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ulvir
Jan 2, 2005



He had a clear decent into madness that season, and I don’t disagree with him going after such an act, but I think it should’ve been a more slow and creeping pace, rather than evolving so abruptly as it did. Maybe if they made it last a bit longer, like the english guy’s (Pryce’s?) final season

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MoaM
Dec 1, 2009

Believe.






Ginsberg was always an allegory for hippies in that '68-ish timeframe

ulvir
Jan 2, 2005



MoaM posted:

Ginsberg was always an allegory for hippies in that '68-ish timeframe

nah, they had several beatniks and hippies directly in the show both before and after, like those people Stirling’s kid ran off with

Yoshi Wins
Jul 14, 2013



they actually started setting up his schizophrenia from early in season 5. In a scene that is very poignant in retrospect, he tells Peggy he has a paranoid suspicion that his father is not who he says he is. He also claims to be a Martian who received a message from Mars to stay where he is, but that he’s been unable to find any other Martians. Peggy assumes he’s expressing some angst in a creative way. He’s actually displaying early symptoms of schizophrenia, but he just happens to come across as a quirky creative guy.

They drop other hints too. He makes some paranoid remarks in season 6 and I think he says something about his head buzzing after he has a moral dilemma about SCDP working for Dow.

But he does go from about a 5/10 to a 10/10 on the madness scale in a single episode, that’s true. Maybe that’s how it works though? I don’t know too much about how those symptoms progress in real life.

Beamed
Nov 26, 2010

Then you have a responsibility that no man has ever faced. You have your fear which could become reality, and you have Godzilla, which is reality.




Yoshi Wins posted:

they actually started setting up his schizophrenia from early in season 5. In a scene that is very poignant in retrospect, he tells Peggy he has a paranoid suspicion that his father is not who he says he is. He also claims to be a Martian who received a message from Mars to stay where he is, but that he’s been unable to find any other Martians. Peggy assumes he’s expressing some angst in a creative way. He’s actually displaying early symptoms of schizophrenia, but he just happens to come across as a quirky creative guy.

They drop other hints too. He makes some paranoid remarks in season 6 and I think he says something about his head buzzing after he has a moral dilemma about SCDP working for Dow.

But he does go from about a 5/10 to a 10/10 on the madness scale in a single episode, that’s true. Maybe that’s how it works though? I don’t know too much about how those symptoms progress in real life.


There's... a lot more going on in that scene than creative angst or paranoid delusions. He's rationalizing to himself the fact that he's from a concentration camp and managed to keep living. There's obviously some element of the future schizophrenia there, but it's way more nuanced than that.

ulvir
Jan 2, 2005



Ginsberg is easily one of my favourite characters on the show

KellHound
Jul 23, 2007

We are Not Amused

Yoshi Wins posted:

they actually started setting up his schizophrenia from early in season 5. In a scene that is very poignant in retrospect, he tells Peggy he has a paranoid suspicion that his father is not who he says he is. He also claims to be a Martian who received a message from Mars to stay where he is, but that he’s been unable to find any other Martians. Peggy assumes he’s expressing some angst in a creative way. He’s actually displaying early symptoms of schizophrenia, but he just happens to come across as a quirky creative guy.

They drop other hints too. He makes some paranoid remarks in season 6 and I think he says something about his head buzzing after he has a moral dilemma about SCDP working for Dow.

But he does go from about a 5/10 to a 10/10 on the madness scale in a single episode, that’s true. Maybe that’s how it works though? I don’t know too much about how those symptoms progress in real life.


He also has a sensory issue before his break down. Like even as he is making more money at his job, his clothes are always 4 sizes too big so they won't touch his skin and his reaction to the "this band is like the beatles" is fairly extreme. So the constant humming of the computer being what ups his his mental health problem lines up with the stuff before. Then there is his break down before the last Manshevic meeting. "Come on, Buddy, you're not death."

Timby
Dec 23, 2006

Your mother!



Yoshi Wins posted:

they actually started setting up his schizophrenia from early in season 5. In a scene that is very poignant in retrospect, he tells Peggy he has a paranoid suspicion that his father is not who he says he is. He also claims to be a Martian who received a message from Mars to stay where he is, but that he’s been unable to find any other Martians. Peggy assumes he’s expressing some angst in a creative way. He’s actually displaying early symptoms of schizophrenia, but he just happens to come across as a quirky creative guy.

They drop other hints too. He makes some paranoid remarks in season 6 and I think he says something about his head buzzing after he has a moral dilemma about SCDP working for Dow.

But he does go from about a 5/10 to a 10/10 on the madness scale in a single episode, that’s true. Maybe that’s how it works though? I don’t know too much about how those symptoms progress in real life.


It's definitely unrealistic. Schizophrenic behavior usually begins manifesting in youth, and it's rare to see someone just snap because of One Bad Day or something like that. It does happen, but usually it's a slow, gradual breakdown.

The Klowner
Apr 20, 2019

I see past the sham that is society, and I'm into some incredibly fucked up shit.

There are multiple moments in the show where the writers seemed to decide to randomly take things from 5 to 10 after a relatively gradual escalation. I suppose it's one of those things where writers introduce something (a character foil, a chekhov's gun, or some far-off-but-steadily-approaching external conflict) early without knowing when or where the payoff is going to be. It's a storytelling tool for serialized, episodic content, but it's incredibly jarring when they pull the trigger early in Mad Men, like with ginsberg's breakdown, Sal's exit, and Peggy's cryptic pregnancy in the very next episode.

JethroMcB
Jan 23, 2004

We're normal now.
We love your family.


Yoshi Wins posted:

It's when she breaks the chair in A Night to Remember, isn't it? I love season 2. It's the most underrated season IMO. That's one of the brilliant moments that makes me love it so much.

It's her hallucination in "The Fog" where the silkworm drops into her hand. As she goes from admiring the worm to wrapping her fist around it, her expression shifts from dreamy wonderment to this cold, cruel smile; there's a second where her eyes go wide, marveling at her power over a living thing, and that's when I think both "Ohhh, I suddenly have an understanding of how Betty views motherhood, and it's kind of terrifying" and "This is a really good performance for somebody pretending to crush a bug on a green screen."

Yoshi Wins
Jul 14, 2013



Beamed posted:

There's... a lot more going on in that scene than creative angst or paranoid delusions. He's rationalizing to himself the fact that he's from a concentration camp and managed to keep living. There's obviously some element of the future schizophrenia there, but it's way more nuanced than that.

I never said otherwise...? If that scene didn't simultaneously accomplish other things, more people would have picked up on the schizophrenia hints. But you're right, though. There is quite a lot going on in that scene with Ginsburg. He was such an immediate compelling character.

Yoshi Wins fucked around with this message at 23:37 on Nov 7, 2020

Yoshi Wins
Jul 14, 2013



JethroMcB posted:

It's her hallucination in "The Fog" where the silkworm drops into her hand. As she goes from admiring the worm to wrapping her fist around it, her expression shifts from dreamy wonderment to this cold, cruel smile; there's a second where her eyes go wide, marveling at her power over a living thing, and that's when I think both "Ohhh, I suddenly have an understanding of how Betty views motherhood, and it's kind of terrifying" and "This is a really good performance for somebody pretending to crush a bug on a green screen."

Oh yeah, that's a good one too. That scene really struck me the first time I saw it. Season 3 is a little more free-wheeling in terms of how they tell the stories, and I just wasn't expecting that kind of surreal sequence. I think it works really well, and the otherworldly expressions on Jones's face are an important part of it.

I didn't know until recently that those things sting. I watched that episode with my parents, and they told me they'd both been stung by caterpillars like that as kids, and that it hurt like hell. Maybe that's common knowledge, and I just should have spent more time outside as a kid, but learning that gave that scene a little more impact, and it's just like you say - it suggests Betty has deeply mixed feelings about motherhood. It is beautiful and painful at the same time.

The Klowner
Apr 20, 2019

I see past the sham that is society, and I'm into some incredibly fucked up shit.

JethroMcB posted:

It's her hallucination in "The Fog" where the silkworm drops into her hand. As she goes from admiring the worm to wrapping her fist around it, her expression shifts from dreamy wonderment to this cold, cruel smile; there's a second where her eyes go wide, marveling at her power over a living thing, and that's when I think both "Ohhh, I suddenly have an understanding of how Betty views motherhood, and it's kind of terrifying" and "This is a really good performance for somebody pretending to crush a bug on a green screen."

That's a pretty good example. Also between this and her comment a few episodes ago about wanting to get a picture of Sally crying, I'm getting a very different impression of her character on this rewatch. It's sneaky how Betty's inner loathing and anger is woven into so many of her scenes, with the odd comment or passing look. I'm developing a much better impression of Jones' performance this go around.

also lol if we go a whole page without unspoilered posts

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Season 1, Episode 13 - The Wheel
Written by Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith, Directed by Matthew Weiner

Don Draper posted:

To a place where we know we are loved.

Trudy Campbell and her mother sit at a table in Trudy's high-rise apartment, spending a pleasant evening discussing decorating ideas. Pete Campbell and his father-in-law Tom meanwhile sit in the lounge drinking scotch and making casual small-talk, mostly about the election and Nixon's loss. It's amicable, mostly white-noise passing the time chat, but Tom has something a little more serious he wants to bring up: Pete's failure to become Head of Accounts Services.

Pete is troubled and a little vexed that Trudy mentioned this to her parents, though he really only has himself to blame for having clearly told her he expected to get the role (I presume he didn't tell her his certainty was down to his plans to blackmail Don Draper) only for it to all blow up in his face. But unlike Pete's own father, Tom isn't bringing this up to harangue or look down on Pete, if anything quite the opposite. With surprising openness he tells Pete warmly that he wants to treat him like a son because he thinks of him like a son... and his best advice is for Pete to stop concentrating so much on work and focus more on his family life.

Not entirely comfortable with the "strangeness" of a supportive older male role model, Pete retreats into his normal client-level patronizing, talking up how Tom himself is one of Vicks Chemical's top salesmen. Hell, Tom himself was happy to boast about his recent purchase (presumably on behalf of Vicks) of a small company called Clearasil he'd come into contact with during the course of his work. Tom, ego sufficiently stroked, admits that this was something worth bragging about and finds himself sidetracked talking about adolescent issues. But When Pete starts talking about how Sterling Cooper could help him spread the message for his product, he gets back on track. Diplomatically he brings up "tending your own garden" before finally just outright saying what he means: he and his wife want grandchildren, and they want Pete concentrating on getting their daughter pregnant.

