i miss your good intentions but not the hell you paved with them. words on a screen hardly make amends, but it’s all i’ve got so i continue to reread and rehearse. scenarios where you are kind, on repeat. if you cannot be decent in This world, i will envision one where you are the man that i met, the man that i ache for the most. i can still imagine your touch and your voice, your eyes meeting mine with a half moon smile from across the pool.
38F, seeking comforting mirage. inquire within. (no cops.)
Time is all outta whack with this episode, with three separate looks at the same 24 hours through the eyes of our characters. We’ve got Peggy’s total shite day, Roger on LSD, and Don and Megan’s HoJo’s mess. They’re all disconnected from their partners for different reasons. Peggy has a long, lousy day that starts with an Abe fight and stretches on as Don has a nightmare night that seems neverending.. while Roger is having the time of his life on drugs.
Turns out that while Don is currently doing his best impression of 1963 Roger, Peggy is now 1960 Don.. and I love that both Peggy and Pete are trying to be the New Don(TM) and failing in different ways. Stressed about work, she’s on the outs with Abe. Her Heinz presentation takes a nosedive and she tries on the strangely hypnotic Draper Stubborn Man(TM) routine to shit results. Taking another page from the Draper playbook, she pops out for a movie and gives a stoned handjob to some rando with awesome pants.
Unlike Don, however, she’s brought back down to earth by Ginsberg and his Martian/concentration camp origin story. The well-off over-educated guests at Roger and Jane’s fancy LSD party yap about whether or not the truth is the same on other planets, but we of course know that Ginzo’s truth is the same no matter what. His origin undoubtedly amplifies his eccentricities, and his Martian spin to make everything seem less awful is telling.
“We’re a big secret.. they even tried to hide it from me. That man, my father, told me a story I was born in a concentration camp, but, you know, that’s impossible. And I never met my mother because she supposedly died there; that’s convenient. Next thing I know, Morris there finds me in a Swedish orphanage. I was five. I remember it.”
“Yeah. And then I got this one communication, a simple order: Stay where you are.”
“Are there others like you?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to find any.”
Peggy’s history isn’t a tragedy akin to this level, but she’s probably more like Michael Ginsberg than she realises. Affected by his story, she rings Abe and they reconcile, so at least someone is on the right path.
(On another note, Don isn’t that dissimilar from Ginsberg re: the origin sense. He, too, never knew his mother; and for all he knows, maybe she wasn’t even a prostitute. That information came from his stepmother who didn’t like him very much in the first place. Ginsberg chooses to believe he’s an actual Martian, and Dick Whitman ran with Don Draper as soon as he got the chance.)
On a somewhat lighter note, looks like Roger’s marriage to Jane is imploding, shocking absolutely nobody. As a last ditch effort at reconnecting with her husband, she wants to take LSD with him, to share an experience and maybe gain some clarity; and hey, it does exactly that. The next AM, their marriage ends on a surprisingly sad note– Jane knows that Roger simply doesn’t like her anymore. Bummer, but for the best. Roger’s obviously been unhappy for awhile, and it’s better to let go of a lie and get on with it.. even if he hemorrhages cash in the process.
just in case shit goes south.. || image courtesy of TheBigLead
Rewinding a second to that disaster Heinz pitch.. Peggy transports paternalistic Raymond back to the past for a beat; yet he dismisses the idea under his erroneous assumption that this generation of young people gives no fucks about nostalgia. Natch, she argues that they do (which is true), and perhaps with Don’s help she could’ve helped Raymond see that; instead, it implodes spectacularly and she gets the boot from the Heinz account.
When Don attempts to take Megan out of the office and back in time to the Howard Johnson’s with that goddamned orange sherbet, it’s his own wistfulness and sentimentality he’s fixated upon– and not any real childhood memory of hers.
That HoJo’s is a good site for illuminating a touch of the generation gap between Don and Megan; Don, ever axiomatic that Megan would adore the damn place, is let down by her honesty. It makes sense he’d dig a camp, shiny place like that, too– for all of Don’s slathered on sophistication, he also intrinsically connects with the mainstream kitsch absurdity of midcentury America.
Step outside the box and think about where that all came from for a second; so much of it is, weirdly, about a clean slate. All of that hopeful, sparkling Formica light at the end of the war tunnel. His generation wanted to move forward from the war (well, wars..), and start over in a gorgeously maintained modern home with all the bells and whistles. The American Dream(TM) that continues to attract Don, in spite of his present allergy to the suburbs.
