Mad Men s3e4: The Arrangements

“When we put that money aside for him, he was a little boy. We didn’t know what kind of person we were making.”

Hey, Sally’s driving! Grandpa Gene thankfully has the pedals covered, but he’s letting her steer the car in the ‘hood. Not too shabby.

sallydriving

image courtesy of Jezebel

The relationships of characters and their parents are under the microscope in this episode, an important theme that is revisited over the course of the series.

Peggy is making the leap out of Brooklyn and into the city, and her mother does not take the news well; her sister Anita is happy for her (at least she gets Peggy’s reasoning), and maybe even a little envious of the excitement ahead for her sister. Thankfully, she’s managed to let go of her resentment and turn a kinder eye towards her sister.

On the other hand, her mother appears to have taken up some of that resentment shit whereas last season she seemed more understanding and sympathetic towards Peggy, concerned for her mental health. Her mother is hurt, in spite of Peggy giving her a new TV to soften the blow. As I’ve said before, Peggy is certainly cut from a different cloth than her family. She’s striking out on her own, and her mother clearly cannot relate to it or understand her daughter’s motivations, desires, and needs in her modern life, and really doesn’t care to either. Back to being upset about the Holy Father.

Seeking a roomate, Peggy pens an adult/super boring ad, subject to a bunch of ridicule in the office as ya do. Joan gives her some sage lady advice on her unfortunate ad, while trying to tweak Peggy’s perspective a touch. “This is about two young girls in Manhattan, this is an adventure!” Peggy is looking at it all so analytically, whereas Joan sees the opportunity and the fun that could be. Maybe Joan misses her freewheeling former life as an adventurous girl in the city.

Ahh, Pete’s college buddy Horace Cook Jr. (Ho-Ho..) is in the conference room of Sterling Cooper yapping about some preposterous sport, Jai alai. He’s a silver spoon smooth talking 20-something with an ascot and an expensive haircut. Don is not impressed; however, Lane and Pete see nothing but dollar signs as Ho-Ho is super eager to get his trash sport on American TV and in magazines posthaste. Kid’s got a $3mil inheritance in his pocket, ready to burn.

Grandpa Gene is encouraging to Sally, giving her the attention and affection she really needs at home. He lets her know that she’s smart, and sheds some light on why Betty is so picky about her appearance; turns out she was a chubby girl, much to the chagrin of her mother who made her walk home from the center of town post-errands. Yikes. It’s nice to see someone speaking to Sally as the tiny adult she is.

On the other end of the spectrum, when Gene sits his own daughter down to pass along his wishes, the arrangements in the case of his death, Betty is having none of it. He knows he’s staring down the barrel at this point, it’s sadly a matter of when. As Betty instinctively goes to light up a cigarette, Gene snaps back at her, “I don’t like watching you commit suicide, and neither do your kids.” Timidly, she obliges her father for the moment.

gene_bettykitchen

image courtesy of AMC

Betty is resistant and reluctant to be an adult, choosing to have a vague tantrum over how morbid it is that her father is so openly talking about his own passing with his ‘little girl’. It’s the grownup equivalent of covering her ears and hiding. Her father admits that he shielded her from the world, was too overprotective, that she could have had so much more.. “if you’d even known what was possible.” Gene thinks that’s maybe why she married a man like Don instead of finding herself a better match, being more. Here’s Don, another man who shields her from the real world and treats her like a child.. words and implications she won’t soon forget.

Making the connection that Horace Cook Jr.’s father is connected to Bert Cooper in a million ways, Don calls for a meeting. Horace Sr. is more than a little exhausted by the whole Jai alai mess, and has given up on the idea of his kid doing anything sensible with the cash.

“Well, should you be lucky enough to strike gold, remember that your children weren’t there when you were swinging the pick. I’ve seen his plan… it’s gibberish. But if you refuse him, he’ll only find someone else. My son lives in a cloud of success, but it’s my success. Perhaps when that evaporates and his face is pressed against the reality of the sidewalk, he’ll be of value to someone.”