Trudy is a little shocked to overhear this, her and her mother joining their men where Tom won't back down, saying that with Thanksgiving right around the corner and Christmas coming up he can't think of a better present than Pete and Trudy adding to the family. Trudy basks in the love and attention, while Pete forces a smile and keeps his mouth shut: regardless of how genuine Tom's affection or good treatment of him might be, he's still overstepping himself in Pete's mind. But he can't shut him down or tell him to mind his own business, after all he's his father-in-law, and more than that he's the man who loaned them (on extraordinarily lax terms) the money for the apartment they currently enjoy living in.



At the Draper residence, Don and Betty sit in bed, Don reading a magazine while Betty considers the last minute preparations she needs to make for Thanksgiving. It won't be at their home though, she and the children are traveling to see her family, and she's disappointed that Don won't be coming. As he reminds her though, as partner of a firm who rolls out 80% of their business around this holiday season he really can't afford to take 3-4 days off to travel across the country for a 12-hour Thanksgiving. He also isn't having any of her using the children as a prop in her argument: if she was so concerned about their happy childhood memories involving their father then she could have had her family come to THEM for Thanksgiving.

That wasn't an option though, her brother's children are "animals" and would explode on such a long trip up and back again, and she isn't willing to leave her father "alone" at Thanksgiving (his new partner doesn't exist in Betty's mind). So instead she brings out the big guns, with a sigh she tells him what she truly suspects is the real reason: he just doesn't WANT to go. If she expects this to lead to a panicked assurance he does or a capitulation on his behalf though, she is to be disappointed. Because he simply turns and, somewhat baffled, asks her if he hadn't made that fact painfully clear by now. He has zero problem admitting he doesn't want to go.

Saddened by this, she asks him what the problem is? Why is it that he seems determined not to let her family become his family too? Pete's father-in-law didn't give any real choice in the matter, he and his wife (with Trudy's enthusiastic support) have embraced him in tight. With Don though, he will only just observe the social niceties of being polite to Betty's father when they happen to be in the same room but no more. But he won't be drawn into an argument, or even an explanation. Confronted by his wife over a very serious and important issue, he simply sets aside his magazine, turns off his bedside lamp and rolls over to go to bed. End of discussion. As far as he's concerned, this complete refusal to engage with his wife or to acknowledge her concerns or consider her feelings is also the end of any possible problem!

Communication is not without its pitfalls too, of course. Harry Crane makes a late-night call to his wife to discuss where he is staying tonight, joking about the bachelor lifestyle of his current host Ken Cosgrove who he assures her doesn't mind having him around. Except he's lying, he's not staying at Ken's, and when this scene first starts my immediate assumption was that Harry had decided to continue an affair with Hildy after their one night stand on Election Night. The truth is far sweeter but also sadder: he's holed up in his office at Sterling Cooper, spending the nights there, and the reason why though never explicitly stated seems obvious.

Racked by guilt, it seems that Harry admitted his infidelity to his wife, Jennifer. An admirable decision even if it doesn't excuse the infidelity happening in the first place. Jennifer's reaction, of course, was completely understandable: she kicked him out of the house. Now he's reduced to sitting in his office in her underclothes, lying about having a place to stay, begging her to let him come home, even promising to quit smoking if she does, fighting not to get into an argument or be seen to lay any blame on her when he knows he is solely responsible for his own predicament. She won't be swayed though, not yet at least, so the phone-call ends and he is left sitting alone in the very place where he betrayed his marriage vows, considering the trouble a stupid encounter of drunken fumbling has put him into.



The next day, Don pops into Bert Cooper's office, already feeling familiar and comfortable enough in his role as partner to be a little more jokey and relaxed with the senior partner. Except Bert, leafing through documents, is in a very bad mood. He's gotten a call from Abraham Menken to let him know Rachel will be incommunicado for several months due to going on an ocean voyage to Europe. Don, who begged Rachel to drop everything and flee the city with him only to be humiliatingly rebuffed, tries to hold back his surprise and mumbles he was unaware of that.

It seems this might be the end of the conversation, except a clearly still surly Cooper snaps that he'd like to know why Abraham is calling HIM about this. Sensing the warning signs and perhaps recalling that he has NO contract, Don takes a different tact to his approach to Betty's accusation and pretends ignorance: why DID Abraham Menken call Cooper directly? Cooper, who is no fool, grunts that he doesn't expect Don's "personal preferences" to interfere with his business. Don, exhibiting just enough anger so as not to offend but demonstrate some backbone, asks who says his personal preferences have? Cooper just grunts that it was something in Abraham's tone that made him suspect there was something between Don and Rachel. Maybe he even just assumes that the wide-spread perception that Don and Rachel hated each other was accurate, maybe he's aware that Abraham at least suspected a romantic entanglement or attraction between them. Regardless, it has unsettled a high-paying client and that Cooper doesn't want, no matter what the reason. He dismisses Don, who leaves slightly uncertain of his status: he's a partner, he considers Cooper a (respected and elevated) peer now... but he's just been reminded that he is still very much a junior man in the firm.

As a complete aside - this episode is the only episode of Mad Men I had ever mostly seen before starting this blind-watch. The first time I saw the above scene, with no knowledge of Menkens or Rachel etc, I misheard the line as "Abraham Lincoln" and just assumed that Don's reactions were because the senior partner of his firm was obviously beginning to suffer from dementia, believing a long dead President was calling him up on the phone to harangue him! I forgot all about this perception until I re-watched this episode for the first time, but this explains why in the back of my head all season I've found myself thinking that Cooper's eccentricity was going to eventually turn into senility. I'm quite relieved this is not (or doesn't appear to be!) the case.

At the Draper residence, Betty answers the door to find a disheveled looking Francine outside, shivering in spite of her housecoat. Betty lets her and brings her to the lounge, where she sits down on the couch muttering she's stupid. Her hair is unkempt, she has little-to-no make-up on and her eyes are puffy from where she has been crying. She admits she has been sitting outside in the car for a long time trying to figure out what to do, and finally decided to come see Betty.

So what is going on? It all starts innocently enough: she has been distracted and out-of-sorts since giving birth and didn't deal with a stack of mail her husband Carlton gave her. One of the envelopes she thinks she threw out was the phone bill, and the phone was cut off when the bill wasn't paid. Not wanting to upset (anger seems the more appropriate word, chillingly) Carlton, she went to the phone company directly to sort this all out before he discovered what had happened. This involved her being given a fully itemized bill to cover a whopping $18 outstanding payment, and on it she found multiple long distance calls made late at night to somebody in Manhattan.

Suspicious, she called the number, and when a woman answered she without thinking declared she was calling from Carlton's office to ask if he wanted dinner at "the usual place". What the answer was is never given, because the full import of Francine's story has finally become clear to a horrified Betty: Carlton is cheating on Francine. Quickly she tries to assure Francine that maybe she's reading too much into it, dismissing the idea that any woman in the city who answers her OWN phone is not somebody that Carlton should be calling. She reminds her that married women answer their own phones but that just makes things worse, why is her husband calling somebody else's wife? So a now desperate Betty suggests maybe it is a caterer and Carlton is planning Francine a surprise party!

That at least gets a(n unintended) laugh from Francine. But now the bitterness sets in, as she considers the fact she now has to put on a brave face and have the entire family around for Thanksgiving later this week despite knowing what a piece of poo poo her husband is. She sneers that he's stupid enough and will drink anything that she could get away with poisoning him, then suggests blackly she could poison the entire family at Thanksgiving.

Even if this is a black joke, it's all too much for Betty who quickly tells her she wouldn't do anything so foolish. That just brings Francine back to despair though... what is she going to do? Why does Betty have advice for, she though SHE would know what to do? This confuses Betty, why would SHE know how to deal with a situation like this? Francine's eyes widen and then she quickly tells her not to worry about, she doesn't know herself why she thought that, she's obviously not thinking straight etc. When the kids return to the house with Carla, the nanny/maid, Francine takes the opportunity to leave.

That leaves Betty alone though, dismissing Carla so she can have a moment to think while the kids are playing upstairs. Part of her knew immediately why Francine came looking to her for answers, and she's trying not to let her conscious mind consider it now: Francine thought she would know because Francine assumes that Don is cheating on Betty who has had to deal with the humiliation and secrets and the violation of trust herself. When Francine left, it was with pity for Betty despite being the one who knows her own husband cheated on her... because at least she knows her husband did this, while Betty seems to be living in ignorant bliss.

Passing Don's study, the thought keeps clawing at the back of Betty's mind, and she slips inside, leaving soon after to return to the kitchen where she looks at the envelope she took: it's the phone bill. She considers it, and then decides the best action for now is inaction, and slides it into her coat to think about later.... a lot of her marriage is like that.



Herman "Duck" Phillips holds his first meeting as Head of Account Services with key ad men at Sterling Cooper. Present in the meeting are Don, Harry, Ken, Paul, Pete and another, older man I haven't seen before. There is no Freddy Rumsen. Duck informs all of them (not Don, who outranks him) that he considers anybody who arrives to a meeting AFTER him to be late, regardless of what time the meeting is scheduled. He's clearly all about stamping his authority now in the early days of his employment, aware that being the new guy puts him at a slight disadvantage to the preexisting dynamics... and probably also that news of his breakdown in London has reached them all.

He lays out the top clients in Sterling Cooper's portfolio: Lucky Strike, Bethlehem Steel and Maytag, and notes there are no automobile, airline or pharmaceutical companies to be found, or at least not major ones. Ken Cosgrove is surprised at this read, pointing out that Lucky Strike is a tobacco company and that should count as a pharmaceutical (even though they can no longer argue health benefits). Rather than explain himself, Duck chooses to subtly put down Ken's standing, asking if he's the man behind the "Rejuvenator", basically reminding him that he's dealing with small time companies at the moment while they want bigger ones.