To someone like Megan who grew up with this sort of thing as the norm, she might view the HoJo’s as gauche or trying too hard to be a Fun(TM) place when really, it’s a place you stop on the way to somewhere more exciting. Expressing her real opinion on the (obvi vile) orange sherbet, Don is upset, probably more than he should be.. because who literally cares? Sherbet blows.
But of course, that Howard Johnson’s represents the idealised version of Tomorrowland for Don. Maybe he hoped Megan would see it that way with him as a sort of ‘second honeymoon’, a chance to reconnect. Too bad it got fucked up.
Looking at it from this end, it seems as if Don and Megan aren’t supposed to ‘work’ after all. Similar to Roger and Jane’s tenuous union, Don truly wants (and I think needs) Megan on some level; he just doesn’t Get her. She’s miles away from Betty, she stands up for herself and is her own person; she’s a thoroughly modern gal. Megan giving her real input is ten kinds of jarring to Don. And is she “allowed” to like to work? Apparently not.
It’s deffo certain that Don isn’t done evolving just yet. After all, we’re always changing and growing. Megan may covet the illusion of their marriage and the man Don presents himself as, but she is also true to herself. Shit’s in competition with one another. She loves Don, yet she does not understand him entirely. They have that bitter argument, and Don roars off in the Cadillac, since a hobo told him once how great it is to run.
In Mystery Dateearlier this season, Don capitulates to temptation in his dream, yet also sees Megan as his salvation upon waking, complete with the majestic halo of warm light. He’s probably putting too much on her shoulders to keep him in line, without truly knowing her. A big ol’Band-Aid for his swinging dick.
However, as Megan said, every fight diminishes what they have together. If you take a peek at what they’re fighting about, there’s absolutely a basic misunderstanding between them. She blurts a pretty hurtful insult his way about his dead mother, knowing how awful it was as it flew out of her mouth, and maybe also not knowing to pull back on the throttle a bit with that shit. He storms off but eventually turns back around to find she’s gone, and as the hours pass into the morning he becomes sick with worry that he truly fucked it up or unspeakably worse.
What in the hell does he want exactly? What their marriage represents, or does he really want her as a person? For Christ’s sake, is anything ever going to be enough?
That chase around their gorgeous apartment shows how out of control Don really feels, it’s totally unsettling to watch him unravel like that. None of this shit is good, kiddos. It was like watching a terrible, uncomfortable version of their kinky cleanup sex play from the season premiere.
Alright.. I have an undying love for the show Lost. Is it a perfect series? Hell no, but it’s a show that crafted real characters, emotional drama, iconic moments, and a whole new world to explore. It’s aged really well, in my opinion. The Others! The Dharma Initiative! WE HAVE TO GO BACK! The numbers! What the fuck is in that hatch? THE CONSTANT. Time skipping to the 70s! Oof. I can go on and on.
The finale is polarising (and Across the Sea remains forever fucking awful), but I am firmly in the camp that loved the damn thing through and through. Such a satisfying emotional conclusion to these characters’ stories, and The Leftovers came to the same type of incredibly gratifying conclusion.
This show runs a touch contrary to Lost, depending upon whom you ask; the fascinating bits aren’t really the mystery itself, but rather how the characters live with said mystery, though Lost got there eventually. What’s the fun in laying everything out boilerplate, anyway?
The Leftovers has the typical Lindelof thematic strings; existential loneliness and finding purpose, daddy/mommy issues, daily lying to oneself, very handsome men crying, moving on and letting go, faith versus science, damaged people just trying to make it work. The tone is overall darker, and I feel like that’s a given. How would a world that suddenly and inexplicably lost 2% of the population evolve? Shit would be weird. As the episodes progress and it gets farther away from Perrotta’s source material, it becomes exceptionally more bizarre as it bursts and blooms into this wholly mesmerising viewing experience.
As an HBO bonus, there’s titties and asses galore (and a commando jogging Justin Theroux in sweatpants). It’s a win-win at 28 hourish-long episodes. Lost had some definite wheel spinning going on in Season 3 (Jack’s fucking tattoos) and the first half of Season 6 (Christ, that trash temple, what the fuck). The shorter season structure on HBO allows a more efficient viewing experience, and more effective storytelling.
Simply put, both Lost and The Leftovers are about broken people trying to get on with it. Jack Shephard can’t let a single goddamned thing go, but he eventually gets his shit together and moves on (which is probably the most succinct summary you’ll ever find of that show). He saves the world and sacrifices himself in the process.
