The Leftovers: a Nihilistic, Tighter Lost

What are the lies we tell ourselves every day? The lies that help us heal, move on, to feel okay? There’s a fuckton of those in the above shows.

Spoilers ahoy, kiddos. Time to yap for a bit.

image courtesy of The Verge

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.

image courtesy of Giphy

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.

image courtesy of HBO

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.

image courtesy of Reddit

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.

Mad Men s4e5: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

“Christ on a cracker, where do you get off??”

This is one of those episodes that seems light on the outside, but there’s so much to dig into. Oof. Realistically, just how long can you hold onto a grudge? How long can you continue to define yourself by something that happened literal ages ago? How long can you use those prehistoric events to justify trash actions today? What does that garbage do to a person? Taking a closer look at Roger and Betty in this episode, this sort of shit is all on display.

Let’s take a moment for Miss Blankenship, because I love her in general, but also because she’s an excellent foil to Don. The guy treats people so fucking poorly sometimes; showing him tolerating generally harmless gaffes by this hapless bat he’s been saddled with humanises him a touch. He can’t just fuck off to California every week. Miss Blankenship’s weird hidden talent of transforming the guy from Don to Dick for a hot second is pretty great.

Roger Sterling has always been shown as a guy who doesn’t take life (or himself) too seriously, the life of the party and the guy who knows everyone and loves to schmooze and joke around. Apparently, the notable exception to this rule is World War II. When Pete brings up that he’s landed a meeting with Honda, a Japanese company, it’s meltdown city. Roger wholly rejects the idea of doing business with them, and almost fucks their chances entirely by acting like an asshole in the meeting to boot. Awkward.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

But hey, it’s nice to see Bert Cooper take an active role in something besides preserving the carpets. His extremely intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and customs contrasted well with his confusion over the march on Selma.. “They got what they wanted. Why aren’t they happy?”

There are tons o’reasons a guy like Cooper would grow fascinated with Japanese culture while generally shrugging off vast portions of his own culture. Remember that Cooper is an Objectivist; a large part of it may be due to that adoration of authority and order at the centre of so many of those guys and gals.

Through that, a theme of the episode emerges as well; utter goddamned frustration when someone is unable to force one’s will onto the people around them. Roger hits the fucking ceiling when Don and Pete decide to follow the Honda exec’s orders and not his own. Betty is absolutely livid when Sally asserts her independence and cries out for attention by cutting her own hair. Don is pissed when dear sweet Teddy Chaough grabs control of the narrative Don is building with SCDP.

That confrontation with Roger and Pete is intense, with Don in the middle. It was fun to see Pete echo Don’s sentiment from the s3 finale in this episode: “The rest of us are trying to build something.” Don knows Pete’s in the right. Lashing out and “wrapping himself in the flag” of Lucky Strike providing most of the company’s cashflow, Roger wants to cut Pete down for bringing in new business and shifting the importance off of him ever so slightly.

He’s gonna have to get over that bullshit real quick if he wants to keep the lights on.

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image courtesy of NYTimes

As Betty finds a shrink for Sally, she connects with Dr. Edna– an older woman who obviously sees through Betty’s façade. Betty smiling at the dollhouse says so much; here’s this perfect little life in this perfect little house, a husband and wife with 3 kids, a life that she still yearns for on some level though she knows it ain’t real.

Sally craves her father’s attention desperately, and has no clue how to get it; and she probably needs attention in general, to be acknowledged. What Sally feels matters, and Betty is perhaps starting to get that; the effect of the divorce on her matters. Sadly, Betty was more of a prize to her mother who paraded her for show; she’s still got a lot of anger and resentment there. Slowly but surely, Betty is trying to evolve.

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image courtesy of AVClub

At home, Henry is helping her with her transformation, but the vibe is sort of bizarre. Sometimes his interactions with her sound more father/daughter than husband/wife. When he helped settle the fight between Betty and Sally it sounded as if he could have been talking with two siblings about getting along. It’s almost as if Henry has stepped in as a faux father to the whole bunch, Betty included.

While many dislike Betty as a character, she is such a significant illustration of the consequences of the position women were put in at the time. I’ve written about it before, but with no real options open to Betty other than becoming a mother and housewife, she (obvi not happy with either) turns bitter and spiteful as she struggles under those limitations. Remember how free and herself she felt in Rome? Sadly, not reality.

