Betty drive home, and she revels in what has felt like a perfect evening beyond the odd numbness in her hands. Don too is beaming, arm around her shoulders and one hand resting rakishly over the steering wheel as he and the multiple alcoholic drinks he consumed drive them home. She gushes over how much she loves seeing him in social settings, how in control he seems and how clear his vision of what he wants seems to be. He's grateful for the compliment but also slightly surprised, noting that he likes to think he ALWAYS knows what he wants.

There's no tension between them though, even when she clutches at her stomach and admits her lobster and drinks didn't mesh too well it's said with a laugh and taken in good humor. She admits she drank a little more than she usually would, but she didn't want to offend Roger by turning down his drinks, after all he is Don's Boss and it is obvious he likes him. Don agrees, going to Toots Shor is a clear sign that Roger likes him... but it's the Four Seasons he wants to be taken to, because then he'll know Roger trusts him, and that is far more important to him.

Tension does slightly creep in when she brings up that Roger was very open about his childhood and this seemed like an invitation to share that Don didn't take up. Careful to maintain an easy air, he explains that he was raised to believe talking about yourself was a sin of pride. She's amused by the idea of a reverent Don Draper, and her still upset stomach puts an end to the conversation as she shifts away from him to sit by the open window and get some fresh air, but not before offering him a loving smile.

At home and in bed though (he is, of course, smoking), she can't shake her fixation on this giant gap in his life she doesn't know about. Did he have a nanny? Cornered, he grumpily says no he didn't, but when she starts asking about his parents he won't be drawn, instead using his considerable charm to distract her with a quip about religion, politics and sex before they begin to kiss and end a perfect evening in a physical way. But with the sex over and Don sleeping peacefully beside her, Betty can't sleep and can't shake the desire to know more. They're married, they have children, they have been together for years, but there is still so much she doesn't know about the man she is supposed to share everything with. "Who's in there?" she asks out loud, and gets the same answer she'd get if he was awake: none.



At Sterling Cooper, a glowing Peggy Olson has finally received her first paycheck and is over the moon: $35 (minus $6.75 FICA), she's loaded! Joan Holloway is amused by her excitement, assuring her the amount (roughly $245 in 2020) is nothing to celebrate beyond being her first one. But Peggy sees it a different way, this is proof of what she's been crowing about to everybody she knows for the last two weeks: she works in Manhattan!

They enter the ladies room, where Joan moves right past a crying woman without a second look or the remotest surprise. Peggy is not so callous, stopping and asking the woman - Bridget - if she is okay. Bridget just keeps sobbing, and Joan waves at Peggy to ignore her before heading into a stall. Peggy hesitates a moment then heads for her own stall, leaving behind the weeping woman uncomforted and alone.

In Don's office, his executives are gleefully unpacking a box of Gillette's latest product: Right Guard, a deodorant that comes in a new-fangled invention called an aerosol can. Gillette has the sole rights to the combination of deodorant and spray, Ken Cosgrove excitedly explains, and they have the advertising account to sell this concept. As he waxes lyrical on the "modern man" concept he wants to push, Salvatore and Harry start playing with the spray like a toy, grabbing Ken's and playing keepaway with it, mocking his poor basketball skills despite his height.

A sudden word from Don shuts them all up, at first it seems like the adult in the room is talking as he leans against a window frame and peruses the file on Right Guard, commenting that it needs further research. A tiny smirk though clues them in, and Paul gleefully asks who smells the worst, leading to the three of them stripping a protesting Ken to his undershirt and spraying him down with Right Guard.... just as Bertram Cooper, co-owner of the firm comes walking in. Peggy had tried to warn Don by buzzing him but he hadn't heard over all the giggling, and the old man glares at them, it seems the adult in the room HAS finally arrived... until he cracks a homosexuality joke about Sterling usually the one bringing the "navy" to the office.

Don is, as always, utterly smooth as he quips that they were working on a brassiere account and only just realized they can't sell them to men, and Cooper softly laments about how much yarn they could have moved. In this brief exchange we see that the culture of the firm is established from the top down, and that while Sterling and Cooper both are careful to avoid socializing with the mid-level execs (who in turn are intimidated by them), there is very much a boys club mindset here. Don stands high enough to enjoy a level of familiarity with both his bosses and his underlings, to attend dinner with Sterling and to crack jokes with Cooper who happily cracks them right back.

But he IS Don's boss, and that soon becomes apparent. Because Sterling is waiting outside sitting against Peggy's desk, and this is a full court press, they're here to make it clear to Don that they're no longer asking him to work an advertising campaign for Richard Nixon, they're telling him. Don doesn't outright refuse but he also doesn't agree, instead simply noting that not only does Nixon not want them he doesn't need them. He lauds Nixon's Checkers speech as a classic example of distraction from financial impropriety, what can they offer in return? The answer convinces him beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is going to happen.

Because just like their strongly held opinions about a woman's place crumbled in the face of Rachel Menken's millions, their disinterest in politics is swept away by the financial interests of their biggest advertising accounts. Proctor and Gamble, the United Fruit company etc, they all benefited greatly from a Republican Administration, and they want to make sure those good years continue. If the good years continue for them, the good years will continue for Sterling Cooper too, so Don Draper is going to run an advertising campaign for Richard Nixon regardless of Nixon's owns thoughts on the matter.



Behind Cooper but unnoticed by him, a fireball can be seen going up from Don's office, where the giggling executives are having more fun with the deodorant spray. Don notices it, of course, and he also can't help but notice as Cooper walks away that he isn't wearing shoes, his socks flopping along on the carpet as he wanders off to his own office. It's okay though, he's rich, so this just makes him eccentric.