And unlike Jack, Kevin Garvey isn’t destined to save the world — only himself.
Does Kevin have something fundamentally broken inside him? Sure, none of his family departed, but it seems the Sudden Departure itself cracked him wide open. The metaphor manifests in the penultimate episode of the series, where Kevin literally faces his issues head on– his twin brother. He happens to have the nuclear football key planted inside of him, and Prez Kev has to kill International Assassin Kev in the process of getting to the damn thing.
Apparently, it’s the Fischer Protocol; an ethical deterrent for the President so he doesn’t blow up the goddamned world, since the prez has to kill the person who has the key in order to get it out. All orchestrated by Secretary of Defense Patti Levin, no less.
Let’s backtrack for a hot second. Patti, the monkey on his back, follows him around for much of Season 2 and in order to rid himself of her and move forward from that guilt, he has to kill her in this hotel world. First, she’s masquerading as a senator; he kills her, but apparently she’s got a double. Second, she’s a little girl– Patti at her most innocent, purest. Watching Kevin push her into a well is tough, heartbreaking. The third incarnation of Patti is her Guilty Remnant self, the one Kevin knew. He approaches each of these with empathy, but carries out his grisly task every time.
Oof. Typing that out sounds absolutely fucking ridiculous. But man, there’s a few episodes of The Leftovers that absolutely should not work on paper, but are pure magic onscreen. There’s a tinge of supernatural with Kevin’s ability to die, visit the other side, and return relatively unharmed. Season 2’s International Assassin and a tidbit of the s2 finale have him working through his issues in the ‘hotel world’, which is pretty much an in-between place; an afterlife. These episodes are the show at its strangest, emotional best.
The themes that spoke to me the most were about how we all cope in the face of loss and the glaring black hole of the unknown. What does it truly mean to be okay? Can we ever actually be okay again after a great loss, or is there just a new normal? Or is life just an emotional roller-coaster, where we vacillate between happiness and self-destruction to push it all away?
Take a gander at Kevin’s journey across the seasons. He’s a broken and generally dissatisfied guy, who is offered love, family, and peace at the end of both seasons 1 and 2, yet he invariably goes on to blow his happiness straight to hell. Then there’s Nora, for whom the idea of moving on and being okay after her family’s departure is an enormous source of guilt and conflict. Despite her departed husband being a shitbird, all she wants to do is wallow in those feelings, pushing Kevin away in the process.
On a grander scale, these themes manifest in the small-town apocalypses of seasons 1 and 2; how the societal sweater of Mapleton and Jarden progressively unraveled via the wildly conflicting coping mechanisms of their denizens.
Not unlike Jack and ~The Island~, Kevin craves returning to the ‘other side’ to feel powerful and alive, since he can’t seem to grasp that in his real life no matter how hard he tries. The whole series he struggles with just wanting to go home, to be with his family.. and once he gets there, it’s never enough. Kevin yearns for more, lying to himself along the way that what he already has is the key though he knows that ain’t true. Guess it took losing Nora and that great love for a decade and a half for him to get it together and see what was in front of him all along. He blew up his afterlife in the process and eliminated that escape.
But hey.. did Nora go to that trash dimension and fuck off for ~15 years? Or did she make it all up as an elaborate method of moving forward and forgiving herself?? I’m still on the fence as to whether it’s an intricate lie she concocted to move on with her life, but goddamn. And either way Kevin would’ve believed her.
What a ride. It’s a beautifully written and executed show, real damn good, Perfect Strangers included. I’ll definitely be revisiting this one.
“In a nutshell, it all comes down to what I want versus what’s expected of me.”
Just about sums up life, eh? Let’s see how much of a piping hot mess Don is in this episode..
Sally runs into creeper Glen at the Christmas tree lot. Hating living in the house on Bullet Park Road without her dad there, she expresses how strange everything is; Glen can relate. He takes it into his own hands when the Francises are all out one night, trashing the house with food and junk.. save for Sally’s room, where he leaves a friendship keychain similar to the one she complimented him on at the lot. He tries to make the house as uncomfortable for everyone as it is for Sally.
At the office, enter Dr. Faye Miller, one of the psychologists SCDP is using for market research. In an intro with a personality test for the senior staff, Don dodges another opportunity to divulge any sort of information about himself.
A man allergic to intimacy, it’s clear that Don’s in a darker place than his usual existential loneliness.. and this is his first real Christmas sans family to boot. He ain’t handling it well; he’s hitting everything too hard. Women whom he would otherwise effortlessly charm are rebuffing his sloppy advances with ease and a touch of pity. Score one for Faye and neighbour Phoebe, I guess.
