Mad Men s6e5: The Flood

“You don’t have Marx, you’ve got a bottle. Is this what you really want to be to them when they need you??”

What up! Hello, hello, we are back in the room. Let’s get down to it, shall we?

image courtesy of Tumblr

Don has no shortage of epiphanies, but has yet to actually commit to change in any concrete way. Like how his first concern is his mistress when the news hits of MLK’s assassination.. woof, bad look. Maybe the fact that Bobby sees Henry as more of a father figure will be a kick in the pants? Who the hell knows. All he knows of the world is what you show him, Don.

On one end of the spectrum, you have the Horror Movie America that is 1968, with that gargantuan cultural shift over the back half of the decade– as seen with the styles/hair, Peggy’s profesh rise, Dawn being hired, et cetera. And then there’s the people stuck in the same old holding pattern; or in Don’s case, falling back on that familiar pattern of banging around after a prolonged attempt to snap the hell out of it.

So it turns out Peggy and Abe are really wrong for each other, holy shit. She doesn’t get the UES apartment she really wants, while Abe sees the bright side; he imagines raising their hypothetical kids in a more ~diverse place~. K. Peggy is taken aback a bit and happy on the surface since he just revealed way more than he thought he did re:the longview, but also feeling backed into a corner. The age old She Should Be Happy about something like this even if it’s not necessarily what she actually wants. Societal expectations sure are a bitch, especially in 1968; ultimately, they have very different goals.

Ay yi yi, Pete Campbell. MLK is assassinated, and natch he rings up Trudy. Let’s be real, the guy just wants to go home. It’s that splash of self-motivated Pete Campbell Shit masquerading as magnanimous, tale as old as time. When he tells Trudy, “I don’t want you to be alone” he’s really saying he doesn’t want to be alone. Thankfully, Trudy stands her ground; Pete’s made his bed, vainly attempting to forge a connection with his Chinese food delivery guy.

SEETHING || image courtesy of 4plebs

And honestly, this is not to say he isn’t mostly correct in his yelling match with Harry.. but he ratchets it all to the next level because he’s ready to pop the fuck off as it is. Like the dearly departed Dr. King, an exceptional and gifted man, Pete feels as if he has been suddenly ripped from his family. But it’s only sudden to him– we could all see it coming from the fucking International Space Station. Don’t shit where you eat, Pete.

Man, Planet of the Apes is iconic; 1968 is a great year for movies. Don takes Bobby to see it to get out of the house, a tried and true method of dealing with tragic events. Between showings, Bobby chats with the usher about how people like going to the movies when they’re sad; they share a human moment, and Don sees his son in a different light, Bobby’s becoming a more fully formed individual. He’s picked out something Don himself does, inferred it, and Don is taken aback.

image courtesy of AMC

“I don’t think I ever wanted to be the man who loves children.. but from the moment they’re born, that baby comes out and you act proud and excited and hand out cigars but you don’t feel anything. Especially if you had a difficult childhood. You want to love them, but you don’t. And the fact that you’re faking that feeling makes you wonder if your own father had the same problem.
Then one day they get older, and you see them do something, and you feel that feeling that you were pretending to have.. and it feels like your heart is going to explode.”

His monologue about his kids is Don at his best and his most honest, a very rare combination– and to me, the most lovable and relatable. In spite of him and Betty arguing over Adult Shit like logistics, Don shows how much he loves his kids and understands them in his own way, bit by bit. And the feelings he describes about the emptiness and lack of engagement upon their birth and how a sudden blaze of terrifying love can kick in later and punch him square in the solar plexus make sense. Evolving as a man in the 60s; heaps of societal expectations there too. It’s a lot to take in, and Megan is quiet while she processes this information dump.

Brass tacks, I think it’s obvious that Don does love his kids a great deal– he’s not a fuckin sociopath, after all. He is, however, completely terrible at sustaining nearly any kind of healthy relationship for a long period of time. And Don being Don, he’s both emotionally perceptive enough to catch when he becomes alienated from his children, and sensitive enough to feel badly about it.. and hopeless enough to do not much of anything about it.

And even though Roger’s friend Randall is a goddamned lunatic, he has a great bit of burnout wisdom.

“This is an opportunity. The heavens are telling us to change.”

Advertisements

Mad Men s3e12: The Grown-Ups

“Just because she went to India doesn’t mean she’s not an idiot.”

Ah Pete, let down again, in a frigid office nonetheless. Kenny and his haircut beat him out as the Head of Accounts position, but Lane remains optimistic. Time to start branching out, I guess. Trudy’s gentle coaching is great, you can tell she’s genuinely on his side. She really supports Pete, and in spite of his stepping out and other entirely absurd qualities, I think they make a great team. She really loves that totally ridiculous man.

Margaret is about to get married, and is having a meltdown over Jane’s overextending faux niceness in the form of some super fucking expensive earrings. Mona agrees with her (along with Roger), but doesn’t think that the wedding should be canned; Roger and Mona work really well in sync to get Margaret to fall in line and stop acting like a brat.

Speaking of which.. once Roger tells Jane to back off, she responds by locking herself in the bathroom, mid-tantrum. Real mah-toor.

sterlingcooper_jfk

ah, shit. || image courtesy of Tumblr

Awaiting Pegs for a lunchtime fuck, the news begins to break re:JFK. Class act through and through, Duck unplugs the TV. I didn’t think he could top leaving Chauncey out to roost in Maidenform, but I guess I was wrong..