Sterling tells Don to assemble a team and start working up files on potential rivals for Nixon like Symington or Kennedy (obviously the second choice!), so Don declines joining Paul and the others for lunch as originally planned. That is Peggy's cue though, it's lunch time, and she pulls out a paper bag which catches Paul's attention. He notes there is a pie cart that comes around he sometimes buys lunch from, but she politely declines the unspoken offer, simply saying she'll keep that in mind. Disappointed but unfazed, he says his goodbyes, and Joan pops over to compliment her on rejecting him. Peggy insists it was nothing so cruel, she just can't afford anything but her own lunch until after the first of the month. But when Joan sees the blackened banana and stale sandwich in plastic wrap she means to eat, she can't stand it, and offers to buy her lunch instead.

They pass into the tea room, where a large number of the staff have gathered because... well, it's lunch time! In 1960, Peggy eating at her desk was considered unusual, because everybody takes lunch at the same time and the office effectively grinds to a halt and empties out for people to have an actual, honest-to-God break from their work. Secretaries mix with copywriters mix with account executives, the latter of whom are laughing uproariously over a postcard Pete has sent from his honeymoon in Niagara Falls with the double entendre "the wettest place on earth" scrawled on it.

As Joan and Peggy pass, Joan suggesting they skip lunch and go shopping instead, they are overheard by the executives who quickly offer to take them to lunch, though Harry is quick to remind them he is married. Joan pretends to be of two minds, while Peggy makes the men preen by noting that they - dripping with deodorant - smell nice. She notices the postcard from Pete and casually asks if he's on honeymoon, but her face falls when they laugh about how he hasn't left the bedroom yet. It seems her peculiar decision to accept him into her apartment at the end of the previous episode wasn't some calculated move at all, but what she thought might be a precursor to something more?

At the cafe, Ken "charmingly" asks in a convoluted fashion if Peggy has a boyfriend, and Joan coolly declares that Peggy is looking AND like all the other single women is sorely disappointed by what's on offer. But the jokes and innuendo become progressively less charming and more ribald, as the men openly declare that there are bets going around about who will be the first to bed her, "joke" about paying her for sex, and Ken straight up places a hand on her waist and tells her to take the afternoon off so they can go to the zoo and "see what the animals are up to." She quickly begs off, saying she has work to do, and Joan smirks that no money will be changing hands today. With a complete lack of shame, Ken openly declares that he'll get his way with her eventually, all while Peggy is forced to hold a fake smile and pretend to Joan that she's unaffected by their crassness.



Back at work, Peggy settles back into her desk when Paul Kinsey arrives and cracks a joke about her having lunch with the "Hitler Youth". Uneasily she forces a smile (she has to do that a lot) and tries to explain it was a last minute thing, but he quickly puts a stop to that, obviously not offended. Rather he just wanted to give her a folder for Don to look through when he returns from his own lunch. As he starts to leave he pauses though, and with a grin tells her to feel free to look through it too. He leaves, and Peggy feels a wave of relief, not only was he not offended by her turning him down, but he's actually treating her like a person in her own right?

Free from at least one aspect of daily bullshit thought are Betty Draper and her neighbor Francine, who are having tea at the Draper home (and smoking, of course) as they gossip about the PTA and their new neighbor Helen Bishop... a divorcee. Betty is shocked, a divorced woman? In THIS neighborhood? To make matters worse, Francine gleefully shares, she has a nine-year-old boy and a baby. Betty is horrified at the thought of being alone like that without a man to lean on, while Francine has more material concerns: imagine having to still worry about money at their age! Spotting that Betty isn't quite on the same page she admits that wouldn't be the worst part of being divorced, but she is concerned that a divorcee on the block might somehow affect the real estate value of their neighborhood.

Realizing how quiet it is, Francine gets suspicious and calls for her son Ernie, and Betty similarly calls for her daughter Sally. They arrive, having been playing Spaceman, and Betty is livid to see Sally fully enveloped in a plastic dry-cleaning bag, sucking the plastic into her lips with every breath. She demands she come over that instant, glares at her... and warns her she better not have dumped the dry-cleaning onto the floor when she got that bag out!

Oh the 1960s.

Later that day, Betty drives slowly down the perfect street of her perfect neighborhood, her perfect children playing happily without seat-belts in (and over) the backseat. She passes a moving truck, staring in horror Helen Bishop - a woman around her own age - having to drag a large box up the driveway herself because she no longer has a man to do those things for her. Turning back to face the road, she feels her hand locking up once again with numbness, and struggles to get feeling back into them. Focused on her hands and not the road, she looks up and realizes with a shock she has curved off the road and into a neighbor's yard, knocking over their water feature as the slow-moving car comes to a halt.

For a moment she sits in shock, struggling to unlock her hands which finally respond, then clambers out of the car, at which point she belatedly remembers her children. Frantic, she pulls open the back door... and finds them lying on the floor giggling at the great fun of their tumble.

While his wife comes down from her fright, Don Draper is enjoying afternoon sex with Midge at her apartment. It's all laughter and relaxation until it's over, and as he lies basking in the afterglow finally notices that she has of all things a television. He's surprised and suspicious, he remembers her ranting about the evils of television and now she has one? Midge, no stranger to the way the minds of men work, immediately picks up that what he really upset by is the notion another man gave it to her. She tries to move past this petty jealousy but he continues to sulk, so in a fit of exasperation she hauls it up and shoves it out the window, causing an alarmed protest from a woman at some level below her. There, she demands, is he happy now? Don pauses for a moment, then agrees he is, which causes them both to laugh, and the tension passes. It's replaced by delighted alarm as Midge has her own delayed shock response and realizes how dangerous what she just did was, and runs back to the window to make sure she didn't actually hurt anybody.



