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.”

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Mad Men s2e13: Meditations in an Emergency

Season 2 finale. Lots to unpack, lots to talk about. We find ourselves around The Cuban Missile Crisis, putting the end of this season in October 1962.

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image courtesy of Imgur

Betty awaits her doctor in his homey practice, perched perfectly upon the exam table. She looks fraught with nerves, and he confirms her fear; she’s pregnant. Jail sentence, dread. She expresses that this is a bad time, yet the doctor remains encouraging. Once she starts telling people it will feel right, yadda yadda yadda. She and Don are estranged, so this is literally the last thing she needs right now. Bets splits as soon as he runs out to find the space heater.

It’s a touch of bedlam at Sterling Cooper, everyone has to turn their numbers in early. Harry, Kenny, Sal and Kinsey pull the demoted Lois off the switchboard to get the scoop — Sterling Cooper has been sold to PPL! Lois is very dramatic in delivering the news. Transatlantic. Merger time.

Betty is at the stables, riding out her feelings. Once she dismounts her horse, she sees Don approaching her. Shocked, she maintains her cool. The most he’ll ever admit – “I was not respectful to you”, he sincerely expresses that he wants to be together again; Betty is relieved to have her suspicions confirmed, no matter how cagey that vague admission was. Borrowing a line from Helen Bishop, it hasn’t been all that different without him; Betty keeps her distance. Wise move.

Big difference from the Season 1 finale, which ends with Don longing for a warm family moment and mourning the loss of what he’d ultimately fucked up. Maybe now he feels the bona fide loss and actually wants the reality of a family, a connection.

As a nervous Pete imparts the bad news of Clearasil pulling out, Duck appears unfazed. Instead, Duck shares that he will be their new overlord post-merger. He wants Pete to replace him as Head of Account Services, and they share some fairly large glasses of gin. Pete is advised to keep it under his hat.

Don heads into the office, a sight for sore eyes. He sees Peggy’s new office and haircut, and a big ol’ pile of correspondence. True to form and entirely outraged that Don’s back in town as if nothing happened, Pete is wondering why in the hell he left him high and dry at their hotel in LA. Don spins it like he knew what he was doing instead of being impetuous, and Pete buys his compliments in his handling of meetings; Don expresses confidence that Pete is now ready to move on up. Music to his ears, twice in one day! A thing like that.

Getting the PPL merger news from Roger, apparently his little manpain jaunt to LA netted him $500k. Holy schnikes! That’s almost $4 MILLION today in 2016. What the fuck?

Betty is at the salon, which is currently filled with very nervous ladies. She somberly shares her news with Francine, who can recommend a lady doctor to take care of it if need be.

Heading into the city, Betty drops the kids off at Don’s hotel, declining his invitation to have dinner with them as a family. Lingering in front of a department store window display, she wanders in Manhattan with the mystery of Don.

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image courtesy of Imgur

Shopping bags in hand, she takes a seat at a bar, orders a gimlet. A young proto-Don pays for her drink; she shoos him away initially, but later she corrals him into having a fuck in a vacant back room. A little role reversal; Don is playing family man with the kids, enjoying a meal and their company while Betty is an anonymous person at a bar, banging a rando. It’s the end of the world, after all.

Back in the world of Catholicism, Peggy is being admonished by Father Gill in the church basement. He’s laying on this guilt bullshit pretty strong, and Peggy stands up for her own personal beliefs– “I can’t believe that’s how God is”. It’s plain that she’s made peace with herself in her own way, Padre. Step aside.

Friday morning at Sterling Cooper, news of the merger is flitting around. There’s canapés in the fridge (fancy ones), the conference room is signed out all day.. everyone is on edge because of the news on TV and inside the office.

Confiding in Don, Pete drops the bomb that Duck is set to be the President of Sterling Cooper under PPL’s gaze. Let that marinate for a bit.

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image courtesy of Imgur

At home, Betty receives a letter from Don.