This does give everybody a chance to relax a little, as the fact the Rejuvenator (now called "Relax-a-Cizor") is a female sex toy gives them all a laugh. Having shown them the stick, Duck can now show them the carrot, as he declares that he is offering a $100 bonus to any man in the room who can bring him a meeting with a real decision-maker. That gets their attention, it's almost 2 weeks pay for some of them, and Duck has even laid some ground work by handing out a list of names of people he thinks they should make a point of "running into" or finding networking connections with. Thus he's not only laid down his authority and then offered a reward, he's shown that he's not above assisting them (and thus being able to claim partial credit for their successes).

Don chimes in as Partner/Creative Director to let them know he expects EVERYBODY to be finding prospective clients, and that includes the writers as well. Duck then shows off a little, proving he can practise what he preaches, by telling them about he made a point of spending several hours in the steam room at the Athletic Club today. Why? Not just to lose weight, but so he could network, and in the process he discovered that Kodak - an absolute whale of an account - is unhappy with the current advertising firm they have working on a campaign for their latest gadget. The meeting breaks up, everybody having paid attention... including Pete, who has taken copious notes on the man who has the job he felt should have been his.

Ken moves from the meeting to an audition session with Peggy in a recording studio. They're bringing in women to do the voice for radio ads for the Relax-a-Cizor. In this environment, Peggy is a completely different person. Gone is the meek, quiet girl who sits at a desk and always sounds quietly desperate even when raising her voice or criticizing the executives. Instead she is take charge, leading the auditions, giving direction, talking to the sound tech, all while Ken is content to sit back and enjoy listening to the women talk... and watch one, young, beautiful woman in particular.

Her name is Annie, and Peggy is taken by her attractiveness, her confidence, she glow of youth. THIS is what she wants women who hear the ad to see in their own heads, and to imagine themselves the same way. Two larger and older women are also present: Rita and Norma. Ken admits - their mics muted so those auditioning can't hear them - that he's surprised himself in preferring Rita. He thinks she has a "randy knowing" sense to her that reflects the Relax-a-Cizor itself. Peggy dismisses Norma which leaves it down to the two choices, and not wanting to waste time on arguing the case Ken just shrugs and dismisses Rita too, leaving a thrilled Annie clapping and jumping up and down in delight at getting the part. Ken thinks Peggy's instinct is wrong, but she is glowing with confidence herself as she insists without hesitation that she owns this choice... and it is the right one.



It really is rather remarkable, Peggy went from shocked at being told she should write copy for Belle Jolie, to being a little let down that they changed her wording, to automatically declaring she had an "account" rather than an assignment, and now here she is drinking in the satisfaction of being able to stake a claim to HER ideas. She has come so far in such a short time.

That night in bed, Pete and Trudy are making out. Trudy is fetching in her thin blue nightwear. Pete is... in his big boy pajamas. Trudy breaks off the kissing to excuse herself for a moment, the implicit understanding being that she is going to go prepare her birth control. Pete suggests they avoid that for tonight, enjoying the sense of risk, thoughts of the child his in-laws his parents want surely circling in his mind. But then he stops himself, becoming morose, and he admits to Trudy that as always his mind is on business... or least finances.

He is already stretched to the limit just to afford the mortgage payments let alone ever considering paying back Tom. He knows his chances of promotion at Sterling Cooper are low after his disastrous blackmail attempt (once again he's survived a sure firing by the skin of his teeth). But he can't admit any of that to Trudy, so he simply says that he can't afford to raise a child. Her reply? He can't think about that. He is confused, but she insists, and he doesn't need much convincing. The two go back to making out, birth control all forgotten.

The meaning of her "you CAN'T think about that" is, I think, straightforward: having a child together in her mind should NOT be a rational, logical and thought-out process where the pros and cons are weighed against each other. It should be the product of love, of the natural desire between a husband and wife, and if a child comes from that, it will come from love. The rest of it, the money, the time, the stress etc, that can all be dealt with later.

Oh to be white and from a privileged background.

Don returns home late at night and finds Betty sitting in the kitchen drinking wine. She doesn't react with pleasure to see him, not even with surprise. She simply quietly asks why he didn't just stay overnight in the city considering it's 9:30 at night. He replies he has some work to do here at home, and bitterly she mutters that he won't be coming with them for a 4 day trip and now they're not even going to get to see him at home.

His reaction, of course, is to sigh and ask if he really has to deal with this now RIGHT as he gets home? Once more she finds herself apologizing for the temerity of being upset at her husband spending as much time away from them as possible. She explains it away as having had a terrible day, and tells him (not asks) to come sit with her. Something in her tone and her face makes him, for once, do as he's told. Joining her at the table, she lets him know what Francine told her, that Carlton is having an affair.

He takes a beat, then quietly offers a,"Really?" as he takes a drag on his cigarette, sensing that they are on extremely dangerous ground at the moment. He doesn't help himself by saying he's surprised that Francine told her, quickly agreeing that of course she would when Betty grumpily reminds him that they're like sisters. It's Don's mindset slamming up against Betty's: he keeps his feelings and thoughts to himself and he can't really grasp those who don't. Part of it is a survival mechanism, both from his upbringing but also the fact he is living under an assumed identity. But it means he can appear to lack empathy when he needs it most, and given the seed of an idea Francine planted in Betty's head his guarded responses are sending her mind racing further.

He gets them onto safer ground by agreeing that he never liked Carlton either, but is surprised when Betty echoes Francine's bitterness and agrees Carlton does deserve poisoning. Not really grasping she doesn't want explanations but empathy, for her to listen to her and her problems for a change, he asks if she REALLY thinks killing is appropriate. So she turns that around, asking a question that just as much applies to him as Carlton: he's her husband, he is the father of her children, they are married... does none of that mean ANYTHING? How could somebody betray the one they supposedly love like this? "Who knows why people do what they do?" Don offers at last.

But even he can't entirely maintain his poker face under the direct scrutiny of his wife. His own guilt is in there, his lengthy affair with Midge and his shorter but equally passionate one with Rachel. He answers his wife, but he is greeted by nothing but silence, their eyes locked... and he can't hold her gaze. For just a moment, his eyes dart away for a second. For Betty, who is hyper-acute to any sign she might have missed or deliberately overlooked in the past, it must be a waving a giant red flag that reads,"I'M HAVING AN AFFAIR!"

But he offers her what assurances he can, and she takes them, as he stands and tells her to come with him and to bring the wine. He intended to work tonight, but now he has a different job: to spend time with his wife, to put her at ease, and to just be with her.

https://i.imgur.com/G6kiRnl.mp4

The next day at Sterling Cooper, Duck shows Don "The Wheel", though they're also experimenting with "The Doughnut" for a name. It's Kodak's newest invention, a continuous, non-jamming slide projector that they want to market as something futuristic. Duck has made use of his networking to arrange a meeting with Kodak despite being a larger company than Sterling Cooper might normally expect, but now he's gotten them in the door he needs Don to work his magic. He's not above mentioning his own self-interest, if Don can help them land Kodak in Duck's first month there, it's going to make Duck look VERY good. That's to his benefit but also the firm's, and of course since Don was the one who headhunted him and chose him for the role, it'll naturally reflect well on Don too. Given the Abraham Menken situation, he could probably use that right now.

Ken and Peggy are back in the sound-booth, ready to record Annie doing her lines for the Relax-a-Cizor. Rather, Peggy is ready for that, Ken is largely there to sit back and enjoy looking at Annie. She begins, running through her lines with a bright smile on her face till Peggy cuts her off. She explains they need to get a level and then cuts the mic, and Ken points out that... they don't, there's nothing wrong with their sound levels.

Peggy is confused, Annie doesn't sound as confident as she did in the rehearsal. Ken reminds her this is the first read of the day and she needs to warm up, and points out Peggy could give her direction if she doesn't like the read. Peggy agrees, but her direction isn't exactly Billy Wilder-level, as she simply states into the mic,"Annie. Confidence."

Annie tries again and fails again, but now Peggy herself is warming up, and lays out a dream scenario for an intensely smiling Annie,"She's married now, she has it all: she's young, beautiful, slim, married to the man of her dreams.... she is the "beloved prize" of a handsome man, and she can feel all of that thanks to the Relax-a-Cizor. Ken is impressed by this, joking that it's a shame Peggy's own voice is so annoying after delivering that confident bit of voicework. Peggy ignores the perceived insult (in all honesty, if anything it is a compliment, Ken is treating her like "one of the boys" and breaking balls) and gets Annie to give another read.

Unfortunately, Annie's idea of confidence is just getting louder. Peggy is running out of excuses now, and Annie's brittle shield of composure is starting to crack as she watches Peggy and Ken silently discussing her behind the glass. She asks if she can have some pineapple juice to sooth her throat, but Peggy brusquely tells her she can use the pitcher of water in the back of the room.

Inside the control room, Peggy can't understand why Annie doesn't have confidence, and is surprised when Ken smugly informs her that girls as beautiful as Annie never do. Peggy, who of course picked out Annie because she was the ideal fantasy face/figure Peggy herself wants to be, can't believe that, because surely once you finally achieve this beauty confidence would come with it, right? Not so, Ken promises her, it's God's gift to bachelors: the plumpest, juiciest gazelles are the easiest to catch.

Jesus Christ, Ken.

So Peggy tries to get Annie to project confidence again, telling her to just be "you". But she has completely destroyed the poor girl's self-esteem. A single tear rolls down her perfect, beautiful face, her smile struggling to remain in place as she stammers that she simply doesn't understand what Peggy is asking for, she IS being herself. That makes Peggy's rejection sting all the more, because as gross as Ken's assessment of her was, it's accurate in the sense that Annie suffers all the same insecurities and feels all the pressures that all women in 1960 America do... which means she doesn't see the perfect beauty that Peggy sees. She instead sees all her flaws and lives in fear of them being exposed, and seeks out approval wherever she find it... which is when guys like Ken Cosgrove are waiting to pounce.

Desperate now, she tries to read her lines but the smile is gone, the voice is shaky, tears are threatening to burst out. Ken complains to Peggy about dangling a beauty like this in front of him and then ruining it, and she snaps back at him to be professional. He's startled by that, after all Annie was HER choice and she's just completely destroyed their actor's self-esteem. He's even more startled when without any sensitivity at all she declares to Annie that this isn't working out and they're letting her go. Horrified, Annie gathers her things and races out crying, Ken complaining to Peggy she could have at least had the decency to go into the booth and let her down gently.