Don returns home where Betty is feeding the children their dinner. They're thrilled to see him home and tell him about their adventure to the hospital where they got lollipops. Careful to betray none of their concern to the children, Don and Betty speak in broad terms about the accident and how Betty herself is doing. Don, feeling at least a little prickle of guilt, apologizes for being unreachable, explaining they were out to a business lunch and had to carry another executive called Freddy Rumsen out of the place.

The children are excused to watch Shirley Temple, and once alone Don asks more serious questions: what happened? Especially at only a little above 20 miles per hour? Betty admits she has been having trouble with her hands again, it seems that the event at Toots Shor was far from the first time. He insists that she needs to get this problem taken care of, that Dr. Patterson on Park Avenue is a quack who didn't thoroughly check on her. But while she, of course, agrees with everything her husband says, she explains that this time she saw an older doctor who offered the exact same advice that Patterson did, suggested the same tests she already did at Patterson's and learned they came back negative, and then told her the same thing Patterson has been trying to tell her: there's nothing physically wrong with her.

Don winces, because he knows what this means, and she confirms it. They want her to see a psychiatrist, and he's outraged at the concept, declaring this is just an easy out for doctors who don't want to admit when they can't figure out a real problem. Betty is doing her best not only to keep her composure but her "place", agreeing with Don while still reminding him that they've undertaken every physical check possible. When she timidly suggests she might have a nervous condition he barks that if she is nervous about driving he'll take her to a parking lot and practice with her. She doesn't know what to say, everything inside her is clearly wanting to scream at him that she needs help he won't let her get, but instead she goes with what a lifetime of conditioning has taught her is the correct choice: ask her husband what to do. What he declares is that they need a GOOD Doctor to look at her, and he'll go to Bert Cooper and get a recommendation from him since he's got his name up on the wall at St. Vincent's. Betty agrees with him of course but that doesn't stop him being angry, snapping at her to stop doing the dishes and leave it for their quasi-maid/babysitter to do later.

That evening before bed, Don does push-ups beside the bed and, with the benefit of time, has calmed down enough (especially having gotten his way) that he wants things to be back to normal. He jokingly jumps his push-up count from 12 to 98, but fails to get the smile or laugh he clearly expects. Pulling on his pajamas, he actually talks to her instead of at her, explaining that he does care and he does worry about her, calling her by her pet name of Birdie. She knows that, and seeing he has calmed somewhat she takes the opportunity to explore the notion further: she understands at last that Dr. Patterson was trying to lead her in this direction all along, and reminds him that psychiatry doesn't have the stigma it once did.

Don considers this, especially in light of her forgoing the Doctors and instead asking it of him, does HE think she needs a psychiatrist. Quietly he admits that he always considered psychiatry as something for unhappy people (like Sterling's daughter), and when he looks at her and their home and their children and their perfect life, he has to ask a question he finds unsettling... is she unhappy? Of course not, she assures him, and giggles when he asks for $35 (Peggy's weekly pay!) for curing her. "Whatever you think is best" she says not for the first time and far from the last, and with that he considers the matter settled. The lights go off and Don looks ready to fall asleep immediately, while Betty is left lying in the dark, her fears remaining unresolved, her unhappiness plain for all but her husband to see.



Don, of course, could just as easily ask the question of himself. He's ALSO got everything: great job, respect, a beautiful wife, beautiful children, a wonderful home. So why is he off sleeping with Midge, getting jealous of her possibly having another lover, and drinking and smoking his nights away in an effort to fill some obvious hole in his own heart. He can't understand why Betty could be unhappy, but either doesn't or won't ask the same thing of himself.

Distracted at work, Don smokes up a storm as he and the other executives wait in his office for Paul Kinsey's arrival. With a casual reveal that somebody committed suicide in front of his train on the way to work, he leaps straight into pitching the Right Guard campaign he and the others have worked up with Salvatore's art. It's a space age theme, astronauts and the future, and they're all very excited about it... until Don tells them astronauts are morons who pee their pants. They're startled, but he's largely ignoring them as he muses to himself, supposedly about the campaign but really of course about his concerns regarding Betty.

Even then his instincts are strong, as he notes that they're trying to market to the end user and not the purchaser. Men aren't going to buy Right Guard, it's going to be bought for them by their girlfriends or wives or mothers. So the campaign should be asking the question,"What do women want?" This kicks off the usual jokes, particularly from Salvatore, but Don isn't in a laughing mode. Smoking, considering, he ponders whether women still want cowboys? The strong, silent type (Gary Cooper?) who always bring the cattle home safe. Or is it something else? Some mysterious want they hide from men?

The others have no idea what to make of this, but what they do know is that Don isn't biting on their campaign pitch so they'll need to come up with something else. They leave despondent, Kinsey noting to Peggy when she asks how it went that at least he still has that novel he's been writing to fall back on. She's genuinely sorry to hear it didn't go well, and with boyish hopefulness he asks if she feels sorry enough to buy him lunch?

She does, it seems, as she takes him to the pie cart he told her about. He attempts to talk hip with Samuel, the African-American man who runs the cart, who replies back with dignified, smooth diction that his "sad drape" is lightweight and functional before politely telling Peggy the total of the meal. It's 60 cents, a not insignificant chunk of her bi-weekly pay, and Kinsey is quick to pay instead, giving Samuel a dollar and telling him to keep the change.