Dear Betty,

I’m sitting in The Roosevelt looking at the backs of Bobby and Sally’s heads as they watch TV. I’m not letting them change the channel, because watching the news makes me sick, and they can see it.

I think about you, and how I behaved, and my regret. I know it’s my fault you are not here right now.

I understand why you feel it’s better to go on without me, and I know that you won’t be alone for very long, but, without you, I’ll be alone forever.

I love you.

-Don

In the big meeting with the PPL guys, Duck expresses ~quelle surprise~ when Sinjin states Duck will be prez over at Sterling Cooper once the merger is complete. He makes a bizarre speech, yapping about media buying, pinpointed with incredible accuracy; Cooper correctly points out that Duck failed to mention their clients at all. Time to drop some bombs.

Don: “What? I think it sounds like a great agency, and I think Duck is the man to run it. I just don’t think I’ll be a part of it.”

Sinjin: “You don’t want to be a part of it?”

Don: “If this is the agency you want, Duck is the man for the job.”

Duck: “This is what I’m talking about, artistic temperament..”

Roger: “Don, is this really necessary?”

Duck: “It is. Because he loves this room, and hearing his own voice, and saving the day.. except this time he’s got to get with a team. You can either honour your contract, or walk out that door with nothing and start selling insurance.”

Don: [pauses] “I don’t have a contract.”

Roger: “We’re close! We didn’t think we needed one.”

Don: “Gentlemen, I sell products, not advertising. I can’t see as far into the future as Duck, but if the world is still here on Monday, we can talk.”

Once Don leaves the room, Duck makes a fucking mess of things and completely embarrasses himself in front of the PPL guys. Don gets under his skin. As Sinjin asks Duck to please excuse them, he knows it’s all over for him as prez. Adios, Duck! “He never could hold his liquor.”

Peggy is finally lulled into confession of sorts, sitting with drunkenly pleasant Pete in his office surrounded by panic. He confesses his love for her, expressing that she’s perfect, that he wants to be with her. Trudy doesn’t really know him. File under Things Men Say. She drops the bomb and tells him that she had his baby, and she gave it away.

This is the first time this is candidly said aloud on the show, by the way. It’s been alluded to, referenced, but never actually acknowledged by Peggy’s character or any of the other characters in such stark terms.

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image courtesy of WordPress

Pete is stunned and has no idea how to react. He’s a captivating character for a million different reasons, but I love that he knows who he is, yet tries to valiantly escape it every single day. He’s had a privileged upbringing, not unlike Betty, and is trying to escape that inalienable truth along with his picture perfect marriage and absurdly domineering mother. He craves no expectations, no baggage due to his name, and sees that clean slate of sorts in Peggy. Turns out there’s mad baggage there too. Sorry not sorry, Pete.

Betty rings the office, wanting Don to come home. Just as the threat is neutralised, she lets him know she’s pregnant. They share a somber moment together, he reaches out his hand and she grabs it. Fade out.

“To not thinking about things.”

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image courtesy of MadMenWikia

Welp, that’s another season in the books. Thank you for reading and following along! You can see my reviews for all of these first 2 seasons over here. Next post will come after a brief hiatus. Gotta let Season 2 marinate. Happy Halloween, and seeya soon!

Mad Men s1e5: 5G

There’s a lot to unpack in this episode, but first we go from the metaphorical Who is Don Draper to the .. wait .. hold the goddamn phone, Who literally IS Don Draper?

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image courtesy of Vulture

Adam Whitman pops up in the city, and Don is not pleased. Apparently someone does read Advertising Age after all. He comes to Don with love and acceptance, just happy to see his half brother after all this time and is met with stone cold rejection.

Mad Men gives us this suave untouchable symbol, this Don Draper and his illusion of complete control. He weaves bullshit webs, and Peggy gets stuck in one when she accidentally overhears his phone conversation with mistress Midge. When Betty and the kids turn up at the office for portrait day, Peggy assumes that Don’s gone off to get it in (when he’s really at lunch with Adam), and momentarily panics. As an honest person, Peggy doesn’t really know how to handle it but to Don, it’s second nature and he’s back with an effortless excuse.