Allison reads out Sally’s letter to Santa (c/o Don Draper), and it’s a heartbreaking reminder of the damage the divorce has caused. She tears up at Sally’s wish to have Don there on Christmas morning, knowing that it’s not a possibility.
The vile Lee Garner Jr is in town, and is miffed he wasn’t invited to the SCDP Christmas party.. which now has to become an actual party much to Lane’s dismay. Faye and Don spar about how someone’s past can influence them today, a point with which Don disagrees. She aptly brings up that his celebrated Glo-Coat commercial is heavily steeped in nostalgia, a certain longing for someone’s childhood.. but not Don’s. He tries to change the conversation by asking her to dinner, and gets shot down.
Natch, he forgets his keys at the office, and Allison does him a favour by running down to the Village to let him in. It’s noteworthy that younger employees have always gossiped about Don, but it was always in the admiring from afar sense, with some sense of wonder; mimbo Joey calling him ‘pathetic’ sheds light on how trash Don is at this point in time. And I guess in an effort to feel something (or anything at all), Don comes on to Allison; she reciprocates and they have a bang on his couch. Awkward.
The next morning is nothing short of a disaster with how Don handles (and not handles) things. He goes to his rhetoric of “this never happened”, so much so that he doesn’t acknowledge anything in the least, and gives Allison her Christmas bonus of a hundy in cash. You can tell he doesn’t feel great about it as she walks out of his office, but not guilty enough to not be a prick. And plus.. you shouldn’t shit where you eat.
So Freddy Rumsen is back, and he’s dry as a bone– but Peggy is thrilled to see him and to work on Pond’s. Freddy has some comically oldschool ideas for the cold cream, whereas formerly oldschool Pegs has moved forward quite a bit. He’s focusing on the marriage aspect of Pond’s, but Peggy wants something more, something deeper that speaks to women.. women like her whose be-all end-all isn’t getting fucking married. She wants to make an ad that speaks to everyone!
BUT, even though her life in the office is super forward thinking and progressive she’s being weirdly old fashioned with her boyfriend Mark. Apparently they aren’t banging because she’s playing virgin.. yikes. Last I checked, she ain’t been no virgin since 1960.. maybe she’s just not so sure about the guy?
Why is Peggy dating this dolt anyway? Freddy peppers her with some absurdly old fashioned advice, firmly saying that she shouldn’t bang the guy if she wants to marry him, since he’ll never respect her.. Y I K E S.
I guess that cemented her opinion of Mark, cause she throws him a bone that night.
Maybe Allison is that gal looking to get hitched, and thought there was something deeper to her tryst with her boss.. as she stares off into space while typing, it’s hard not to feel her pain and humiliation. So uncomfortable. Don may have fucked it up with his best and most competent secretary yet.
One of my favourite episodes of this series, The Wheel is a sincerely magnificent episode of television. It’s nearing Thanksgiving 1960. Rachel Menken is on an ocean voyage to Paris for a few months, Don finds out via Cooper and his light ‘cowboy’ jab as Cooper knows pretty much everything. Don has no interest in joining Betty’s family for the holiday, and Betty doesn’t understand why he can’t make her family his, and is at her wit’s end. The struggle is real.
A visibly shaken Francine pops by, and confides in Betty that she’s found out that Carlton has been banging around in the city, and right before a huge family holiday to boot. Francine confides in Betty because she thinks she’ll know what to do, and Betty is alarmed at her implication. It seems so obvious to Francine on the outside, and if Carlton is doing it, what’s to say that Don isn’t doing the same?
(Real talk for a hot second though, who would fuck Carlton anyway? He gross.)
Betty knows deep down that Don is unfaithful to her and won’t admit it to herself, but for what? Out of pride? Wanting to keep up the illusion of the perfect life? She’s been told all along to want this and to be that perfect wife, but is that really any way to live life?
Self-deception never ends well, as reality will always barge in to fuck things up. She seeks out the phone bill to see if he’s been ringing any ladies, and instead finds a more intense form of betrayal. Don has been calling her therapist to get the scoop on everything she’s been yapping about during her sessions, keeping tabs. She’s both relieved and infuriated.
Doctor patient confidentiality wasn’t a thing in 1960, apparently. When Don comes home later on that evening, Betty tells him about Carlton, pointedly saying how awful it is to do something like that to the one you love, asking how can someone could do something like that to the one they love, to gauge his reaction.
“Who knows why people do what they do?”