But now he gets a pleasant surprise. Peggy knows she screwed up in picking Annie, and so she is "making it up" to Ken in a surprising way that will have the added benefit of cheering Annie up at least temporarily. She instructs him (instructs! Not asks or suggests, she is the one in charge here) that he will go after Annie, console her, make plans for dinner or "whatever".... and once he's managed that, he can put in a call to Rita, the older lady who was his first pick, and they'll have her in tomorrow. Hell, she's probably at home using the Relax-a-Cizor herself now.

Peggy truly is "one of the boys", she even let her colleague use a casting call as a chance to pickup a pretty girl. But she's impressed Ken too, who gives her a pat on the head as he leaves, pleased that she accepted her mistake but too control of the situation... and nobody got hurt.... well, unless you're poor Annie who walked in thinking she was going to be famous and ended up in tears and getting hit on by a writer. For Peggy itself it has been an illuminating experience: she let her own personal fantasy dictate who she wanted to represent "her" in the ad, but for all his other faults Ken had the right instinct: for a radio you don't go with who looks like what you want, you go with who sounds like what you want.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


In his office, Don reviews slides from the collection he picked up at home. But the nostalgia of his family memories bring to mind other photos and another family. He pulls out Adam's shoebox and looks through the photos inside, pictures of he and his brother together and happy. He comes to a decision, brought on by the campaign research but also the proximity of Thanksgiving. Grabbing the phone, he asks the operator to put him through to the Brighton Hotel in Times Square.

The manager answers at the Brighton, Don apologizing for calling so late and explaining he is hoping to find a forwarding address for a tenant he had months ago. "You mean guest?" asks the confused manager, so Don gives as good a description as he can: his name was Adam Whitman, he had red hair and stood over six foot tall. The manager, seemingly uncertain, asks exactly what Don wants with him, and Don explains he just needs a forwarding address if there is one. What he gets is shocking news, the apologetic manager explaining he hates to be the one to tell him, but Adam Whitman is dead.

Don is shocked, dead? Yes, he hung himself and left nothing but a small pile of money for the building, which the city took away. The suicide warranted a story in The Post, but unlike his brother, Don never caught a sudden glimpse of his brother's picture in the newspaper that would lead to an unexpected reunion. Shakily he hangs up, then buries his head in his hands. He had never expected to see Adam again after 1950, and when he did he sent him away with money and an order that they could never see each other again.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he would have known that eventually one of them would die (presumably Don himself first, given the age difference) but the pain of that would have never hit them, because they would have been living separate lives elsewere. That's what makes this so painful, because belatedly and unexpectedly Don got it into his mind to consider reconciliation after all... only to discover this was now impossible. His brother died alone and the last time they met, Don sent him away forever, the guilt must be crushing, as is the realization they will never, ever, ever meet again.

It's not just Don's brother that suffers (well, suffered) the weight of loneliness. Betty Draper lies in bed alone, her husband who knows where, dark thoughts racing through her mind. Finally she can take no more and sits up, turning on the light. She removes the telephone bill from her side drawer and opens it, making no attempt to cover up that it has been torn open. She looks through each individual item on the blue cards within, and one in particular catches her eye and her suspicion.

Soon she is sitting out in the hall, phone in her lap and dialing the number, fearing but knowing some woman will answer... some woman her husband is cheating on her with. So when a man answers, she's both surprised and relieved... but still confused, who is this that Don is calling regularly so late at night? That man asks who it is and she sends the same question right back at him, and with irritation he replies: It's Dr. Arnold Wayne.

Her eyes widen, her eyebrows crumple as thoughts race through her head, and then her face falls as she grasps what this means. As Dr. Wayne warns "Mrs. Albertson" that he told her this behavior was inappropriate, she hangs up the phone, still in a daze. Her husband, her perfect, handsome husband who provides for her and looks after her and thinks for her and tells her what to do, her husband who refuses to share any aspect of his childhood with her... is regularly calling HER therapist to discuss every intimate moment, secret and confidence shared during her sessions. It is a very different kind of betrayal to the one she feared, but it is absolutely a betrayal of the highest order.



Don wakes on his couch in the office in the middle of the night, disturbed by an odd noise. Tired, still drunk from at least one bottle he has emptied after learning of Adam's fate, he staggers to his door and looks out into the empty secretarial pool. There he sees a similarly tired Harry Crane, in only his underwear and white shirt, carrying a smoking trashcan. He calls out, asking if they're on fire, and a surprised Harry explains that he accidentally dropped a cigarette into it.

Don tells Harry to join him so they can talk, staggering back into his office. Bewildered, fearing he's in big trouble, he does as he is told and jogs into the Creative Director's office, where he takes a seat and starts to assure Don he can explain why he's here in the middle of the night in his underwear. Don is uninterested or hasn't noticed that at all though, instead he points to The Wheel and asks Harry what the purpose it. The real answer, of course, is that it's purpose is to sell projectors to people who already own one. But Harry admits that he dabbled in photography in school and the machinery of the cameras themselves did fascinate him.

Don, who has poured them both glasses, is pleased at the thought of Harry out there taking photos, especially when Harry admits he mostly took photos of girls. But he also did some "artsy-fartsy" stuff, telling Don he got enormous grief from friends for a series he did on fogged up hand-prints on glass. Don takes it seriously though when Harry begins to recall the 17,000-year-old cave paintings at Lascaux. Real passion creeps into Harry's voice as he explains that the bison got most people's attention but he was fascinated by the outlines of hands. "Artist of the signature" Don agrees, while Harry says he felt almost like the people who lived then were reaching across time to remind everybody of one of the things that can weight heavy on minds of all races, religion, sex and creed: the desire to make sure people know that "I was here". That they existed, that they were people just like ourselves once, who thought and felt and acted and reacting and believed and loved and hated. Just like Adam Whitman existed.

Don though is still drunk, and starts to nod off. Catching himself, he informs Harry,"That will be all" and a confused Harry, still not entirely sure if he's in trouble or not, leaves Don's office. Don simply lies back down on the couch again, curls up and tries to get some sleep.

The next morning, Betty Draper goes to the Mercantile Bank (I wonder if she is paying the phone bill?) but is sidetracked when she spots a familiar car. It's Helen Bishop's car, and young Glen is sitting inside... all alone.

Oh... no Betty. No no no.

She approaches the car, getting Glen's attention and telling him to wind down the window. He does, but nervously explains he isn't meant to speak to her. She's surprised by that, asking who told him that, and is understandably concerned when she learns that not only Helen herself told him, but his own father. Despite their divorce, they're united on one thing: they don't want the weird neighborhood lady who gave their child a lock of her hair anywhere near their boy.

But Betty has had it with doing the right thing, so she insists she doesn't care what his parents say... and then in front of bewildered little boy basically has a breakdown, telling him she doesn't know what to do and has nobody to talk to. Completely unsuited for dealing with this kind of task, the wide-eyed Glen can only tell her to please not cry, and to offer her a hand to hold. He tells her he doesn't know what to do to make her feel better, he just wishes he was older. She warns him not to want to grow up too fast, adults don't know anything either.

In any case, Glen knows his mother was supposed to be back in 20 minutes, and he isn't exactly sure how long 20 minutes is so... uhhh... could the weirdo lady crying while holding his hand please go away now? Regaining some measure of control, she walks away, having further confused this little boy and his puppy love obsession with her.



Pete Campbell goes to see Don at his office, though this time he's not barging in like he owns the place. He's still confident though, informing Don that he took Duck's motivational speech and Don's own comment on finding self-worth and status seriously. As a result, he's gone out and found a new client for the firm: Clearasil, a piece of Vicks Chemical with higher potential than usual pharmaceuticals. Don, who as first was dismissive of Pete's usual talking himself up, admits that this is a "real" client. Pete's pride in explaining how he got it are less impressive to Don though, as he explains that he used his father-in-law as a connection given the man's interest in his career development.

Still, it's good work by Pete and Don is sure he'll get a bonus with a little work, and can't help but be amused when Pete informs him he already did get the bonus... and a bizarre recommendation from Bert Cooper to look into the works of Ayn Rand! Pete of course simply can't leave well enough alone though, insisting he wants to know that Don is impressed by his work as well. Don considers, perhaps thinks about Cooper's line re: loyalty, and decides to fight his natural instinct. Instead he smiles and agrees with Pete that this is impressive. Pete goes to leave, but just help himself in kissing up a little more by talking about how much he took Don's "self-worth and status" line to heart. He thinks he's buttering Don up, he's just appearing unctuous. Once he's gone, Don frowns: it is impressive by Pete, and Cooper making the same Ayn Rand recommendation is troubling in that it means he either tells EVERYBODY that or that Cooper considers Don and Pete two peas in a pod.

But overall though? There's nothing there from Pete to indicate he's anything more than Don already thought. He accused Pete of achieving nothing in his life that wasn't handed to him by his family, and now he's finally managed to achieve something... that was handed to him by his father-in-law. An unfair way to think, perhaps, given Duck's admonition that they all work every angle they could, but human beings tend not to be purely logical about this type of thing. After all, the last time Pete went out and worked something on his own - Bethlehem Steel: The Backbone of America - Don tried to fire him for it!

Betty attends her next therapy session with Dr. Arnold Wayne. Taking her customary place on the couch, she at first lays out some traps as she talks up how much she appreciates the ability to talk PRIVATELY to Wayne knowing that NOBODY other than the two of them will ever hear it. But at some point along the way, she seems to come to a realization: her husband isn't interested in talking to her about things that truly bother her... but maybe there's a way she can do it by proxy.

So amongst other complaints and problems she brings up, she peppers in multiple references to her utter certainty that Don is cheating on her, that he doesn't have a real concept of family, that she actually feels sorry for him instead of angry, that sometimes in their lovemaking Don forgets he is with her and does things she knows he must do with those other women instead. She works through her thoughts and feelings with her therapist, not so he can offer advice, but because she knows he will pass it all on to Don. That way at least he will know how she feels, will know what she thinks, will know what she wants. Because he sure as hell won't know any other way, he'd never listen to her or take her seriously if she tried to do it in person.

Ironically, within this new approach she has taken to her therapy, she actually reaches conclusions she might never have otherwise. Because like Annie she lacks the confidence many would assume her beauty creates, but in talking through this with (or through) Wayne she pushes past her thought that Don's infidelity must mean SHE is not enough... and comes to what for her is revolutionary thought: maybe there's something wrong with Don and NOT her.



