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.”

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Mad Men s4e8: The Summer Man

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it.. because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

Many moons ago when I was watching Mad Men as it aired, I realistically didn’t think anything could top The Suitcase. And then this fucking episode dropped. Holy noir, holy depression, holy introspection. Fuckin-a.

In the wake of Anna’s death and being a human H-bomb for entirely too long, Don is attempting to get his shit together. You know that Adam Carolla bit about how there’s always That Guy at the office who’s never felt more alive because he swims laps at 5am and makes us all look like assholes? Don’s trying that on for a bit, despite almost keeling over in the pool.

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image courtesy of Slant Magazine

He’s taken up journaling, in an effort to understand what the hell is going on inside his head. This is an episode where we get a rare peek into his internal monologue, through a series of film noir voiceovers.

“When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere, just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going, and that he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel, dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realised the world isn’t perfect.”

Don’s got a lotta feelings, writing his thoughts in an attempt to “gain a modicum of control” over how he feels, to come to terms with it all. The divorce affected him more than he’s willing to admit, having that Perfect(TM) world he created shatter all around him due to his deception. Anna’s illness and death didn’t help his mindset either, and not having a consistent baseline of a Home to return to leaves him in freefall. Dude’s gotta learn to love himself. You can get lost along the way, but the greatest relationship you’ll ever have is that one you share with your own damn self.

Peppered throughout is the notion of people who appear to have everything but actually have nothing. Tale as old as tiiiiiiime. We see Joan as this omniscient powerful lady in charge of it all at SCDP, but at the end of the day she gets cruelly ridiculed by disrespectful freelancer Joey and goes home to vile Greg who’s about to be shipped out to Vietnam.

In another display of how differently Peggy and Joan think and react, Peggy curtly fires Joey over the mess he made. Her approach was direct and that of a man (with Don’s advice “You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself.”) whereas Joan sticks with the dated notion of “catch more flies with honey” and office politicking, thinking a dinner with a client would have sealed the deal instead. She’s learned to wield power through flattery and persuasion (on top of being gorgeous), but where has that really gotten her?

Joan is married to a gormless asshole who’s about to be blasted off to a humid hellhole. Her office is mostly used as a thoroughfare, and she feels that disrespect radiating towards her in the day to day on top of being at home, with Greg creepily trying to talk her into having a bang despite not being in the mood.

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image courtesy of Amy’s Robot

Peggy’s approach sends a clear message, and viewing it through 2017 eyes, makes the most sense to me. Sadly Joan feels undermined by this approach, but times are changing. She’s a sharp woman, she’ll figure it out.

Most obviously, Betty sees Don as the guy with everything when we know (along with Francine) how completely lost and fucked out he’s been since the divorce.  When she and Henry see him in the city on a date with Bethany, Betty invents this entire narrative in her mind that he’s out living some crazy awesome life when the reality is anything but; dude is eating Dinty Moore from a damn can. We’ve all been there, running into an ex and feeling entirely raw in spite of the actual reality before us.

Arguing with Henry about it grounds her a little bit, and he’s right to be pissed off; she can’t let something as simple as seeing the guy out somewhere obliterate an entire evening. Time to grow up, Betty; look at your life now, appreciate what in the hell you’ve got. Get on with it.

In the nuclear winter of it all, Don gradually begins to get back on the horse. “I want to wake up. I don’t want to be that man” — he knows he needs to change. The guy even has a pair of vaguely successful dates with the aforementioned one-dimensional Bethany and more on point Faye. He feels less drawn to Bethany because he knows her type; been there, done that. Faye is a little more on the level.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Don is making an effort to booze it less in the office, in an attempt to reconcile the effects of the mess around him. He knows he can’t go to his son’s birthday party that weekend, for he is not welcome at that house. I love that Don’s voiceover highlights the parallel between he and baby Gene; “Conceived in a moment of desperation, and born into a mess”.