In the afterglow, he plugs the TV back in to peep the news; Peggy is horrified not only at the fact that the president is dead, but also that he clearly knew what was up but went on with the bang anyway. Gross.

duck_pegs

ah, shit part deux. || image courtesy of JimCofer

Not surprisingly, Margaret’s wedding the next day is a sparsely attended disaster, though Roger keeps spirits up with a good speech and staying as positive as possible, turning the day to the two young people in love right in front of him. Seeing Henry from across the room, Betty is transfixed; on the dancefloor, Don pines for his wife’s attention, but it’s painfully obvious that Betty has checked out. It’s super sad that this is the most we’ve ever seen Don covet his own wife, something she’s yearned for since the pilot, and right now she couldn’t be more indifferent to his existence.

donbetty_weddingdance

image courtesy of Fanpop

Post-wedding, Roger rings Joan, with a drunk Jane snoring in the background. At the end of the day, he still wants to chat with Joan which is sort of sweet. Sometimes you just want to talk to someone who gets it.

Roger: “Nobody else is saying the right thing about this.”

Joan: “My god, you’re really upset..”

Roger: “What’s that about?”

Joan: “Because there’s nothing funny about this.”

donbetty_leeharveyoswald

image courtesy of NJ.com

Aaaaand, Lee Harvey Oswald has been shot and killed. Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been to see unfold on live television? This is a time before the ubiquitous 24-hour news cycle we’re familiar with today. Betty’s shrieking fear is tangible, and she pushes Don away on her way out of the den. Sneaking off for a drive to see Henry,  she appears significantly calmer as she explains she couldn’t stand to stay in that house. And hey, it turns out Henry wants to marry her. That escalated quickly.. “If you search your heart.. you’ll know that I can make you happy.”

It’s notable that Henry can easily make her smile in this uncertain time. It’s a simple gesture, that he’d love to take her to a cinema somewhere that’s playing her favourite movie; Singin’ in the Rain.. and Betty’s smile lights up the Lincoln at the mere thought of it. He reinforces that everything will be OK, and to think of her fave flick in the meantime. Henry Francis is the opposite of Don, of what she’s known; he never belittled her feelings, but aligned with her and thoughtfully tried to cheer her up. You go, Hank Frank.

Angry and upset with Don, Betty comes home and speaks her mind. She doesn’t love him anymore, and he looks entirely crestfallen and shocked to hear those words from her. I feel for Don in this scene; in spite of him being a bastard to her on and off and a generally horrendous husband, that’s still an agonising thing to hear. Natch, he tries to deflect and minimise her emotions by changing the conversation. Oy.

Betty: “You can’t even hear me right now.”

Don: “You’re right.”

Hurt, Don retreats to the bedroom. Believing Betty doesn’t love him anymore due to who he really is, that he’s just some dirt poor farm kid and she is above him, Don misses the point; what he fails to see is that he’s been lying to his own wife for an actual decade. That’s real betrayal, real sadness. Ya fucked it up, Don.

Time to yap about the main event serving as a backdrop for a hot second. So many historians have rapped about how the JFK assassination functioned as an incredibly significant watershed cultural moment, blowing cracks in American societal norms and trends to create the remainder of the 1960s.. where the resulting shit gets crazy. Juxtaposing Betty’s dawning realisation that nothing makes sense in regards to the Old Rules (i.e. what kept things in their right place throughout the 1950s and how she chose to live her life according to said rules in order to attain happiness), her frightened and helpless reaction to Lee Harvey Oswald being shot on live television says it all.

“What is going on???”

The JFK assassination was not The Cuban Missile Crisis, in that it was not just another important historical event. It was exactly what this episode displays; JFK being murdered violently jolted the characters out of the inherent complacency of the old. The JFK assassination and subsequent murder of Lee Harvey Oswald created a cynical brand of nihilism that fed into the 1960s as a reaction to the idealism of the prior decade. Time to jumpstart the counterculture.

(Sidenote- as someone who was born 21 years after the JFK assassination.. I thought this episode gave some meaningful real life context to an event which I’ve only ever indirectly experienced via history books, documentaries, and my parents’ retelling of the day.)

As the wheels turn in Betty’s head about divorcing Don and moving on with Henry, having something like this come in and harshly turn everything upside down helps her move that decision along. Nothing is as it seems anymore, the old rules legit don’t apply. The world is a-changin’.

Hell! Even the Campbells, our favourite WASP-y couple, are totally disgusted at the hollowness of their friends and colleagues’ reactions to the event. They end up boycotting Margaret’s wedding as a form of protest, criticising Harry losing his shit about TV ratings due to shows (and their ads) being pre-empted for news coverage. Why should they be celebrating his boss’ spoiled daughter’s wedding when the president has just been murdered?

Come Monday morning, Don sneaks around the corner to assess the damage. Betty doesn’t even meet his gaze as he slinks out.

In the office, Don sees that Peggy is the only other one there working; thank fuck she’s not hanging out with Duck, at least. Realising that the Aqua Net campaign is all but useless post-JFK assassination with the similarities to the Dallas motorcade, she’s working on rewrites. Turns out her apartment has been invaded by her roomate’s friends and their neighbours, and not even Anita’s house offered a safe haven. There’s no space for her to process.

“And then I went over to my sister’s, and my mother was crying and praying so hard there wasn’t room for anyone else to feel anything..”

Ugh, this episode is sad all around. But let’s be real.. Don had that shit coming.