He’s got it all in check until Adam shows up; his entire demeanour becomes the Don we come to know in the rest of the series moving forward. It’s almost like that Don didn’t exist until 5G. And then when he admits to Adam that he missed him, we see some warmth and hope, a glimpse at who he was.

“Of course I did”. The way Don’s face changes says it all. However, he stiffens at the end of the lunch, and his “this never happened” mantra begins. I feel like he’s not sure he believes it when he says it at this point, but it becomes true to him in time.

At first glance, this is a man who’s so deeply ashamed of his past that he’s pretty much panicking and launching money at the problem. But looking deeper, he feels isolated and this helps shed light on his actions; yet he does it to himself. He’s a self-haunted guy.

His entire façade crumbles then hardens– the tone of his voice resets, the whole nine. These are the roots of Don being a million miles away. He’s looking at an old photo of himself with Adam, whiskey in hand, burning it in an effigy to his past. He’s really driving home the tryhard THIS NEVER HAPPENED approach and it’s all so fucking dramatic, but it works in this context.

Brass tacks, all Adam wants is a connection with Don. Love, family, and companionship. Don isn’t prepared to offer any of these things, and only withdraws further over the course of the series/decade or so as the show goes on. It starts off as mysterious and interesting, but ends up being fucking depressing and infuriating.

“I have a life, it only goes in one direction — forward”.

Don’s fundamental misunderstanding of how human connection works is on display here. He’s plying Adam with 5 grand and quite literally cannot understand why he’s upset, cannot get why that isn’t enough. Don figures that he salted the earth of his past self and started over, why can’t Adam do the same?

One of the B plots in this episode is Kenny Cosgrove getting a short story published in The Atlantic, making the other Sterling Cooper guys jealous. Pete convinces Trudy to talk to her vaguely oily ex, and Pete is apoplectic that all she can “get” is Boys Life magazine.. haha. Roger jokes in a meeting that everyone at Sterling Cooper has the first ten pages of a novel locked in a drawer somewhere, Don quips that it’s actually five.. but all we see in his locked drawer is a bunch of Go Cash and things he’d rather forget. It’s all about projecting that image in whatever small way possible.

Seeing the stark contrast between Adam’s hellscape hotel room and Don’s lush master bedroom at home is pretty jarring. This thing Don has built for himself, he doesn’t want to lose that. He’s leaving behind that dismal past he doesn’t want in lieu of the persona he wants to attain, to play out.

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God-awful portrait aside..

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

At the end of the episode, Betty expresses to Don that she likes seeing her dad, a feeling he can’t relate to in the least.

“We gave you everything- we gave you your name”. 

“What difference does it make? People change their names”.

Mad Men s1e4: New Amsterdam

Let’s take a look at everyone’s favourite asshole, Pete Campbell– this episode shows that he’s not your average boorish dickbag. Pete’s waspy parents are over the top to a T with the boat shoes, shite comments, and plaid. It’s conveyed that they’re true Manhattan royalty, dating back many generations; what a shadow to live underneath. And his dad’s a total dick, natch; those dudes always are. “We gave you everything; we gave you your name. What have you done with it?”

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Well, this is sufficiently uncomfortable.

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia.

What’s in a name, anyway?

How can Pete individually define himself, as his own separate entity? He wants something different. Thus far, we’ve only seen Pete as a snarky weirdo who’s boned Peggy and been a general smarmy creep. However, no matter how hard he tries, his father is not impressed with his job (or him). Pete has to work his ass off to be one iota as charming and suave as Don, which is probably why he admires him. His wife’s family is ready to help at the drop of a hat, while his own parents do approximately fuckall in that department.