And yet, the only time he seems truly happy (including Bethany’s tryhard taxi blowjob) is when he’s holding Gene in his arms at the birthday party. Betty even happily brings him to Don without the typical dramatics; it’s a nice moment, rare for this season thus far.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

I always read the ending as Betty ended up ringing Don and inviting him to the party as a gesture to Henry that she’s indeed moved on. She’s trying to, at least. Francine’s comments about Don having nothing to lose, i.e. Betty has “won”, sort of neutralises him a touch in her eyes. Even though he’s not really the Only Man she’s ever been with, but whatevs.

Does Don miss that life? Who the hell knows.. it was mostly smoke and mirrors to him anyway, it left him with the thoughts of “is that all there is?” eating away at him every night and with every rando he banged, just as it echoes in his life now albeit louder. Either way he’s lost that part of his identity and is trying to be at peace with himself, bit by bit. This is a decent start.

“We’re flawed, because we want so much more. We’re ruined, because we get these things, and wish for what we had.”

 

Mad Men s2e4: Three Sundays

“He makes everything sound like Christmas.”

Man, do I love this episode. It’s cleverly structured over the course of three Lenten Sundays in April of 1962; Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday.

Sunday #1: Passion Sunday

Ahh, the appearance of Colin Hanks’ priest guy, or as I like to call him, Priest J. God.

Peggy is hungover during mass in Flatbush, and talks with new priest in town Father Gill as she’s getting some air. Then there’s one of those bizarre Catholic post-church luncheons where her mother and a rando lady from the ‘hood obsess over Father Gill at Anita’s house. He’s taken a liking to Peggy, even asking for her copywriting help with his sermons. Good thing Vatican II is around the corner and mass won’t be 99% Latin soon..

Cut to the ~sacrilegious~ Draper house, with Don and Betty awakening to the phone ringing at 9:30 on a Sunday morning. The kids barge in as they’re about to have a bang.

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image courtesy of Fanpop

Afterwards in the lounge, Betty is reading a copy of the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story Babylon Revisited. Coming back to survey the ruins of a once extravagant life during a crisis is speaking to Betty on some level, or perhaps Arthur asking her if she’d read a different Fitzgerald story stuck in her mind.

Don and Betty are relaxing in the lounge together, listening to dreamy Perry Como croon on the hi-fi. Bobby fucks with the stereo, Don barely looking up from his paper, and we’re back to Betty talking about how Don isn’t harsh enough on Bobby and doesn’t take responsibility. Frustration. They change the conversation by dancing to the song, enormous glasses of vodka with a thimble of tomato juice in hand.

Roger and Mona are out to dinner with their daughter Margaret, and her vaguely cro-magnon fiancé Brooks. They’re talking about the wedding, adamantly disinterested in a big wedding until Mona reminisces about her own wedding to Roger and how wonderful and perfect it all was. Roger is staring into space.

End of the evening at the Draper house, and they’re seemingly having a nice family moment.. until Bobby breaks the bed by jumping on it. Betty stiffens, pissed off, and tells the kids to go to bed, but it’s only 7:30pm.. ay yi yi. Grilled cheese all around then. Don does fuckall. More frustration on Betty’s end of things.

It’s Monday, and Kenny and Pete are entertaining some bald Marty when high class hooker Vicky strolls in. Roger pops over and is exceedingly charmed by Marty’s obvious Not Wife. The wheels are turning.

Bobbie pops in to Don’s office, talking about selling a Candid Camera knockoff called Grin and Barrett. As the deadbolt clicks into place, Joan rolls an eye.

The minute Don gets in the door at home, Betty lets him know that Bobby broke the hi-fi and lied about it to her face. She makes an assumption that his own father hitting him made him the man he is today. Betty is expecting Don to punish him in some meaningful (physical) way, but instead he delivers the much scarier Stern Dad Treatment. He knows Bobby’s aware he did something wrong, there are other ways to go about things.

“Mommy says you broke the hi-fi. I believe her. Don’t do that again.”

“..I won’t.”

Sunday #2: Palm Sunday

Peggy is at mass again, and the Drapers are having tasty pancakes! Duck phones the house, yapping about Shel Keneally and American Airlines, as Bobby tries to put his mouth on the goddamned griddle and shrieks. Betty is pissed at Don, he says he’s got to go into the office. Since Bobby has to hit up the ER, he’s got to take Sally with him. More frustration.