Duck introduces Joe Harriman and Lynn Taylor to Don and Salvatore as they prepare for the big pitch of The Wheel. Harry Crane is in attendance too, and they share some jokes about the Eastmans not being present since they can't ever be hauled out of their labs. As Duck had told Don earlier, both Harriman and Taylor are keen for the technological aspects of The Wheel to be highlighted, to include Research and Development in the copy, to make it seem futuristic. They are however fully aware that a wheel is, regardless of its importance, considered pretty stone age. So now they all turn to Don Draper to see what he has to say: Duck got them into the room, now Don has to sell them his pitch.

And boy does he loving sell it.

In an absolutely incredible scene, Don carefully acknowledges their desire for "new" and runs through how important and vital that is to advertising a product... before completely rejecting the concept in going in a totally different direction. Using a personal touch, he tells them the story of his first job as a copywriter for a fur company, and his mentor Teddy who explained to him the potent but delicate power of nostalgia.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Music swells under the dialogue for added effect for us the viewer, but honestly I think the scene would have been just as strong without it. With the lights off, Don turns on Kodak's own product and takes them through a backwards and forwards journey through the life of Don Draper (not Dick Whitman). Photos of his children playing appear on the projector, shots of he and Betty enjoying summer vacation, Don pushing Bobby on a swing, resting his head on Betty's pregnant belly, his beautiful children waving with love towards him, giving Sally a piggyback ride, asleep on the couch on Christmas with Sally beside him and Bobby playing with a toy gun, he and Peggy holding one of their infant children, Don and Betty's wedding and finally, beautifully, a shot of a young Don and Peggy kissing at a New Years Party right at the start of their relationship.

All the while he talks, explaining the Wheel isn't a spaceship but a time machine. He talks about how it can take them to a place they ache to return to, lets them travel like a child travels: around and around and back home again.... to a place where we know we are loved. Salvatore's art appears only in the penultimate slide, and when he finally reaches the end and there is only white, Harry Crane has to race from the room, barely holding back tears of the enormity of his betrayal of his wife hits him all over again. Even Don himself has been drawn in, his insistence from the start of the season that love was merely a tool to sell product not enough to prevent him falling under his own spell as he was reminded that the "place when we know we are loved" was there waiting for him all along.

"It's not called the Wheel, it's called the Carousel," Don proclaimed during the pitch, and now that it is over the ride has stopped... and Joe and Lynn sit in stunned silence at what they've just witnessed. Duck, who knows a successful pitch when he sees one, can only beam with pride as he looks a the two men and with total confidence proclaims,"Good luck at your next meeting."

Look, I can write about this magnificent scene all day... but watch it. Just watch it. It is utterly incredible and Jon Hamm's performance is sensational.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suRDUFpsHus

Shortly after, a still beaming Duck comes to Don's office followed by Salvatore, Paul, Kenny and Pete. Those who weren't there have already heard how Don blew all expectations - yet again - out of the water, and the proof is in the pudding: Kodak called up from the lobby, they couldn't even get out of the building before they're decided to go with Sterling Cooper. They canceled all their other meetings, including one with DDB, knowing that nothing, NOTHING, could compare to the magic they felt in that room with Don Draper.

Duck doesn't mind sharing the love around either, letting Pete know that the good news has continued, Tom has called and set up a meeting ahead of Christmas for the Clearasil account. "I've got to get married," remarks Ken, drawing big laughs, and then the booze starts getting handed around. Duck doesn't make a big deal of it, but he smoothly rejects an offered glass for himself and passes it to Don: whatever his other faults, he was clearly burned badly by his experience in London and appears to be living sober now.

But while Duck is somebody who clearly sees the value in keeping people happy, Don is a jealous man. He is being lauded and Pete gets to share in some glory too at HIS celebration? Pete who tried to blackmail him? Pete who he tried to fire once before and was told no, and then had it "suggested" to him he keep around even after the blackmail attempt? Pete whose big accomplishment today was being handed yet another prize by a member of his family while Don's home-run came about from hard work and his own creative process (and a half-drunken memory of Harry talking about the past!)?

Or maybe he doesn't even realize he's thinking that way, maybe he genuinely thinks he's doing him a favor. Because he suddenly declares that he has a way to really make Clearasil's account a success, they just need to bring in a writer who can get into the mindset of young girls who want to be blemish free... he thinks they should give Peggy Olsen the account!

Pete initially thinks he's joking, and then becomes horrified when Don insists and even Ken pipes in to praise her for her Belle Jolie work before acknowledging her level of control in the recording booth, likening her to Paul Kinsey, but with balls! Everybody is laughing and enjoying themselves but Pete, who is getting temperamental at Don's ridiculous suggestion... which in turn gets Don to offer him a warning request to repeat his rejection of a Partner's recommendation.

Duck is simply confused, who the hell is Peggy Olsen? Pete snaps that she's not even a copywriter, just a secretary... so Don solves that in the simplest way possible. He bellows for Peggy and she enters the office to see what Don wants... and is informed that she is now officially a junior copywriter! Her first Account (not assignment, Account) will be Clearasil.

Stunned but happy, she steps forward and formally offers a hand to Don, promising she will give it her sincerest effort. He shakes it and informs her that Pete will fill her in on the details after the holiday, which is the only thing that gives her the slightest pause. Not necessarily because of her disastrous dalliances with Pete, but also because some part of her must sense on some level this decision is part of a pissing contest between Don and Pete. But equally she knows she deserves this, that she's up to the task, so she thanks Don again even after Pete storms out of the office in a huff, against wondering just why the hell Don Draper won't just let him have what he wants.



Shortly after, Joan escorts Peggy away from the secretarial pool to HER new office... kind of. It's a shared space with a copywriter called Victor Manning, since the other man in the office - David Steuben - got fired. Peggy's mind is still racing as she considers her new station in life... can she get business cards now? Joan has to laugh, telling her to put in a request through Bridget if she wants that. Once again, despite her mocking exterior, Joan actually offers some thoughtful advice to Peggy: she has a door now, but once she didn't. She needs to remember where she came from and think about the other girls, treat them well, and she'll get the same treatment from them in turn.

They enter the office, but in this moment of triumph Peggy feels odd, and ponders if she should go home. Joan figures she just wants an excuse to go out and celebrate and can't help but joke that her "secretary" (Vic) can cover for her. She leaves, and Peggy is left alone in her office... but not for long, the odd sensations she is feeling in her body are growing more and more prominent.

Soon she finds herself at the hospital waiting for a checkup, telling the doctor she is suffering from bad stomach pain. The doctor is kind and pleasant, a far cry from Dr. Emerson, and he settles in to check on her stomach as the nurse gives her a thermometer to hold in her mouth. But a single application of pressure on her belly by the doctor causes her to drop the thermometer from her mouth in a gasp of pain... which pales in comparison to the doctor's next words: why didn't she tell him she was pregnant?

To say Peggy is astonished is an understatement. What the hell is he talking about? The nurse asks if they can call her husband... or her boyfriend? The last statement followed by an expression of silent judgement. But Peggy doesn't notice, she's too busy trying to insist the doctor is wrong: she's not pregnant. But when he takes her hands and places them on her belly and makes her REALLY feel it..... there is it, the unmistakable motion and movement of a living being. This is not a cramp, not gas, her weight gain isn't because of the extra food she's been buying off the cart at lunch: she's pregnant.

But she can't accept it, can't believe it. It beggars belief (though is not without precedent) for her to NOT have known. Was she getting her period? Did she not feel the baby moving? Did she simply reject the evidence of her eyes and the feeling of her own body? When she feels the baby, she refuses to acknowledge it, simply grabs her things and tries to walk away... and immediately doubles over in pain. Because she's not just pregnant, she's HEAVILY pregnant. The pain she is feeling is not morning sickness, it's labor pain, she is ready to give birth. "You don't understand!" she moans, thinking about her accomplishments, her success in moving from secretary to junior copywriter, and now that's all going out the window because of a single fumble about on Pete Campbell's couch one early morning?

The doctor and the nurse grab her as she falls, calling for a wheelchair, preparing to get her up to the maternity ward... but also putting in a call for Dr. Wilson in Psychiatry. This isn't just a matter of old school paternalistic mindsets dictating that any woman who doesn't immediately love the idea of being pregnant is crazy.... Peggy is demonstrating troubling signs of being unable to accept reality to her own physical detriment.

As the mother is being wheeled up to maternity, the unknowing father returns home drunk as a skunk... and discovers Trudy's parents in the house, all dressed up and apparently ready to go out somewhere. Trudy happily greets him, smells the copious amounts of alcohol on him and quickly covers for him, asking loudly if there was a party at work?

He's clearheaded enough to pick up this lifeline and agree there was, and apologetically state he needs to get some sleep. Tom agrees, before laughing that he just needs to be awake later when Trudy comes to bed, causing her to snap at him for being gross, while he laughs happily, enjoying her discomfort. Pete, meanwhile, staggers down to the bedroom, unable to muster the strength to even keep his coat from falling to the floor as he goes.

Later in the evening, a nurse carries in Peggy's baby - a baby she didn't or wouldn't let herself know existed until a few hours earlier - and brings it to her in her bed. She wants to know if she'll at least hold him if she won't feed him. Peggy just stares blankly at the child, then turns her head away. Whether it's a conscious decision or simply another matter or her mind refusing to accept the reality of her eyes I guess I won't find out till next season. As it is, the nurse walks away, and Peggy Olsen stares blankly at nothing, the forward momentum of her life suddenly sent spiraling out of control in a way that seems to have come completely out of nowhere but puts a lot of the back half of the first season into a fresh new context.



Don sits on the train heading home, the car packed with excited people heading for Thanksgiving weekends with their families. Arriving home, at first Don finds the house dark and empty... but then Betty's voice calls out and he finds her and the kids with their luggage packed, just on the cusp of leaving. She's surprised to see him there, and wearily explains to the excited kids that he won't be coming with them.

But that's all changed! Don Draper is a changed man! His trip down memory lane with the Carousel inspired him, made him realize what he'd missed. After a full season of Don seemingly begrudging his perfect family, he has finally embraced them. He tells Betty he is going with them, kisses her, smiles and then rushes to hug his happy children as he explains he is coming after all. They clutch him tight as he lifts them up, and Betty stares at the beautiful scene with love in her eyes. All is right, all is perfect, it is the fairy-tale ending: Don was wrong, love and marriage aren't just marketing tools. They're real, and they're perfect, and they bring happiness.