To this point, Betty has not been able to garner a foothold in any world outside the home that has been slowly suffocating her. It’s way too easy to blame her for not going out and forging her own shit, but we’re in a super different world today; the constraints on her along with so many women of that time are vast. The expectations for ladies like Betty are super fucking problematic and sky-high, and the people around her get hurt as a result when she lashes out against said expectations.

Similarly clueless on how to help Sally, Don reveals a tiny bit about his situation to Dr. Faye Miller.

“Well, I can’t say there’s any evidence to support this, but I’m pretty sure that if you love her and she knows it, she’ll be fine.”

And that kitchen discussion between Don and Faye is damned impressive to watch. Take a look at the timing of when Don chooses to open up to her.. he offers absolutely fuckall about his personal life until he’s poked into hers, and discovered that she’s living her own faux life with the fauxgagement ring to discourage dudes from hitting on her.

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image courtesy of MadMenWikia

And Don is in enough of a personal crisis that even he needs to talk to someone about it, even if he doesn’t directly come out and say what’s happening to a T. He wants to be a good father to his kids, but has no earthly idea where to start. Shit’s complicated. But ironically, this is the most on point we’ve seen Don this season to date, craftily out-maneuvering indecently handsome Ted Chaough of CGC for the Honda account. Capery and all!

“Please tell me I missed everything.”

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image courtesy of Junkee

Mad Men s3e9: Wee Small Hours

“But when I say I want the Moon.. I expect the Moon.”

Wanting and yearning, sprayed all over this episode. How do you give the person you’re bound to what they desire when even they don’t know what that thing is? What do you do when you’re trying to satisfy actual grown-ass human people who are as fickle and formidable as baby Gene?

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image courtesy of Fanpop

Hilton is blowing up Don in the middle of the night, while Bets dreams of snogging Henry on that whacking great hideous fainting couch. Betty decides to start writing him letters; after all, she is a person who has thoughts.. and nobody with which to share them.

Turns out Henry ditches the forced fundraiser at the Draper house, with good reason; infuriated, Betty drives the cashbox to Henry’s office herself and nearly beheads the fucking guy when she launches it directly at him. He talks her down from the ledge, letting her know he couldn’t just show up at her damn house like that; she’s married, after all, even though it certainly doesn’t feel like it to her sometimes.

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image courtesy of AMC

Sal is directing a Lucky Strike commercial, and Lee Garner Jr is sloppily sauced and ready to get weird in the editing suite. When Sal turns down his advances, Lee is PISSED. Lee Garner Jr is a man who never not gets whatever in the fresh hell he wants, the moment he wants it. Uh-oh.

Latenight meeting with Conrad Hilton and Don, father and son. In his life to date, Don has never once had approval from a paternal figure, but that concept profoundly matters to him. Connie and Don have an understanding. He’s worked his ass off while making his way up in the world, and Don is trying to do the same; neither of them had that boost of rich parents with cashflow, nor flashy Ivy League connections.

Though Connie sounds absolutely bizarre yapping about how the Commies don’t have God, he’s one of that generation that thinks of the USA as The Greatest Place On Earth(TM). He’s a ludicrously successful, wealthy self-made man; he built the most famous goddamned hotel chain in the world, after all.

The man is an icon, and Connie is also from a generation of men that believe American Democracy and our way of life is not only the best way, but the way of God. And after all, it’s the 1960s; we are at the peak of the Cold War here. Communism fundamentally preaches that religion is the opiate of the masses; “We’re good because we have God and Communists don’t. That’s their number one belief.”

In the office, Don Draper is fucking fried. He’s exhausted and at his wits’ end, and he’s creatively constipated. Even when he tears down Peggy and her team’s work on Hilton, she doesn’t respond with defensiveness so much as worry for his mental state of affairs. At this point in their working relationship, it’s obvious that she understands Don; it’s jarring to see him unravel.

Lee Garner Jr rings up Harry in the middle of the night, loaded and pissed off at Sal. He tells Harry he wants him gone. Awkward. Boob Harry does fuckall with this information; the meeting a few days later is a piping hot mess, which causes Sal to get the axe once light is shed on what happened.