Father Gill followed Peggy’s advice, her mother is glowing and saying that it felt like he was only talking to her. “So nice he’s taken an interest in her!” Anita is pissed off and resentful that Peggy does whatever she feels like, and expresses this to her mother who ignores her complaining. Woof.

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image courtesy of Maxim

At the office, everyone is blinded by Pete’s tiny shorts. Duck is asking about Don’s plan for American Airlines, they’re set to present on Good Friday. Don is uncertain, everyone is rattled.

Not Roger, as he rang up Vicky for a night out. Apparently this is his first hooker since he was in the Navy! I’ll be damned. “Don’t believe what they say. No one dies doing this.”

Sally is wandering around the office, not quite sure what to do. She finds a photo of Kinsey’s girlfriend Sheila, asks Kinsey, “is that your maid?” Y I K E S

Don delivers an iconic Don Draper Speech, where most of Sterling Cooper is left wondering what exactly in the fresh hell he’s on about..

“American Airlines is not about the past any more than America is. Ask not about Cuba, ask not about the bomb.. we’re going to the moon. Throw everything out.”

(“Everything??”)

“There is no such thing as American history, only a frontier. That crash happened to somebody else. It’s not about apologies for what happened, it’s about those seven men in the room on Friday and what airline they are going to be running.”

(“So.. what does that mean?”)

“Let’s pretend we know what 1963 looks like.”

Sunday #3: Easter Sunday

Good Friday, the American Airlines presentation. Everyone is in their Sunday Best (ha ha ha), ready to present and totally fried.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

And then, the gunshot: “Shel Keneally was fired this morning.”

Anita hits up confession, knowing that Father Gill will be on the other side. She slyly throws shade at Peggy, expressing anger at her little sister, yapping about her child out of wedlock. “She acts like it didn’t even happen, and I hate her for it”. Anita feels invisible next to Peggy and all she’s doing and accomplishing, not understanding that Peggy is trying to move past all of this and live her damn life. Father Gill reminds her that she needs to forgive her sister, and that she loves her. Catholicism, man.

Cut back to Sterling Cooper; American Airlines meeting is over, all the shrimp is gone. Everyone looks both defeated and vexed. Don is pissed off that they jettisoned Mohawk Airlines for that wink from American, but Roger in his post-hooker glow rhapsodises that the chase is worth it. Old business is just old business.

Bobby is playing with a toy robot at the dinner table, and after being prodded by Betty Don’s finally had enough and throws the goddamn thing at the wall. Everyone is startled, Betty included. Betty tears into him, saying that he doesn’t take responsibility for raising the kids, that she’s stuck there all day with them, outnumbered. Betty insists that he gets to come home and be the hero, but Don battles all day with bullshit at the office. She shoves him and he shoves her back and immediately regrets it. No good.

Don has a bonding moment with Bobby. He apologises for getting mad and overreacting, and they talk about Don’s terrible father, his affinity for that perfume-y violet candy in the beautiful purple and silver packaging. It’s a nice moment, and they hug. Sometimes Don has flashes of good parenting. He tries explaining a bit of his upbringing to Betty, who is obviously uninformed. Unfortunately he wields this information in a way that’s manipulative, making her feel like she’s in the wrong.

“He’s a little kid. My father beat the hell out of me. All it did was make me fantasise about the day I could murder him.”

“I didn’t know that..”

“..and I wasn’t half as good as Bobby.”

Don and Betty are a couple that lack true intimacy in its purest form. There’s a faint flicker when they have that exchange, but it’s not enough. Part of the idea of marriage to me, is that you swap places emotionally, you let that person into your life and your mind so they can understand you and vice versa. Neither Don nor Betty can do that because neither one has any clue how to let the other in, and deep tensions are created, festering over the years. The banging around, the accusations, constant boozing, fights with shoving and other bizarre behaviours are propelled by this stalemate.

Easter Sunday after mass, Peggy is standing around with the other ladies watching kids gather up Easter eggs from the lawn. Father Gil hands her a Judgement Egg, stating that it’s for “the little one”. DAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN

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image courtesy of Tumblr

.. And now, the word “Sunday” has lost all meaning to me.