And it's all a fantasy.

Don Draper walks through the door of a darkened house and calls out to no reply. Betty and the children have already gone, just as she told him they would be after he made it clear that he had no intention of going with them and no desire to spend Thanksgiving with her family. How wonderful that he came to the realization that family was important and that he had what he'd been searching here at home all along... but maybe you could have actually told Betty that instead of hoping for this picture-book reconciliation in your head instead?

The show ends to the music of Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice It's All Right, but it doesn't end on Don, Betty and their children happily embracing as a single family unit. It ends on Don Draper - a man who selfishly looks out only for his own desires, needs and wants first and then considers everything else afterwards - sitting alone in a dark and empty house, the natural consequence of his own actions. His wife hasn't left him, he isn't estranged from his children... but he is alone. The fairy-tale ending from the first episode isn't repeated, instead we see Don as he has made himself: alone and miserable.



So ends season 1 of Mad Men, a show I've never watched before and a show I'm kicking myself for having not watched sooner. There'll be more to come in a write-up covering the season as a whole later, and then of course season 2 not too longer after. For now though? What an incredible season, what an incredible series, what incredible actors and production values and writing.

What a show.

Episode Index

BigglesSWE
Dec 2, 2014

How 'bout them hawks news huh!


It only gets better. Mad Men is the best drama I’ve seen for many different reasons.

Escobarbarian
Jun 18, 2004




Grimey Drawer

MAN what an incredible finale

The Klowner
Apr 20, 2019

I see past the sham that is society, and I'm into some incredibly fucked up shit.

Another Jerusalem post just in time, I was starting to get the shakes

Yoshi Wins
Jul 14, 2013



This show is very good at finales.

Numerous great scenes in this episode. Don’s pitch is legendary. Betty figuring out she can use Dr. Wayne to communicate with Don is brilliant. But I think my favorite scene in this episode is Betty crying in the parking lot with Glen. Glen has real compassion for her, but this must be frightening, to see an adult break down like this and assure him that adults don’t know ANYTHING.

I think this is the first appearance of Betty’s beautiful blue coat. Love that costume for her. It exudes beauty and sadness in a way that fits her so perfectly.

I like that you touch on Don’s ambiguous motives for promoting Peggy. I think he must have been genuinely impressed with her work, but he also seems to be trying to stick a knife in by promoting her in front of everyone as Pete’s tantrum is just beginning.

I don’t know the exact dates the episodes are supposed to take place on, but I think Peggy got pregnant in the pilot, rather than the episode where they have sex on Pete’s couch. I think the implication is that she didn’t know that you need to wait a little while after starting the pill for it to be effective. She just started on it that day.

The Klowner
Apr 20, 2019

I see past the sham that is society, and I'm into some incredibly fucked up shit.

There's a lot I want to respond to regarding this episode, but for now I want to address this:

Jerusalem posted:


Pete is troubled and a little vexed that Trudy mentioned this to her parents, though he really only has himself to blame for having clearly told her he expected to get the role (I presume he didn't tell her his certainty was down to his plans to blackmail Don Draper) only for it to all blow up in his face. But unlike Pete's own father, Tom isn't bringing this up to harangue or look down on Pete, if anything quite the opposite. With surprising openness he tells Pete warmly that he wants to treat him like a son because he thinks of him like a son... and his best advice is for Pete to stop concentrating so much on work and focus more on his family life.

...But When Pete starts talking about how Sterling Cooper could help him spread the message for his product, he gets back on track. Diplomatically he brings up "tending your own garden" before finally just outright saying what he means: he and his wife want grandchildren, and they want Pete concentrating on getting their daughter pregnant.

Trudy is a little shocked to overhear this.... regardless of how genuine Tom's affection or good treatment of him might be, he's still overstepping himself in Pete's mind. But he can't shut him down or tell him to mind his own business, after all he's his father-in-law, and more than that he's the man who loaned them (on extraordinarily lax terms) the money for the apartment they currently enjoy living in.

Your interpretation here is intriguing, because I always interpreted their exchange in this scene as an explicit threat by Tom against Pete. "You can have the apartment as long as you give me grandchildren." Joe O'Connor's performance here, to me, suggests very transparently that Tom doesn't like Pete, and only tolerates him to the extent that he makes Trudy happy. (Beyond that, it's also an interesting foil of Pete's blackmail of Don.)

But here's what's really interesting: watch Trudy during this scene. She's constantly looking back at the men from the background, and when Tom blurts out he wants grandkids, there's a cut to Alison Brie, and she gives this amazing look. She stares at Pete, and the camera holds on her juuust long enough. She's embarrassed in the moment of course, but she's very much interested in this exchange between her father and her husband. We already know she wants kids. I think it's possible she engineered this pressure against Pete after learning he didn't get the promotion. It gives this later exchange between them in their bedroom a really different dynamic:

quote:

Her reply? He can't think about that. He is confused, but she insists, and he doesn't need much convincing. The two go back to making out, birth control all forgotten.

The meaning of her "you CAN'T think about that" is, I think, straightforward: having a child together in her mind should NOT be a rational, logical and thought-out process where the pros and cons are weighed against each other. It should be the product of love, of the natural desire between a husband and wife, and if a child comes from that, it will come from love. The rest of it, the money, the time, the stress etc, that can all be dealt with later.

Oh to be white and from a privileged background.

"You can't" in this context means, "You can't think about not having children, because that goes against the stated condition of our living arrangement. You can't because my parents, and by proxy, I, won't let you say no." I could be reading too much into it, but it certainly fits with the idea that Trudy is someone who's obsessed with obtaining for herself a particular image and status.

Yoshi Wins
Jul 14, 2013



Jerusalem posted:

Ken Cosgrove is surprised at this read, pointing out that Lucky Strike is a tobacco company and that should count as a pharmaceutical (even though they can no longer argue health benefits). Rather than explain himself, Duck chooses to subtly put down Ken's standing, asking if he's the man behind the "Rejuvenator", basically reminding him that he's dealing with small time companies at the moment while they want bigger ones.

Huh. This is weird. I've never seen/heard this dialogue from Ken about Lucky Strike in that scene or Duck's comeback about the Relax-a-Cizor. I've only seen the version where Ken doesn't speak in that scene. I just rewatched it to confirm. Everything else you describe is in the version that's available through iTunes and matches how I remember it when I watched (and rewatched) Mad Men on Netflix.

I'm sure you didn't hallucinate it, but I"m not sure what's going on here. Does anyone know? Are there alternate versions of Mad Men with deleted scenes? Are you watching through IMDB TV or... some other means?

I've tried googling info about the episode, looking for why there's more than one version of this scene out there, but I can't find anything helpful.

GoutPatrol
Oct 17, 2009

Coal Jobs for the Coal God



I guess this isn't a spoiler now that we've passed the episode, but I'll spoil it just in case:

Rich Sommer has talked about how Harry was supposed to kill himself at the end there, and Matt Weiner changed it last minute to keep him around because he liked the character.

JethroMcB
Jan 23, 2004

We're normal now.
We love your family.


GoutPatrol posted:

I guess this isn't a spoiler now that we've passed the episode, but I'll spoil it just in case:

Rich Sommer has talked about how Harry was supposed to kill himself at the end there, and Matt Weiner changed it last minute to keep him around because he liked the character.

Wow.

Doubly surprising because Harry just becomes the worst piece of poo poo over the course of the series, the lens that Weiner uses to focus his undying hatred of everything about television as a business. He's broken and remorseful here, and then by Season 5 he's double-fisting White Castles while bemoaning how much he hates his wife.

But hey...he had his moment with Hildy, Goddess of the secretary pool.

Escobarbarian
Jun 18, 2004




Grimey Drawer

Hildy is the best character

Mover
Jun 30, 2008

Goodness no, now that wouldn't do at all!


GoutPatrol posted:

I guess this isn't a spoiler now that we've passed the episode, but I'll spoil it just in case:

Rich Sommer has talked about how Harry was supposed to kill himself at the end there, and Matt Weiner changed it last minute to keep him around because he liked the character.

As far as it would have been questionable to have 2 suicides as major plot points in season one alone, Harry taking his own life would certainly make his conversation with Don about the cave paintings/handprints and the absolute human desire to say "I was here, I meant something" that much more meaningful.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


The Klowner posted:

Your interpretation here is intriguing, because I always interpreted their exchange in this scene as an explicit threat by Tom against Pete. "You can have the apartment as long as you give me grandchildren." Joe O'Connor's performance here, to me, suggests very transparently that Tom doesn't like Pete, and only tolerates him to the extent that he makes Trudy happy. (Beyond that, it's also an interesting foil of Pete's blackmail of Don.)

But here's what's really interesting: watch Trudy during this scene. She's constantly looking back at the men from the background, and when Tom blurts out he wants grandkids, there's a cut to Alison Brie, and she gives this amazing look. She stares at Pete, and the camera holds on her juuust long enough. She's embarrassed in the moment of course, but she's very much interested in this exchange between her father and her husband. We already know she wants kids. I think it's possible she engineered this pressure against Pete after learning he didn't get the promotion. It gives this later exchange between them in their bedroom a really different dynamic:

"You can't" in this context means, "You can't think about not having children, because that goes against the stated condition of our living arrangement. You can't because my parents, and by proxy, I, won't let you say no." I could be reading too much into it, but it certainly fits with the idea that Trudy is someone who's obsessed with obtaining for herself a particular image and status.

I don't agree with this take, though I certainly find it interesting. I think part of the appeal of this Pete storyline to me is that, while Trudy and her family are clearly enjoying the reflected glory of becoming part of a elite New York family... they do actually genuinely want Pete to be a proper member of THEIR family too, and they actually appreciate him. The desire for a grandchild by Trudy's parents, I feel, comes about from a genuine desire for grandchildren. Now that their daughter is married, they're looking forward to the best part of being a parent, which is becoming a grandparent and getting to have kids around again and spoil them without having to do the rough, frustrating parts.

And Pete legit doesn't know how to deal with it, because it's encouragement and open-minded acceptance of him and his qualities that he never got from his own family, so he's unsettled by it and probably assumes there is some ulterior motive or that eventually the other shoe will drop. Kind of like how Don keeps looking for a place "where we know we are loved", Pete is looking for acceptance from his family, and both of them have it right there in their own homes and don't seem to really realize or appreciate it.