Coaxing what went down out of Sal in an attempt to help him, Don is cold as fucking ice and lets the axe drop; it’s actually shocking. At this point, Don perceives himself as trapped at Sterling Cooper via his contract (thanks to Hilton), and he seems to be lashing out in bizarre ways as a result.

Sal: “He was drunk, and he cornered me in the editing room. And I backed him off, I told him I was married, and he was embarrassed and he left.”

Don: “You must’ve been really shocked. But nothing happened, because nothing could have happened because you’re married?”

Sal: “Don, I swear on my mother’s life..”

Don: “You sure you want to do that? Who do you think you’re talking to?”

Sal: “I guess I was just supposed to do whatever he wanted? What if it was some girl?”

Don: “That would depend on what kind of girl it was, and what I knew about her. You people.”

Sal: “I didn’t do anything but turn him down. He’s a bully.”

Don: “Lucky Strike can shut off our lights. I think you know that this is the way this has to be.”

WOOF.

Sal was hoping Don would understand, as a man with two lives; he might become his saviour and his champion. Instead, he just turns out to be a bastard. Truly devastating.

In a Central Park phone booth swarming with an enclave of hot dudes, Sal lies to Kitty about his whereabouts. What is he doing? It’s a heartbreaking end for this character. All I can do is hope he lives happily ever after on Fire Island.

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image courtesy of YouTube

And to top it all off, Don’s Hilton pitch bombs catastrophically; apparently Don didn’t think big enough. When Connie said he wanted the Moon** and didn’t get the damn Moon (apparently he was being literal), he’s deeply disappointed in Don. He takes it very hard, feebly defending his campaign on deaf ears. “What do you want from me, love?”

**(Fun fact– apparently, the Lunar Hilton idea is real.)

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Y A W N || image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Faking a Hilton call, Don splits in the middle of the night to go see thirst trap Suzanne. Sigh. I guess it’s one way to deal with his apocalyptically awful day, diving headfirst back into what you know. Similar to Pete with the German Au Pair, Don is about to shit pretty close to where he eats. Not a good look.

“You’re my angel, you know that? You’re like a son. In fact, sometimes you’re more than a son to me because you didn’t have what they had .. and you understand.”

Mad Men s3e7: Seven Twenty Three

“Young people give us energy, don’t forget that.”

One of my favourite episodes right here. I know I’ve said that at least 100 times, but this episode is fucking fantastic. The structure, the concurrent storylines, all of it; aces. There’s some glimpses at how desperate Don is at his core, how much of an isolationist asshole he can be when he feels even the slightest bit threatened.

Conrad Hilton shows up unexpectedly at Sterling Cooper, and Don is fashionably late per usual. The buzzing junior execs are worked up into a froth, then shooed away. Hilton points out the lack of family photos in his office Don’s real connections to the world, while sitting in his chair behind his Important Man(TM) desk. He then gifts Don the New York hotels as a start.

Betty is having some sort of ladies’ meeting about the reservoir, and links up with Henry Francis, the silver fox from My Old Kentucky Home who was borderline creeping on her while sauced on martinis. Henry and Betty decide meet for lunch to discuss the reservoir that Saturday afternoon. As she hangs up the phone, she checks Don’s desk drawer almost as a reflex. Still locked.

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incredible, iconic Betty look.. || image courtesy of Pinterest

They have a nice lunch, where Henry orders the foul midcentury staple of apple pie with cheddar cheese. Walking to the car, they spot a fainting couch in an antique shop window. Henry explains the story behind the couch’s silhouette, revealing that he used to work as a mover before becoming an attorney. Betty buys this whacking great couch as a form of furniture protest on Don, who had one-upped her interior designer with one end-table swoop.

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image courtesy of ApartmentTherapy

While Betty has a flirtatious Saturday afternoon with Hank Frank, Don is at a school-related eclipse viewing party with Sally’s forever parched teacher. Oh yeah, and it turns out Carlton stares into the sun, shocking nobody.

Don and Miss Farrell make friendly conversation, then she faux calls him out for being one of those bored philandering suburban men, when the reality is that.. it was just a pleasant conversation? It seems like she’s trying to take control of their interaction, but it comes off as super fucking tryhard. Eyeroll.