In a refreshing change of pace, Kinsey doesn't make lewd comments or make a move on Peggy. Instead he inquires about her time at Sterling Cooper, corrects her on her understanding of the structure of authority within the office, then takes her on a tour around the facilities. It's lunchtime so the place is deserted, meaning he can show her the media department, accounting and account management. As a copywriter, he takes great pleasure in mocking the talents of the Account Executives, and does a Rod Serling impression as he cracks a joke at the absent Pete Campbell's expense. She's not familiar with Twilight Zone though, and he's wounded by her admission she's not a fan of sci-fi either.

The tour continues into the Creative Department as he happily smokes his pipe, and they take a seat side-by-side at her desk to eat their sandwiches. There, Kinsey gains extra points when he notes that there are women copywriters, and while he feels you can always tell their copy from a man's, that isn't a bad thing: sometimes a woman is the man for the job. As he eats, he asks if she likes Ukrainian food, a clear if not unwelcome offer of a meal together, but she reminds him she still has work to concentrate on and with a whisper indicates that Don may still be in his office. Thanking her for the heads-up, he heads back to his own desk, though not without an amused admonishment for her reminding him of his earlier failure with Don when she offers commiserations.

Peggy is left alone, eating but for once not feeling isolated. Joan is friendly, her Boss isn't trying to get into her pants like every other man in the office, and now Paul Kinsey has spoken to her like a person and acknowledged the ability of women to do more than be secretaries or girlfriends/wives. This high powered Manhattan advertising agency is starting to feel more and more like a place she can fit in after all.



Lunch ends and the office is in full swing again when Sterling enters Don's office and finds him drinking alone. He comments half-joking that it should concern him how much of Don's working hours seem to be spent drinking, but has no qualms about joining him for a drink either, noting that 4:30pm is close enough to 5 to count. He's come to offer Don a friendly warning, Cooper is going to want Pete Campbell on the Nixon team and there'll be no getting around that. Clearly Cooper has some investment in belief in the young Campbell, because Sterling certainly does not. He scoffs at the fact Pete went to Niagara Falls for his honeymoon, it demonstrates a lack of imagination which for advertising is a great sin.

They sit quietly for a moment, and then Don asks the question that has been on his mind all day, and Sterling's immediate response sums up so much of this episode in a nutshell.

Don Draper: What do women want?
Roger Sterling: Who cares?

Don is searching though, and brings up that Sterling mentioned at dinner sending his daughter to a psychiatrist. Sterling pours himself another drink and flatly, dangerously responds that Don is mistaken, he never said that and Don never heard it. Don is smart enough to neither correct him nor apologize. Instead he simply sits and waits, and let Roger do what he does best: talk about himself. Without admitting to the psychiatry again outright, he acknowledges that in his experience the best thing to do with a woman when she is having issues is to hand her off to an expert to fix it, because he has no idea what they think or why. Don, keeping on safe ground, comments on a psychiatrist his unit had to contend with during the war and how nobody trusting him because he was a gossip. Sterling claims nothings changed since then, and goes so far as to exclaim that psychiatry itself is just a fad for bored women. What do women want? Everything, and more of it, all the time. His disdain is clear, as far he seems to be concerned, women are little more than children or animals, lesser beings and beneath him, to be indulged at times but also kept in firm hand. It is, unfortunately, far from a unique viewpoint for the time.

Don returns home where his children are watching People Are Funny, the same show that Midge was happily asking about earlier. He joins Betty in the kitchen where he admits that he was wrong when he said she had everything... and hands her a jewellery box with a white gold watch in it. She's thrilled by the present of course, but if he thought he could buy happiness in the same way Sterling claimed, he's soon proved wrong. Because as Betty brings him dinner, she asks whether he saw a bruise on Sally's face (he didn't) and ponders whether it was caused by the car accident (it wasn't) and what if she'd been scarred (she wasn't) and in some ways wouldn't that be worse than death? Living a long, cruel life with a horrible scar down the center of your face?

Don is horrified to hear all this come spilling out of her in a rush, but so is she. Trembling, she drops into her seat and he quickly moves to comfort her. Standing behind her, holding her shoulders, kissing her head. This is beyond his comprehension, far beyond any ability he has to fix, clearly beyond any simple physical medical condition. Despairing, she asks him what is wrong with her and he has to admit that, like the medical doctors, he doesn't know. Once again she asks him if HE thinks she needs to see somebody, and at last he agrees that she does. "Whatever you want," he tells her, and those words causing the faintest glimmer of happiness to shine through her despair. Because for once it isn't about what he wants? Or just the fact that he has at last acknowledged the problem at all?



Midge staggers home at 11am and is surprised to see Don seated in the corridor outside her door. She jokingly asks if he was fired, but when he tells her he called in sick after feeling upset from dropping Betty off at the doctor's, she's furious. Coldly, with almost naked contempt, she tells him not to bring "that" here. She's serious, she doesn't want to hear him talk about his wife when he's at her place, it makes her feel cruel, it's a reminder that she is the other woman, that she is a threat to his family but also that he has a domestic bliss and life that does NOT include her. No, she's not his wife (in spite of his joking marriage proposal last episode), she's the woman he sometimes has sex with, and now he's being jealous of her being with other men AND telling her about being with his wife? gently caress you, Don Draper!

Not wanting another woman in his life to be in emotional turmoil, he tells her she's right, then ponders if she has everything or nothing. She proclaims both, everything IS nothing. He's not much for philosophy though, but he is useful for something, she locked herself out of her own apartment and now that he's here he can climb in through the fire escape so she won't have to (at the moment it looks like she can barely walk a straight line). Now THAT is a problem he can solve, and he happily does so.