I buy Trudy's love and devotion to him, I don't think the episode with the publisher would have gone the way it did if she was as calculating as your theory suggests. Which isn't to say she isn't calculating in some regard - after all that is how she got the apartment she wanted - but not in that specific sense: she isn't going to hold power over him, and her telling Pete he CAN'T worry about not being able to afford a baby is greeted by him with excitement rather than dread or sullenness which is how he's reacted to every other effort by anybody to restrain or control him over the course of the season. I really do think based on what I've seen so far that it's Occams Razor: Trudy really loves Pete and so do her parents, and they are living in bliss over the thrill of married life while he can't stop second-guessing himself or worrying about the future... and that's why she tells him to stop, that he can't, he just needs to enjoy the moment.

Yoshi Wins posted:

Huh. This is weird. I've never seen/heard this dialogue from Ken about Lucky Strike in that scene or Duck's comeback about the Relax-a-Cizor. I've only seen the version where Ken doesn't speak in that scene. I just rewatched it to confirm. Everything else you describe is in the version that's available through iTunes and matches how I remember it when I watched (and rewatched) Mad Men on Netflix.

That's weird, it's definitely in there - I'm watching the blu-ray versions, maybe they added in extra stuff that had to be cut for TV time and those are the versions on Netflix and iTunes?

Here's the segment in question.

MightyJoe36
Dec 29, 2013

Cat Army


Jerusalem posted:


For now though? What an incredible season, what an incredible series, what incredible actors and production values and writing.

What a show.

And what incredible write ups. Keep it up!

Yoshi Wins
Jul 14, 2013



Jerusalem posted:

That's weird, it's definitely in there - I'm watching the blu-ray versions, maybe they added in extra stuff that had to be cut for TV time and those are the versions on Netflix and iTunes?

Here's the segment in question.

Yeah I guess the blurays are like director’s cuts or something. On Netflix and iTunes this scene jumped straight from “no automobile, airline, pharmaceutical” to “I’m offering a $100 bonus”.

I’m sure they won’t be all that different in the end, especially later in the show’s run when Weiner became more powerful and could get whatever he wanted.

MoaM
Dec 1, 2009

Believe.







where's the contradiction, lol


e: The show operates on generalizations of course, but the idea with Ginsberg is that counter-culture figures / acolytes in the mid-to-late sixties weren't always "noble" and "sane".

I mean, unless you think Ginsberg was on the right-side of issues in this era? If so, I'm just gonna gently caress off with this line of discussion.

MoaM fucked around with this message at 08:03 on Nov 13, 2020

MoaM
Dec 1, 2009

Believe.






Jerusalem posted:

[...]

It ends on Don Draper - a man who selfishly looks out only for his own desires, needs and wants first and then considers everything else afterwards - sitting alone in a dark and empty house, the natural consequence of his own actions.
[...]


Big first watch vibes. Thank-you for your service.

Torquemada
Oct 21, 2010

Drei Gläser


I think the pitch in ‘The Carousel’ stands virtually alone in the history of media, because it effortlessly overcomes a very common hurdle: How do you show someone being creative in a way that works in the scene, but also works on the audience?

Enormous swathes of fiction require the audience to understand either that a protagonist is either good at something, or got good at something. From the top of my head, there’s four ways you can go about showing this.

• The Agony and the Ecstasy. Charlton Heston IS Michelangelo! Everyone knows what the Sistine Chapel roof looks like, you just show the hero covered in dust and paint standing next to a masterpiece. Your guy is good at something, and it’s obvious to everyone from the get go. This really only works if the talent isn’t the focus of the story.

• The Matrix, or any movie with a training montage. People love training montages, and pretty much the main reason is because it compresses years of pain and effort into a nice, easily digested wad of goo. You can see your guy sucks at the beginning, but the power of special effects and six months with a personal trainer transform him into a god. Fine, if your subject is doing something physical.

• The Queen’s Gambit. Your heroine is the world’s greatest chess player, but the viewing public don’t understand chess. This approach requires a great deal of screen time dedicated to all the other actors being amazed, incredulous, or astounded. The chess is real enough for the purposes of the script, but doesn’t actually require any effort from the audience to understand. see also Good Will Hunting.

• Mr Holland’s Opus. Your protagonist has a talent, and despite the best efforts of everyone involved in the production, the depiction of it is risible. I’m sure I’m not the only person to watch this movie just to howl with laughter, mainly during the performance of the title character’s life work at the end. Titanic has a similar problem: as I said in another thread, the idea that Rose likes Jack’s high-school quality work when she owns a Degas is ludicrous.

For me, The Carousel pitch was the show’s last opportunity to keep me on-board. We’ve had plenty of references to Don’s genius, his amazing ad creation skills, his award winning. Everyone in the office fawns over him, including the bosses. He dresses well, looks great, and when really pushed into a corner, he can deliver (Lucky Strike, or versus Pete in Bert Cooper’s office), but none of what we’ve previously seen explains why such a fundamentally awful broken person gets given so much leeway. No one person is so great at their job they can get away with almost anything, are they?

Uh, yeah. They are.

I go back and forth on the inclusion of the music, and I now appreciate it on a meta level. The whole scene is so intentionally manipulative they added the (perfect) music so that the audience would realise they were being manipulated as well. I don’t think the series reached the heights I expected after this scene. It’s basically too good.

Beamed
Nov 26, 2010

Then you have a responsibility that no man has ever faced. You have your fear which could become reality, and you have Godzilla, which is reality.




Good luck at your next meeting.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Torquemada posted:

I think the pitch in ‘The Carousel’ stands virtually alone in the history of media, because it effortlessly overcomes a very common hurdle: How do you show someone being creative in a way that works in the scene, but also works on the audience?

One of my absolute pet peeves is when a movie or TV show introduces a character who is highly lauded as an incredible writer, because they inevitably have them voiceover a piece of their own writing and it's almost always drivel or mildly competent at best. At least with visual art you have that "The Agony and the Ecstasy" option you listed to just show them standing in front of the already completed masterpiece, though that only really works if it is a preexisting bit of art, otherwise you run the problem of trying to factory-produce a piece of art that is meant to have deep emotional resonance. Similarly to writing, successfully creating the illusion of a master pitcher is really a huge ask (on a tangent, watch The Player to - among other things - see what happens when people are REALLY bad at pitching) and the entire show really hinges on Hamm's ability to sell this beyond the script level.

Part of what makes the Carousel Pitch hit so hard is Draper's phenomenal performance, though the editing helps a lot as well. The music enhances the pitch but it is a little too obviously manipulative, telling the audience,"It is time to be inspired". But it doesn't detract from it at all because the performance is just so incredibly strong, Hamm is so extraordinarily charismatic and inspiring in the scene that it makes the stunned reactions of everybody else in the room feel perfectly natural - he IS Don Draper in that moment, the creative mastermind of Sterling Cooper who makes everybody he meets fall in love with him... except Pete Campbell!

Anyway, I had to take a few days away to help out on a real world project so I haven't had a chance to write up a final retrospective on season 1 as a whole, but I'll get to that soon and then get into season 2. I have no idea where the show is going next and I'm really looking forward to finding out

The Klowner
Apr 20, 2019

I see past the sham that is society, and I'm into some incredibly fucked up shit.

Something else I was thinking of while watching the episode ahead of the write-up: I remember being completely blindsided and bewildered by Peggy's cryptic pregnancy (unaware at the time that it is in fact a real phenomenon), to the point where I thought I had accidentally skipped an episode or missed some incredibly relevant dialogue or scene. I had no idea what to make of it at the time, it seemed like such an otherworldly twist to introduce to the show.

You don't give much away in your description of the scene depicting the revelation of Peggy's pregnancy, OP. What was your reaction?

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


I didn't see it coming at all. They played up her weight gain but other characters continually sold it as a common sight in office settings where a new girl gets comfortable and starts settling in, and I was more focused on the utter toxicity of the male AND female characters who judged or looked down on her for not "keeping her figure trim" as I believe was the common phrasing at the time.

When it happened it threw a ton of things into a brand new context for me. I was also aware that cryptic pregnancies were a thing, so it made a perfect kind of sense that Peggy was so focused on her career, her opportunities and the excitement of being "in the city" that she either forcibly denied her reality or managed to genuinely convince herself that she was just eating a bit too much from the snack cart and she could lose the weight with a bit of effort.

Yoshi Wins posted:

I don’t know the exact dates the episodes are supposed to take place on, but I think Peggy got pregnant in the pilot, rather than the episode where they have sex on Pete’s couch. I think the implication is that she didn’t know that you need to wait a little while after starting the pill for it to be effective. She just started on it that day.

This was something I hadn't really considered until I read your post, but it makes a lot of sense. The show was better than Sopranos at demonstrating a clear passage of time, and I guess the season being roughly 9 months long makes sense, as it's just long enough for Peggy to have lost the "new girl appeal" but still be fresh enough that people weren't entirely sure what to make of her.

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?


Season 1 Retrospective

With season one of Mad Men behind me, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the season as a whole before moving on to the next season. Having come in blind and not knowing what was coming next, I'm happy to say that after one season in I feel extremely satisfied with my choice to take on this project. The show is utterly remarkable, especially for an AMC show, with a big budget, excellent production values and a stellar cast. It pays to remember that this show essentially started shortly after The Sopranos ended, but while it features many alumni from the latter show on its crew it was also operating on Basic Cable rules and lacking some of the freedom HBO offered re: nudity and foul language.

It is working within those restrictions where the show shines: certainly nobody could argue that the show shies away from sexual themes, but by playing up the sophisticated veneer of the advertising agency it simply brings into sharper relief the abysmal misogyny running rampant through society at the time. Characters in The Sopranos were cruder and more obvious and it worked, but it also allowed some degree of a feeling of moral superiority for the viewer (and sadly, some disturbing envy from a portion of the audience) over these crass, low-class monsters. Not so in Mad Men, where the male characters are considered intellectual, creative, witty and urbane which also means they have no real excuse for being a group of degenerate, exploitative and often outright predatory pieces of poo poo.