Looking at Pete’s parents versus Trudy’s parents, it’s essentially night and day. Pete feels like a heel, unable to buy the apartment on his own. He also assumes the cash from the in-laws comes with several strings because his own parents are lunatic WASPs.

In the midst of all this, Betty and Helen have a moment where she learns why Helen is divorced. “Turns out none of them were men”. Simple, but enough of an “oh fuck” moment for Betty, getting the wheels turning.

Trying to regain some sense of the upper hand, Pete pitches copy to a vaguely unhappy client, “cousins” included for a night of boozin’ at the St. Regis. Ah yes, the Bethlehem Steel schmuck and his hookers– he’s quick to dismiss Pete’s idea and get it in with the 19 year-old to his right. “I would’ve thought you slept all day and bathed in milk”.

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image courtesy of Reddit

The next day, said schmuck is suddenly SUPER into Pete’s idea and Don is livid. Don attempts to fire Pete with Roger on board, but Burt puts the kibosh on it due to who he is and his connections. Ironically, Pete’s name-identity has saved him much to Don’s chagrin. It reminds Don that he comes from nothing, and that the silver spoon types tend to get ahead in life no matter what, regardless of talent. Oy.

In their new apartment, Trudy and her parents are flitting around, delighted. Pete isn’t necessarily thrilled that their old bat neighbour is so into his lineage, but he’s lost in thought staring at the Manhattan skyline. Maybe his name has done something useful for him after all.

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image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

PS, this episode concludes with one of my favourite songs in life. Give it a whirl!

Mad Men s1e2: Ladies’ Room

“What do women want?

Any excuse to get closer.”

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image courtesy of my Insta

Ah, the ladies’ room.. the place where ladies go for some Real Talk(TM), or to cry uncontrollably because of Feelings(TM). Literally nothing else happens in a ladies’ rooms, guys. This is the first episode where we get to know Betty, and while she looks the part of pristine Stepford perfection on the outside, there’s a glimpse to her depth and sadness within.

At the forefront of Betty’s anxiety is her hands, something that’s apparently been going on for awhile. Her mother died recently, and it’s implied that they had a complicated relationship. Though a little on the nose, her shaky hands are the physical manifestation of her internal conflict. Seeing the actual imperfect reality versus what she was led to believe her adult life would be like if she ticked those boxes – handsome husband, house in the suburbs, 2 kids. This is what she was told would make her happy, yet here we are. Hello, 1960!

More than anything, she comes off as deeply disappointed with how mundane it all is. Betty’s essentially been stranded on an island at arm’s length by Don, no wonder she’s disillusioned. He’s a man infatuated with aesthetics, so this Perfect Wife(TM), home and kids are enough and he doesn’t seem to give it another thought.

Betty truly wants to know Don, to really understand who he is but she has no idea where to start. “Who’s in there?”

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image courtesy of Imgur

So, Betty knows approximately fuckall about her husband’s childhood and past, and Don dismisses it as being in the same realm as “politics religion or sex: why talk about it?” This sounds just as completely outlandish as you think it would, my god.

She’s living in this suburban small town world accompanied by Francine throwing shade at Helen Bishop, the new divorcée on the block. Like Helen, Betty doesn’t truly fit here, but she’s been told that she is supposed to want these things, this life. Don expresses to her that she’s got all these things, how could she possibly be unhappy? He’s trying to practice what he preaches, but he must know it’s hollow as hell.

Weirdly, Betty and Don have more in common in that arena than they’ll ever know. Betty will battle with what’s expected of her versus what she really wants and who she is, an omnipresent theme in the rest of the series.

At the office, Don is trying to connect with Roger and gain some insight. Who could not be happy with all this? Relying on material things, “it’s just more happiness”, and Roger ends the conversation right there.

“What do women want?”

“Who cares?”

The closest Don gets is when he’s in a meeting about spray deodorant. After all, Don speaks most candidly via copy more than he ever would directly to Betty.

“What if they want something else, inside that mysterious wish we’re ignoring?”

 Hey-o, thanks for reading! More next week.