At Sterling Cooper, Salvatore asks Peggy if Don is in and she explains he called in sick. Without missing a beat Salvatore declares he's taking the day off too and she's not to tell anyone he was ever there, and turning on his heel he's immediately out of there. Lunch is coming though, so Peggy heads over to let Paul know she can't join him. She knocks at his door and he responds with a hearty,"Bienvenue!" She corrects him, it's not Bienvenue, it's Peggy! Rather than explaining, he pauses then simply calls out,"Hello!" She steps inside and tells him she can't leave the office since Mr. Draper isn't in.

Kinsey is amused, doesn't she know this means she CAN go out to lunch? She is worried he might call in though, and admits sheepishly that given this is her second week she doesn't want to risk anything, but she would like a rain check. Happily he steps up from behind his desk and comes around to join her as she happily tells her new friend how much she enjoyed the tour the other day... and then he's all over her, kissing her, telling her they can put the couch up against the door and have sex right there.

Startled, at first she tries to pretend it isn't happening, offering to go to the cart to get him a meal. But he keeps pushing, confused by her reluctance... but then he understands.... oh, she belongs to someone else? Dumbstruck, she listens as his imagination fills in blanks for her, he can't believe he made a move on Don Draper's girlfriend, he doesn't even like to sit in Don's chair! Realizing the wisdom of not correcting him, she doesn't agree that she "belongs" to Don, but does say there is somebody else. She quickly makes her exit, telling him there was a misunderstanding, and Paul is left ruing a lost chance, surely if she wasn't taken his 5 minute tour and 30 cent sandwich would have gotten him laid!

Instead, Peggy sits working throughout the day, all illusion of any male friendship dashed. As it grows closer to 5pm, she can't take it anymore and prepares to cover her typewriter and leave, but Joan catches her before she can go. Gone is the friendly (if sardonic) office manager, replaced by a cold stare and unflinching demands: the letters she typed after lunch after riddled with typos and unacceptable, she will have to redo all of them.

Some of the old humor comes back though when she sees the normally demure Peggy being aggressive, and she is even more amused when she discovers that Peggy is furious about every man from every corner of the office constantly making moves on her, leering at her, making lewd comments, trying to make her the dessert for their cheap lunches. Joan is delighted, pointing out that Peggy hasn't ever really experienced this kind of attention before, which Peggy unhappily admits is true. Cruelly, Joan explains that this is all down to her being the new girl, and since she's "not much" she might as well just enjoy it while it lasts.



With that horrifying bit of office mentor-ship out of the way, she leaves Peggy to type, but not before forcing Peggy to thank her for it. So Peggy types, and as she does, she's gratingly aware of every passing male staring, smirking, openly lusting over her (even Salvatore!). She suffers in silence, and only takes solace from one thing. Inside her desk drawer lies a hidden treasure, stolen from the noticeboard in the lunch room. Pete Campbell's postcard from his honeymoon is now hers, and she touches it and seems to take some reassurance from it. The creepy little man who drunkenly made his way from his bachelor party to her place for a single night of clumsy passion is somehow, someway, the object of her affection.

The correspondence done, she can hold herself together no longer. She retreats to the ladies room where she stops in front of a mirror to finally let it out and have a good cry. But when she arrives, she spots another woman sobbing in a corner. Face to face with herself in the mirror, seeing the crying woman and remembering Joan's indifference to Bridget earlier, Peggy makes a choice. Steeling herself, refusing to be just one more crying woman ignored in the ladies room, she keeps her eyes dry, her face controlled, and exits with her dignity intact, if not her emotional well-being.

Betty sees her psychiatrist, lying on a couch where she finally is given free reign to just talk. Uninterrupted, unprompted, uncorrected. She just talks and talks, almost a stream of consciousness, as he simply sits and writes and considers and lets her get it all out. It all spills out, and at the core of it is her mother and her recent death, and all the still unresolved issues she has from that death (and probably the life that preceded it). As she talks, she removes the watch Don gave her, and she smokes, and with a flat face she mutters words she clearly doesn't feel even if she believes in the wake of her mother's death: that they're all so lucky just to be alive.

Midge meanwhile is ready to go out and about on her independent way again. It's 7:30pm and she's all dressed up and off to a writer friend's reading where she jokes she'll have to act surprised that Jack Kerouac didn't show up. Don is asleep in her bed, and she tells him to lock up when he goes, showing him that this time at least she has her key with her. He gives her a kiss before she goes and she grunts that he stinks, but he insists it's a smell most women like. Then, instead of telling a woman what she thinks for once... he actually asks one. He asked the Junior Executives, he asked Roger, now he's finally asking a woman: what do women want? Her answer, of course, doesn't please him, because she says they don't want to be asked questions like that. But it does let him riff on some potential slogans, and with great pride he declares that what women want is any excuse to get closer.

"There's that ego people pay to see," smirks Midge, who gave Don an actual answer to his question only for him to reject it and make up his own on behalf of her gender.

From sex with Midge to dinner with Betty, Don takes her to Toots Shor on his own dime this time. She's thrilled of course, though anxious when asked by the waiter to decision on a number of potential side dishes. Don, of course, just says what he wants and is thanked for his choice and that's that. They enjoy their drinks, and Don gives her the giggles when he tells her that people are protesting paying for unlisted numbers by giving pornographic nom-de-phones like Pat McGroin.