In looking back at a full season, the obvious question is what was the major theme/plot of the show. The main character is clearly Don Draper, who is the first and last person we see to bookend the season (and both times he's alone, at first in a crowd and finally all by himself). Nailing down the major theme/overarching plot is less easy. It would seem at first to be about "solving" the mystery of who Don Draper is, but while the reveal of his past and the secret of HOW he changed identities is a curiosity, it easily takes a backseat to the more interesting idea of WHAT Don Draper is looking for.

That the mystery of Don's past is solved so relatively quickly and his secrets are revealed only to be met with a reaction of "who cares?" is perfect. It's not a Shaggy Dog story, because the point really is that it doesn't matter. Don spends so long worrying about being exposed without ever really considering that he actually is who he says he is, and the name that goes on top of that doesn't actually matter. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and Don Draper would be just as effective a pitch-man and creative director if his name was Dick Whitman. Sure, he probably would have never had these opportunities if he'd stayed in Pennsylvania, but he got his foot in the door and he has made the company huge amounts of money. They made him partner because they needed him, they have him lead meetings because he has talent, skill and a strong grasp of what makes people tick. He is essentially the dream employee, and it's fascinating to see a man so clearly in-demand and respected who spends almost every moment secretly believing he is a fraud about to be exposed as a phony (not just in name, but in talent) nearly right from the first scene of the first episode (he tells Midge they'll "finally" realize he's not the real deal).

So the major arc isn't WHO is Don Draper, it's WHAT he wants. He puts it into words himself in the final episode during that magical Carousel pitch: a place where we know we are loved. He is searching for it all season, overlooking that it is right there under his nose the entire time. Like many male television characters before him, his desire for women is coupled with a near desperate need for maternal affection, which in turn fills him with guilt or confusion over the conflicting feelings. He struggles with Betty's healthy (if a little obsessive) desire for him, trying to conflate it with the fact he sees her now as the mother of their children before he sees her as a wife.



Muddying things even more is the paternalistic nature of their 1960 gender dynamic: he infantilizes her, treats her as a child, denies her agency... but is also frustrated and upset by the fact she looks to him for guidance or suffers anxiety when asked to make decisions for herself. He desires her and bizarrely seems to feel more guilt about lusting for his wife than he does his infidelity with Midge and Rachel. That infidelity stands out against the womanizing of the other characters in that he doesn't approach it casually like they do. He ignores or dismisses the obvious come-ons from the likes of Peggy or Eleanor, having no interest in one-night stands or casual sex, but pursues women with strong independent streaks. He is infatuated with powerful women who show agency while also rejecting any chance for his wife to achieve the same... and then belittles or begrudges her lack of it.

Don's final realization comes far too late, and it comes only as a result of his selfishness: he finally realizes that he has a loving wife and family, that he has long-ago filled in the lack he experienced as a child. But his desire to spend Thanksgiving with Betty and the children comes as a personal revelation, after ignoring or outright criticizing Betty for pleading with him to be with them. When Dick Whitman abandoned his family in 1950 he started down a path of living purely for his own gratification. Not in the hedonistic sense he pretends to ascribe to with Rachel in the first episode, but his placing of himself first and foremost in his needs. This is a man who abandons his daughter's birthday party because he couldn't even spend a full day operating in a capacity where he put the needs of others above himself, even those he loves the most. This is a man who then buys her a dog purely so he won't have to face the consequences of his actions, and leaves his wife to deal with the aftermath while he gets to revel in the pure simplicity of Sally's love.

In short, Don Draper is a complicated, selfish but deeply intriguing man. One of the now notorious "difficult men" from a particular period of prestige TV drama. Like Walter White and Tony Soprano, Don Draper has a charisma and personality that draws a viewer in despite his horrible, destructive (to himself and others) ways. It is a fine line to draw, heavily reliant on the strength of the actor's performance. Thankfully Jon Hamm is more than up to the task, a perfect match of actor to character, not just in terms of his physical good looks but the way he carries himself - it seems almost unbelievable that he was a relative unknown until he got this role. It is one thing to write Don Draper as a charismatic, handsome, sophisticated creative wunderkind, and quite another to see that character realized in a performance. At no point during the entire season did I ever NOT buy that characters would be enamored with Draper, that they would seek his approval and respect, that they would crave his attention. Without that performance, the show would not have worked. With it... well goddamn.



I had intended to write far more about the production values, the sets, the wardrobe etc but ended up completely caught up in Don Draper as a character. This seems appropriate, he is the centerpiece of the show. Despite a very admirable effort to write strongly realized supporting characters, they all orbit the sun that is Draper/Hamm, both from a character and actor perspective. The supporting characters ARE very well written though, and after only 2-3 episodes the large cast quickly came into place for me as a viewer.

The obvious standouts are Peggy and Pete, with the latter defined strongly by his opposition/antagonistic relationship with Don, and the former her love/hate relationship with Pete himself. I've written copiously on both during the write-ups for each episode, so I figured I'd talk a bit about the "lesser" supporting characters: Joan, Roger, Bert, Harry, Paul and Ken etc. Each of them manages to be distinct, to fill in a role within the office and the show, to live a life and inhabit a character. Even Paul, Harry and Ken who on first glance seem broadly the same end up demonstrating clear individual characters: Ken's clear talent as a writer at battle with a less prestigious (still better than Dick Whitman's) background; Paul's desperate desire to be seen as a worldly man undercut by a horrific fear he is not truly capable; Harry's settling for a life of comfortable mediocrity both domestically and in his career being upended by his indiscretion with Hildy. Plus of course there is Sal, whose homosexuality is played far too on the nose in the first episode but then plays out strongly across the course of the season culminating in the remarkable dinner scene in The Hobo Code where he quietly lays out his own awareness of how he can never allow himself to be exactly who and what he is.

Joan and Roger spend half the season as distinct characters occupying their own spaces in the office environment standing somewhat apart from the rest... which makes their affair somehow feel completely natural despite their lack of interactions before the revelation, and colors everything that happens between them before and after. Joan has a surprising level of power and respect that is nonetheless filtered through the gender dynamics of the time, and contrast wonderfully with Peggy as a character attempting to achieve success purely through her own merits as opposed to via fulfilling a specific niche role defined by her gender.



Roger is the Boss, but as the Junior Partner his capitulation to and intimidation by Bert Cooper make him seem somehow lesser than. At first it seems his entire role is to be the guy who attends meetings so Bert doesn't have to, and spends the rest of his time enjoying nice lunches and lots of alcohol. It's to the credit of the show that both he and Bert end up demonstrating their value to the firm in different ways as the season progresses. With Roger gone from the picture following his heart attack, we learn that he has been the one "handling" the clients, working network connections, making sure everybody is kept fat and happy. It's a role Bert dislikes, and is happy to pass on to Don once Roger can't do it anymore. But Bert isn't just a Japanophile Randite who hangs out in his office being eccentric. He understands power and the way it works, he has an immediate and seemingly intuitive understanding of when something is to be permitted and when it must be stamped down. He is the one who schools Don AND Roger on the intricacies of social power in Manhattan, and runs down the immediate political aftermath of the Nixon/Kennedy Election. He and Roger complement and complete each other, and make it clear by the end of the season that the firm isn't called Sterling Cooper just because it sounds good: both partners are needed to keep things running strong.

Finally there is Betty Draper. It's extraordinary that a character who barely appears at all in the first episode of the season would not only become such a vital and fascinating character but would do so almost IMMEDIATELY upon her proper first episode. Despite the obvious problems in her and Don's marriage, they're also perfectly believable as a couple with a long history together, who know each other well and have some level of comfort together. Watching her struggle with the obvious issues her late mother gave her growing up is heartbreaking, more-so when you see her repeating the same mistakes with Sally. Even more though is the few references to her age. She is married, has two kids, has ended her modeling career and settled into life as a housewife... and she's not even 30 yet. It's a period piece, and sometimes they lay on the blatant sexism and disregard for women on thick... but goddamn if seeing Betty's life doesn't make you want to shake Don by the shoulders when he complains that she has no need of a psychiatrist.

Mad Men season 1 is an excellent first season of a show in the sense that it so strongly creates a world and history and has compelling and well-realized characters inhabit it. There isn't really a distinct plot to speak of in terms of a single major narrative (the election is backdrop and ends in the penultimate episode), with the big plot beats of Don's history mostly just cropping up in and around episodes covering other things. It's half "here is a character study" and half "let's point out weird 1960 attitudes", and at times because of this it can feel a little meandering. Not in a bad way, it's deeply comforting to be able to sit down and watch an episode and just visit with the characters, see what they're up to, watch them try to score or keep a client etc. But I feel like after this first season, with the characters now well in place, it's time for a stronger season arc to come into play. Whether it will or won't I don't know, but I'll soon find out, because I can't wait to jump straight into season 2. I sure hope you'll all be along for the ride



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 | Season 1 Retrospective

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


looking forward to it! I love this show, and your immensely detailed and thoughtful analyses are an absolute treat to read.

Escobarbarian
Jun 18, 2004




Grimey Drawer

Excellent writeup.

I will say, without getting too far into anything, that being meandering is kind of in this show’s nature. Some seasons have stronger arcs than others, but there’s mostly a “collection of thematically related short stories about the same characters” feel about them. I love that poo poo though

The Klowner
Apr 20, 2019

I see past the sham that is society, and I'm into some incredibly fucked up shit.

Jon Hamm is obviously phenomenal, but I want to shout out John Slattery and Robert Morse. I think the two of them elevate Sterling and Cooper way beyond the page. It's easy to imagine the roles being played more like caricatures—Sterling, the cocky silver-tongued silver-spooned junior exec, and Cooper, the old quiet eccentric with vast connections to power—but I feel like their performance adds a needed dimension to what might otherwise be simple foils to Draper.

I got to see the two of them perform on Broadway alongside John Goodman and Nathan Lane in a 2016 production of The Front Page and they all killed it, it was probably the most memorable show I've been to (though I'm not exactly an expert).

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Blood Nightmaster
Sep 6, 2011



I just finished marathoning the show a few months ago and would've loved to follow along to these write-ups! Sometimes the plot in your typical Mad Men episode can be really densely put together and it's easy to miss some key details so I appreciate a good recap

It's also nice to read from the perspective of somebody in 2020 as opposed to when it first aired--there are elements to older reviews that themselves didn't age well (I might bring those up later once you get to the relevant episodes ) can't wait for you to cover it all though. Threads like these are the reason I joined these forums

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