Horace Sr., not unlike Gene, figures he sheltered his son too much; “we didn’t know what kind of person we were making”. He’s a touch cynical and weary of it at this point, and until Ho-Ho figures out how the world really works (and stops valiantly trying to get the whole damn world to bend at his whim), Horace Sr. is okay with him failing repeatedly until he gets a reality check. Harsh, but understandable.

With Don receiving the green light, it’s time for fancypants dinner with Pete and Ho-Ho to sign him on as a client. Talking about their fathers, Don is reticent. Pete and Horace Jr. are guys living under the shadow of their fathers’ success, whereas Don is someone who left his apocalypse of a childhood far behind, in an attempt to get ahead of it. Seems like Ho-Ho wants to please his dad at the end of the day, to make him proud, however misguided and idiotic his ideas are and how he chooses to go about it. Don tries one last time to talk him down from the dumb investment, and fails.

Latenight, Don is looking at his secret shoebox of photos in his locked desk drawer at home. He studies a photo of his stern father, bathed in the pale moonlight. Was that man ever proud of him? Not bloody likely.

When Gene takes out his box of tricks and war memorabilia to show Bobby, Don is visibly bothered. Gene speaks to Bobby about war as a positive, character-building experience; how it made a man out of him. Don doesn’t see things that way; as we saw in Season 1, he bounced from Korea as soon as he could, did whatever he had to do to head home and get the fuck out of there, scared out of his gourd.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

So when Gene nonchalantly tells Bobby about how he killed a Prussian and took his pointy hat home (complete with bullet hole) as a souvenir, and now wants to pass it down to Bobby. Don isn’t pleased; after all, there was a person in that hat. Life is not so black and white, to deduce someone’s life as that of An Enemy to Don. “It’s a dead man’s hat, take it off.”

Over at Sterling Cooper, Don appoints Sal to direct the Patio ad, a shot for shot remake of Bye Bye Birdie. As he’s working on it later that night at home, Kitty tries to coerce him into having a bang and he ain’t into it, yapping about work.. he shows her the idea for the ad, the dancing and the whole nine. It slowly dawns on her that something has always been very off. Let’s be real; she probably knows on some level that her husband is so far away, and she looks happy that he’s doing some great work, yet devastated that she’s been living something of a lie. Poor Kitty.

Unfortunately for Sal, that Patio ad flops hard, turns out Peggy may have been right.. though this is apparently due to the fact that the shrill lookalike lady in the ad just isn’t Ann-Margaret, with none of her girlish charm and bright-eyed hope. It just ain’t right. Don is encouraging of Sal’s obvious talent for commercial direction, so it’s not a total loss.

Turns out Gene collapsed in the A&P, and a cop comes by the house to let Betty know that he has passed away. Betty nearly collapses on the porch, and when the cop asks what she would like to do with his body, she is momentarily relieved, realising that her father gave her all the instructions she would need.. literally shutting the door on poor Sally.

She grabs the door handle, but can’t quite bring herself to go inside. Grandpa Gene was a man who really connected with her, and now she’s back in a house with parents who vacillate between being indifferent and wrapped up in their own lives, or yelling at her about some complete nonsense.

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image courtesy of Fanpop

William and Judy have arrived at the house; the adults sit at the kitchen table reminiscing about things with Don and Betty. Overhearing the adults laughing about something and misunderstanding that they are grieving and sorting through feelings, Sally has an outburst about her grandfather’s death. Instead of being listened to and comforted, she’s shut out again and told to go watch TV.

Later, Don checks on her after bedtime; she’s asleep clutching the copy of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that they were reading together each night. Just because she’s a kid doesn’t mean she’s not grieving too.

As he folds up Gene’s former bed, Don stands in the room for a beat between the bed of a man who just died, and the crib of his yet to be born child.

“.. You can really do something. Don’t let your mother tell you otherwise.”

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