I SEE YOU, DON.
Don immediately changes the subject to the whereabouts of their photo slides, and maybe they have an offscreen night of looking through memories together. Sounds nice on paper; but Betty knows it’s hollow because of what she’s found out re:Don’s calls to the shrink, and that their life will most likely be used as part of a pitch.
So naturally, Betty stirs the pot at her shrink’s office. She decides to drop the “my husband is having an affair” bomb not even yet admitting to herself that it’s true, but as she says the words she feels it. I love the crafty switch of her saying this to the shrink, and then at some point in the future Don will be calling him, so he’ll know that she knows. The seed was planted with Francine’s visit, and the wheels in Betty’s head start turning.
“The way he makes love, sometimes it’s what I want.. but sometimes it’s obviously what someone else wants. I suppose it means I’m not enough.. but maybe it’s just him.”
Absolutely spot on, Bets. She’s slowly coming into her own sort of sentience, gradually becoming the person who is strong enough to get on with it and get out of a bad marriage. Breaking out of denial is the first step, gotta yank your head outta the sand.
Let’s talk about the importance of photos in life for a hot second. There’s a scene with Don and Harry latenight in the office; Harry having told his wife about bonking Hildy for whatever reason so he now lives at SC, and Don having just learned his half brother hanged himself and promptly boozing it. They speak about cave paintings and photography, and how these are evidence of someone being there for future generations to see and to wonder. The impact of these things on the time to come.
My apartment is absolutely blasted with photos, its walls adorned nearly everywhere you look. Family, friends, people long gone and the places that I love, beautiful things. Anytime I feel discombobulated, all I have to do is glance at my walls and I am right back to where I need to be again. I am home. Photos are grounding; the very physical essence of connections you have with others, with places, with a time in your life. You can revisit it all.
And this Carousel pitch, it’s fucking iconography right before our eyes.
Fun fact: I have never watched this scene and not cried. Home run. To me, there’s nothing more innately human than seeking out those movie moments in real life, capturing them. Looking at pictures and knowing that whatever you’re doing is OK.. You are OK.
(I also love that Don does exactly what he tells Peggy not to do in a pitch, re:using Latin and sounding like a Valedictorian..)
Pete’s father in law is really hammering him to knock up Trudy, which is sort of terrifying and wildly inappropriate. As he sits down with Pete and states that he wants to treat him as a son, Pete takes this to mean some new business; after all, the guy is an exec at Vicks Chemical, and he wants to look good for Don and Duck. Having a baby isn’t exactly on Pete’s radar right now, and instead, he gets Clearasil.
Don loops in Peggy for Clearasil, and Pete is pissed.. Don therefore promotes her to Junior Copywriter. The way she wrangled the radio auditions with Kenny is pretty impressive as well– here’s a woman finding her way in a man’s world, and owning it.
At the same time that she gets a new office and promotion, she gets a baby she doesn’t want, and it belongs to Pete Campbell. Christ on the Cross, this is my actual real life nightmare, being on an episode of TLC’s I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant. The way she acts about learning she’s pregnant in the ER and how she acts post-birth are telling; she’s far more interested in getting on with her life and getting back to work and her new copywriting job. Her name is Don.
There’s this elaborate fantasy of the man Don wants to be, but back here on earth it’s stark, desolate; false starts and empty promises. He portrays such an idealistic existence in the Carousel pitch, but the reality is that he’s disconnected and unreachable to those that should be closest to him. He learns his half brother committed suicide via a phone call with an uninvolved hotel manager. His lover has bounced on some Euro cruise. He’s cruelly alienated his wife.
Betty undeniably has nobody to talk to, so when she spots Glen in the bank parking lot, she expresses her profound sadness to him. It’s upsetting to watch; her desperation and longing to connect with someone is palpable. When the show began, her and Don’s marriage was ostensibly broken beyond repair, and now the cracks are turning into canyons.
Don is a man living on the outskirts of his own life, a truly isolated guy on the outside looking in, but this season finale shows that perhaps he yearns for something deeper. Coming home alone to an empty house with Betty and the kids already gone for Thanksgiving, he slumps on the stairs as the idea of his loving fantasy life evaporates. He knows it’s his own damned fault.
He started this episode not wanting to spend time with his family and being flippant about joining Betty and the family for the holiday, and he ends it being unable to spend time with his family. As much as this guy wants to escape all the time, he profoundly yearns to come home to a place where he knows he is loved.
Is it too late? Can he really connect with Betty and be a legit family? Can he be a damn person already?