Genuinely enjoying this happy, natural and romantic dinner, she holds his hand and lovingly tells him how nice it is, and he seems equally happy. They return home and she heads eagerly upstairs, and he promises to join her soon. First though, he takes a stop in his study to put through a phone call, apologising for the lateness. The person on the other end is not bothered, they were expecting his call and are ready to proceed. Without a hint of any moral or ethical concern, Betty Draper's psychiatrist proceeds to discuss in full detail the entire breakdown of her private session from earlier in the day. Don at least, has the decency to be ashamed enough to close the door, or maybe that's just because this discussion is private and not for Betty's ears.



After all, one continual message hammered home again and again during this episode is a sad reality faced by all these women in 1960. They "belong" to men. They are objects, prizes, burdens, territory to conquer etc. They have no real rights of their own, no expectation of privacy, no consideration that they might ever be in and of themselves people. Midge and Helen stand apart as independent women, and they're ostracized or considered lesser than. No wonder women cry in ladies rooms. No wonder Betty's hands go numb and she panics over imagined fears to explain the uncertainty she still feels in an otherwise perfect life. No wonder Peggy has to excuse and apologize and lie to get out of situations with men who are being monstrously sexually inappropriate towards her.

The episode ends with the door closing and the camera pulling away. The last thing we see before the credits is a long hallway leading down to the modern stove set into the wall. Just one more beautiful, expensive thing that ultimately won't bring Betty Draper the happiness she do desperately wants.

Episode Index

Jerusalem fucked around with this message at 14:17 on Sep 28, 2020

Ainsley McTree
Feb 19, 2004




Escobarbarian posted:

There were honestly moments where I was like are you SURE you havenít seen this show before? Really good stuff.


I was thinking the same thing haha. Can't wait to see the rest of these!

JethroMcB
Jan 23, 2004

We're normal now.
We love your family.


The thing that strikes me first and foremost revisiting these early episodes is just how heavy-handed the "Holy poo poo, the 60's!" stuff is. It doesn't ever really go away - this is very much a show about its time period - but the really hacky bits like everybody coughing after discussing "safer cigarettes" and "Simple enough for a woman to use" and the plastic bag thing do fade away relatively quickly.

The second thing is, holy poo poo, Young Pete! For all the attention Don gets, I think Pete Campbell may be one of the greatest television characters of all time, in terms of both how he's written and how Kartheiser portrays his gradual "evolution," physically and otherwise. i don't know that you ever like him, but...he has his moments. ("THE KING ORDERED IT!")

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


I am amazed and impressed by how easily the show in its second episode took Betty Draper and immediately made her into such a compelling character, considering that she is entirely absent from 99% of the first episode and basically exists in the other 1% just to stare lovingly at Don. All while also having this fantastic running subplot of Peggy's miserable experience in the working world that acts as a kind of warped reflection of Betty's own unhappiness.

It was an interesting choice to have Pete completely absent after making him such a heavy part of the first episode. It's helped by him looming large by his absence: he's referenced, mooned over, laughed at, lauded and insulted by various different characters, and it's clear that in spite of his age he's firmly entrenched in Sterling Cooper.

JethroMcB
Jan 23, 2004

We're normal now.
We love your family.


I wonder is Pete's complete absence was intentional, or if it was just a scheduling thing. Much like Sopranos, the pilot was filmed something like a year before the rest of the season actually went into production, with the added wrinkle that they moved production from NYC to LA. I suspect that's why a few pilot things were dropped...goodbye, switchboard girls; maybe one of you will become an indie comedy darling soon, or go on to land a decade-plus gig as the spokesperson for an insurance company.

Xealot
Nov 25, 2002

Showdown in the Galaxy Era.



JethroMcB posted:

The second thing is, holy poo poo, Young Pete! For all the attention Don gets, I think Pete Campbell may be one of the greatest television characters of all time, in terms of both how he's written and how Kartheiser portrays his gradual "evolution," physically and otherwise. i don't know that you ever like him, but...he has his moments. ("THE KING ORDERED IT!")

Yeah, for as reprehensible as Pete is, he's also the funniest goddamn character. He does one of my favorite line readings in basically anything: "Not great, Bob!


Mad Men is probably my favorite TV drama ever made, and I've had some frustrating conversations with people recently who found it too slow or plodding or to be "about nothing." It absolutely is about something, I think best summarized by Faye in S4, it all comes down to what people want vs. what's expected of them. The show is filled with characters seeking to become some aspirational self, who are then confronted by the inescapable reality of who they actually are. The central focus on advertising is the perfect metaphor for this...an industry built around lies promising a better life, designed to distract people from the obvious truth that those promises were always empty.

It's interesting in retrospect that AMC's two big deal flagship shows of this period - Mad Men and Breaking Bad - so heavily explore themes of toxic masculine ambition and the isolation and destruction that brings. Obviously, the latter is way more bombastic and Shakespearean about it. But Mad Men does a really nuanced job of showing how traumatic and self-destructive it can be in small, subtle ways that accumulate over time. The best trick the show pulls off is presenting Don Draper as this stoic, confident, successful alpha male, and then showing how empty and self-loathing and lonely and vulnerable the man inside that empty suit actually is.

Mad Men is goddamn excellent.

Ainsley McTree
Feb 19, 2004




Xealot posted:

Yeah, for as reprehensible as Pete is, he's also the funniest goddamn character. He does one of my favorite line readings in basically anything: "Not great, Bob!