Speaking of thirst, Duck is really trying to court Peggy over to Grey with an Hermès scarf. Shit is mad classy, but she ain’t into it; he calls her bluff by inviting her to The Pierre for a meeting, so she can return the scarf to the Hermès people in person.

Don’s contract, or lack thereof, is a hot topic. Connie needs him to have a contract in order to work together, and Lane agrees with the pragmatism behind it.. along with pressure from Hilton’s herd of lawyers. Bert puts his foot down and emphasises that the contract is important to Sterling Cooper as well as Conrad Hilton to drive the point home.

“I met him once. He’s a bit of an eccentric, isn’t he?

Ah, the irony of Bert Cooper calling someone an eccentric..

Roger tries to talk Don into signing the contract, tempting him with his name on the front door; no avail. Stonewalled. Sneakily, Roger rings the house and chats to Betty about Don signing the contract in a roundabout way. She’s flippant and frosty on the phone, but the wheels are turning. Jackpot, but also a major dick move on Roger’s part.

And it’s bad timing again for Peggy. After that irritating conversation Don had with Roger, she tests the waters re:Hilton under the false guise of work needing approval, and Don is prickly at best. Apoplectic about the contract hammer coming down, he takes it out on Peggy in an attempt to reassert control. Maybe he sees her as an extension of himself and is thus hard on her, but nonetheless it’s another major dick move.

At the Pierre, Duck dangles the opportunity of a new gig at Grey in front of her, then makes his real intentions known. It’s probably one of the grossest come-ons I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been witness to a lot of vile things..

Peggy: “What are you doing?”

Duck: “I was just thinking about all the times I walked by you and didn’t even notice. How is that possible?”

Peggy: “What do you want from me?”

Duck: “I want to take you in that bedroom, lock the door, take your clothes off with my teeth, throw you on the bed and give you a go-around like you’ve never had.”

..

UGH NO, CAN WE FUCKING NOT WITH THIS SHIT

nope

Ahem. Peggy’s previous experience banging dudes has been with young guys, perhaps guys who didn’t know what they wanted, or the first thing on how to please a woman. So I guess Duck seems appealing? VOM. Apparently he also ‘loves the morning’.

Once Don gets home, Betty grills him about his contract. She pushes back on Don and his “I have all the power, they want me but they can’t have me” garbage; as if she wouldn’t understand how that works. And on top of that, she got more information from Henry in an hour about his job and life than Don has ever given her in years of marriage. She’s getting more confident.

Like a pedantic manbaby, Don bounces. He drives off into the night, shattering his rocks glass in direct contrast to Red in the Face where he makes absolutely certain that Roger returns the glass to Betty. Wanting to indulge his transient fantasy, he picks up some young 20-somethings. They’re looking for a ride to Niagara Falls to get married; the 22 year-old guy is 1A, headed to Vietnam. Is any of it real?

Ah, drugs. Don pops a few pills, and hallucinates that his father Archie is in the motel. The hitchhikers are slow dancing, and are wondering when the fuck Don is gonna drop so they can rob him already.

Archie: “Look at you, up to your old tricks. You’re a bum, you know that?”

Don: “No, I’m not.”

Archie: “Conrad hilton? You wouldn’t expect him to be taken so easily! You can’t be tied down.”

Don: “That’s right.”

Ahh, then the guy pops Don on the back of the head, and he falls to the floor of the Knights Inn. This is a real place in Hackensack NJ, by the by.

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image courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo

Conrad Hilton might not be so spot on about young people giving us energy here. The next morning, an exhausted Don shows up at the office all fucked up. Thanks, hitchhiking assholes. His pipe dream transient fantasy has failed him. As he strolls into his office, Cooper is sitting in the big seat behind his Important Man(TM) Desk, and serves him with some ice cold realness.

Bert: “Would you say I know something about you, Don?”

Don: “I would..”

Bert: “Then sign. After all, when it comes down to it.. who’s really signing this contract anyway?”

HARSH. But, don’t get it twisted; Cooper ain’t wrong. 7/23/1963, the date Don signs.

“What do you do? What do you make? You grow bullshit.”

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.

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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.

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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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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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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.”