Mad Men is probably my favorite TV drama ever made, and I've had some frustrating conversations with people recently who found it too slow or plodding or to be "about nothing." It absolutely is about something, I think best summarized by Faye in S4, it all comes down to what people want vs. what's expected of them. The show is filled with characters seeking to become some aspirational self, who are then confronted by the inescapable reality of who they actually are. The central focus on advertising is the perfect metaphor for this...an industry built around lies promising a better life, designed to distract people from the obvious truth that those promises were always empty.

It's interesting in retrospect that AMC's two big deal flagship shows of this period - Mad Men and Breaking Bad - so heavily explore themes of toxic masculine ambition and the isolation and destruction that brings. Obviously, the latter is way more bombastic and Shakespearean about it. But Mad Men does a really nuanced job of showing how traumatic and self-destructive it can be in small, subtle ways that accumulate over time. The best trick the show pulls off is presenting Don Draper as this stoic, confident, successful alpha male, and then showing how empty and self-loathing and lonely and vulnerable the man inside that empty suit actually is.

Mad Men is goddamn excellent.

It's also a great litmus test for deciding whether or not you want to be friends with or date somebody; if they genuinely think Don Draper is a cool guy to be emulated, steer clear! They missed the point

algebra testes
Mar 5, 2011




Lipstick Apathy

When I watched it my 20s I remember following a long for a season, I was compelled but didn't get it. It probably wasn't until part way through I started loving it, specifically the Hobo Code.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


algebra testes posted:

When I watched it my 20s I remember following a long for a season, I was compelled but didn't get it. It probably wasn't until part way through I started loving it, specifically the Hobo Code.

guy walks into an advertising agency...

God Hole
Mar 2, 2016


JethroMcB posted:

The thing that strikes me first and foremost revisiting these early episodes is just how heavy-handed the "Holy poo poo, the 60's!" stuff is. It doesn't ever really go away - this is very much a show about its time period - but the really hacky bits like everybody coughing after discussing "safer cigarettes" and "Simple enough for a woman to use" and the plastic bag thing do fade away relatively quickly.

the one moment that had me picking my jaw up off the floor was after don's picnic with his family, he grabs the blanket and whips ALL the garbage off it onto the ground, and then walks away. it was one of those moments where you were like "yeah, 60's" but there was something just so obscene about it.

Ainsley McTree posted:

It's also a great litmus test for deciding whether or not you want to be friends with or date somebody; if they genuinely think Don Draper is a cool guy to be emulated, steer clear! They missed the point

yup. i distinctly remember someone recommending me a video called "charisma on command" or something that goes into detail about how to be cool and confident like don draper. it was basically a pick-up artist tutorial.

i think don is excellently characterized and portrayed, but if the ultimate point was to show how empty and unfulfilling an existence like don's is, unfortunately the showrunners were a bit too subtle.

edit:



God Hole fucked around with this message at 05:14 on Sep 30, 2020

pokeyman
Nov 26, 2006

That elephant ate my entire platoon.


I think I've maxed out my attempts to watch through this series, but I really enjoy your write-ups Jerusalem, so I'm on board with this here thread!

GoutPatrol
Oct 17, 2009

Coal Jobs for the Coal God


algebra testes posted:

When I watched it my 20s I remember following a long for a season, I was compelled but didn't get it. It probably wasn't until part way through I started loving it, specifically the Hobo Code.

I thought Hobo Code was regarded as one of the weakest episodes of the series?

Escobarbarian
Jun 18, 2004




Grimey Drawer

By who? Itís great.

Gaius Marius
Oct 9, 2012


drat I was planning on watching along, but I'm already half way through season 2. Having the discipline to only watch an episode at a time is something I clearly lack.

Hobo code was pretty goodI was really surprised how much of the things that happened in season six and seven were set up by the first season.

lurker2006
Jul 30, 2019


God Hole posted:

the one moment that had me picking my jaw up off the floor was after don's picnic with his family, he grabs the blanket and whips ALL the garbage off it onto the ground, and then walks away. it was one of those moments where you were like "yeah, 60's" but there was something just so obscene about it.


yup. i distinctly remember someone recommending me a video called "charisma on command" or something that goes into detail about how to be cool and confident like don draper. it was basically a pick-up artist tutorial.

i think don is excellently characterized and portrayed, but if the ultimate point was to show how empty and unfulfilling an existence like don's is, unfortunately the showrunners were a bit too subtle.

edit:





I think one of the things that's hard to square is Don's seemingly unusual capacity for forgiveness and selfless gestures, at least in his professional life. Outside of his pathological adultery and the ensuing fallout he seems to be a genuinely upstanding person, not really the corporate climber shithead you'd expect from the archetype.

lurker2006 fucked around with this message at 14:55 on Sep 30, 2020

awesmoe
Nov 30, 2005



Pillbug

lurker2006 posted:

I think one of the things that's hard to square is Don's seemingly unusual capacity for forgiveness and selfless gestures, at least in his professional life. Outside of his pathological adultery and the ensuing fallout he seems to be a genuinely upstanding person, not really the corporate climber shithead you'd expect from the archetype.

ill give you forgiveness and selfless gestures, but saying someone is an upstanding person except for that time he drunkenly raped his assistant is kinda burying the lede

it is fair to say he is a man of contrasts! some good, some not so good!!!

Ainsley McTree
Feb 19, 2004




Yeah I donít think I quite agree with that positive an assessment of don, but itíd be getting into spoiler territory to talk about it, so Iím just gonna let Jerusalem make up their own mind.

banned from Starbucks
Jul 18, 2004






I'm like 10 or so episodes into the first season and I dunno. It's just not doing anything for me. These type of shitbag characters were more interesting when they were on the Sopranos and they knew they were full of poo poo and only pretending they were living in the 50s. The only interesting characters are Pete Campbell and Peggy. I cant even remember the names of the other Jr Execs except occasionally when they mention the one who writes for magazines. Pete is kinda interesting as a mini/future Ralph Cifaretto but i dont think that's the direction they're going to take him. Draper and his wife both bore me to tears sometimes. It seemed at first like peggy was just low key playing everyone with her new girl act but i guess not. I'll keep up with Jerusalems write ups because he def nails them but I might bail after s1.

Xealot
Nov 25, 2002

Showdown in the Galaxy Era.



I remember rolling my eyes a bit when the first season twist comes out, that "Don Draper" is actually a false identity that Dick Whitman stole. What the show does with that ends up being really efficient, though, and I'm really glad they did it. It literalizes Don's inner conflict over his identity, and conflates his shame over his impoverished youth with his guilt over what he had to do to escape it. All the ways Don is some masculine ideal become a literal performance within the narrative, as well...it's explicitly his cynical imagination of what a successful man is supposed to look like: confident, dominant, stoic, but also selfish, guarded and unavailable.

It kind of becomes a way for the show to have its cake and eat it, too. You can hate Don Draper and love Dick Whitman, rooting for his moments of vulnerability or empathy or kindness and condemning the total rear end in a top hat he's encouraged to be by the culture of Madison Ave. It's interesting how as the show progresses, his business triumphs become more and more hollow, while the things that actually feel like victories for him become interpersonal (connecting in a genuine way with Anna, showing his kids the home he grew up in, letting his own career take a back seat to Peggy's.
)

Edit: Fair point, everything is spoilered because it is pretty retrospective commentary about the show.

Xealot fucked around with this message at 00:22 on Oct 1, 2020

Escobarbarian
Jun 18, 2004




Grimey Drawer

hmm, maybe we should not be having discussions about such major events given that the thread is for recaps by someone watching it all for the first time!

HppyCmpr
May 8, 2011


Yeah, you might want to spolier all of that as Jerusalem is going in pretty much blind and you are touching on major themes and only covering a few words.

Really enjoyed the write ups so far, looking forward to the rest. I was surprised to hear you had never watched this before but it'll be interesting to read your thoughts as the show progresses.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk



that is a really good analysis, but it's more of a show wide one and I agree we should be holding off that stuff in here.

mobby_6kl
Aug 9, 2009

"You are the best poster... do not let anyone say otherwise."


Xealot posted:

Yeah, for as reprehensible as Pete is, he's also the funniest goddamn character. He does one of my favorite line readings in basically anything: "Not great, Bob!


Mad Men is probably my favorite TV drama ever made, and I've had some frustrating conversations with people recently who found it too slow or plodding or to be "about nothing." It absolutely is about something, I think best summarized by Faye in S4, it all comes down to what people want vs. what's expected of them. The show is filled with characters seeking to become some aspirational self, who are then confronted by the inescapable reality of who they actually are. The central focus on advertising is the perfect metaphor for this...an industry built around lies promising a better life, designed to distract people from the obvious truth that those promises were always empty.

It's interesting in retrospect that AMC's two big deal flagship shows of this period - Mad Men and Breaking Bad - so heavily explore themes of toxic masculine ambition and the isolation and destruction that brings. Obviously, the latter is way more bombastic and Shakespearean about it. But Mad Men does a really nuanced job of showing how traumatic and self-destructive it can be in small, subtle ways that accumulate over time. The best trick the show pulls off is presenting Don Draper as this stoic, confident, successful alpha male, and then showing how empty and self-loathing and lonely and vulnerable the man inside that empty suit actually is.

Mad Men is goddamn excellent.
I still sometimes think of that line whenever somebody asks "How are you". I love how much it relies on the background and context of what happened recently.

I'm not going to be rewatching the show now but I'll definitely pop in from time to time because it's still definitely one of my favorite shows.

lurker2006
Jul 30, 2019


awesmoe posted:

ill give you forgiveness and selfless gestures, but saying someone is an upstanding person except for that time he drunkenly raped his assistant is kinda burying the lede

it is fair to say he is a man of contrasts! some good, some not so good!!!
Now that you've jogged my memory on that development I agree that my phrasing was kind of reprehensible there. To be more specific I remember thinking when I watched that it was just kind of curious how totally his character faults seemed to be wrapped up in his hosed up romantic relationships. I assumed they would just be another filter to view his imposter syndrome but they were so central that they make me question if I interpreted the premise of the show wrong. The professional adman side of his character almost felt kind of thin in the context of a drama.

lurker2006 fucked around with this message at 14:47 on Oct 1, 2020

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Feb 1, 2009



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banned from Starbucks posted:

I'm like 10 or so episodes into the first season and I dunno. It's just not doing anything for me. These type of shitbag characters were more interesting when they were on the Sopranos and they knew they were full of poo poo and only pretending they were living in the 50s. The only interesting characters are Pete Campbell and Peggy. I cant even remember the names of the other Jr Execs except occasionally when they mention the one who writes for magazines. Pete is kinda interesting as a mini/future Ralph Cifaretto but i dont think that's the direction they're going to take him. Draper and his wife both bore me to tears sometimes. It seemed at first like peggy was just low key playing everyone with her new girl act but i guess not. I'll keep up with Jerusalems write ups because he def nails them but I might bail after s1.

You should really stick with it. From what I've seen, most people say the show hits it's stride at the end of season two, but if you find Pete and Peggy to. Be compelling you should see it through. One has a very satisfying arc and the other has a good one.

The show really manages to go places and I can't wait to talk in more detail as Jerusalem gets deeper in.

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