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.

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Mad Men s4e13: Tomorrowland

“But I think, in my heart, it was an impulse. Because I knew what I needed to do to move forward.”

Ahh, the curveball season finale. As we all know, Don Draper is the reigning king of the fresh start, always moving forward and all that garbage. But life really isn’t conducive to clean slates as Henry makes crystal clear to Betty, along with those of us living on planet earth know intrinsically. One of the show’s central themes is prominent in this episode.. can people really change? Or is it all just a blip?

image courtesy of IMDB

This is and is not the Don Draper we’ve gotten to know throughout the series thus far. When it looks like he’s going to come to terms with his own identity in some meaningful way, he veers sharply left (and imitates Roger by making an impetuous and capricious move) and proposes to Megan. The hell? True to form, I guess.

Betty certainly thought her life would change when she married Henry. Sure, things are different, but it’s not all that she envisioned. As her journey continues, she’s learning that life is less and less the ideal iconography she was pitched and the only thing you can really control is your perspective.

Bets, you can move out of your house and leave Ossining, but your problems are gonna follow ya if you don’t look inward and work on that shit. Her fresh start with Henry hasn’t radically changed her nor her life, and a new house in Rye won’t do that either. At least she’s with a man who will communicate with her exactly what is wrong with her actions, and call her out on her bullshit instead of just disappearing, but it’s up to her to do the work.

Now that Don’s not around to blame for her erratic/childish behaviour, she’s gotta learn to adapt and be an adult. Henry has precisely no time for her impulsive shitfit re:Glen and Sally being friends which is probably for the best. Firing Carla inadvertently draws Don closer to Megan too, ha.

And man, Faye didn’t deserve such shit treatment. She really got a raw deal, but I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Don lost interest episodes ago, and it doesn’t look like he was ever really that into her; she’s not the right person for him. But getting some fucking phone call like “oh yeah bee-tee-dubs I met someone and am suddenly engaged PEACE” is crushing, but she blasts him with a truth H-Bomb before hanging up.

“I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things.”

image courtesy of Imgur

Let’s be real, the Hobo Code stuck with him. Dude is always looking to hop that midnight train going anywhere; Faye represents facing his issues and working through his Dick Whitman/desertion garbage feelings like a real life person, whereas Megan represents a clean slate and bright-eyed optimism that only youth can foster. Poor girl doesn’t know what she’s signed on for..

I’m drawn back to the season premiere, and that reporter snapping Don out from his thoughts; “Who is Don Draper?” Good question. He’s tried to make himself a better man this season, but suddenly jerks to the crutch of the Fresh Start(TM) personified, Megan. The first time I watched this finale, that ending gave me whiplash– but going back and examining the earlier episodes, it adds up pretty neatly. All along there were these little snippets planted that she’s the shining star for Don; the Pond’s focus group, being naturally nurturing to Sally, actually getting what The Letter was about.. etc. The pieces are all there.

Megan’s on the level. Maybe she’ll be the one to accept Don for who he really is, to love Dick Whitman and all that mess entails, allowing him to get on with it sans too much manpain. And hey, maybe he’ll do it right. He tells her he feels like “himself” around her, the best version of the man he aspires to be in the day to day. Maybe she’ll coax more of that out into the open.

At the end of the day, Don is someone who needs to be needed, and Faye didn’t really deliver that; Megan does just that little bit. He also needs someone who will nurture his kids in the way that Betty simply can’t at this point, in a way that he’s unable to as well; since he grew up with no loving mother figure, seeing that in Megan is magnetic.

image courtesy of Slant Magazine

She also didn’t have a fucking meltdown over a spilled milkshake, which Betty certainly would have done. Between Megan’s sunniness and Don’s slight ability to even acknowledge his past to Sally (“that’s my nickname sometimes” re:Dick and Anna on the wall) and have it go well, Don seems on top of the world.

It’s an optimistic ending for a season fraught with such darkness, yet I can’t help but wonder how pristine that slate will stay as lives move on. Fundamentally, people don’t change– not wholly.

Peggy and Joan share a moment over the absurdity of the engagement; Peggy signed the first bit of new business with Topaz that day, but natch.. that’s not as important as getting married. Those dudes are all just between marriages, after all.

image courtesy of Roger Ebert

And it didn’t slide past Roger that Don did the exact thing he was judged harshly for back in Season 2, either. Granted, Roger reacts much better than Don ever did— and there’s absolutely fuckall Don can quip back about it.

Don and Betty have one last encounter in the house on Bullet Park Road, and it’s a bittersweet adieu. It’s also one of those rare moments where she softens towards Don, and they have an easy interaction; she’s vulnerable about how things aren’t ideal in her life. Don lets her know that he’s engaged, and even in her sensitive state, Betty manages to not say anything shitty which is pretty good progress.

She does ask if it’s to Bethany Van Nuys, and Don is essentially like “WHO??

image courtesy of Tom + Lorenzo

Adios, house; thanks for the memories. Onto the next one.

The finale closes with Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” as Don stares off into the void, his new fiancée asleep on his chest. Natch, the first thing I thought of was the always relevant Groundhog Day, the tale of a man trapped in a fucking time loop with endless fresh starts as he relives the same day over and over.

And once he gets it right, he breaks the loop and can live happily ever after.. but only after something like 100 goddamned years.

Here’s hoping Don gets his shit together sooner than Bill Murray. As a man who’s started over quite a bit, maybe he’ll stick the landing this time.

That’s a wrap on Season 4, kiddos! Stay tuned for Season 5 reviews, starting soon.. will Don do it right with his marriage this time? Will Pete’s hairline continue to evaporate? Will Peggy be running the place by the time we return? Will trash Greg do the math on Joan’s baby??? Do people really change or is it all just smoke and mirrors?

Mad Men s3e13: Shut the Door. Have a Seat.

“You come and go as you please.”

Here we are at the Season 3 finale, and it’s a fucking good one. Right out of the gate, Conrad Hilton lets the A-bomb drop that PPL and Sterling Cooper are being sold off to McCann Erickson effective January 1st, and Don ain’t pleased. Who the hell wants to be a cog in the massive McCann machine? Looks like Jim Hobart is back to haunt Don.

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image courtesy of Bustle

This episode is peppered with flashbacks to his childhood, where the farm isn’t doing well. Archie is attempting to make a deal, and outright refuses to settle for less than he’s worth; he splits from the co-op he’s involved with, telling everyone to get the fuck out. Looks like Archie and Don have something in common after all.

Urging Archie to sell his crop for fuckall, he angrily complies with Abigail’s wishes. As he’s getting set to give it all away, he’s killed by that horse as Dick watches on in the night; should’ve stuck with your guns, Arch.

As shit falls apart, Don scrambles for an idea to make it all come back together again. He’s not gonna end up like his father. Ironically (or probably not), Don seems to be at his professional best when his personal life is a complete mess. He’s equal parts intensely focused, enthusiastic, and pissed off, abuzz with anxiety; he wants to build something of his own and pleads his case to Bert and Roger.

“You’re not good at relationships because you don’t value them.”

Shots fired from Roger, and he ain’t wrong; Don is shook. He admits defeat with Hilton, he’s certainly no account man; Don needs Roger and his talents along for the ride. It’s revealed that he does, however, value his relationship with Roger. Bert (taking a page out of Lane’s book) seals the deal for Roger to join up with them via a vanity jab.

At home, Betty bluntly lets Don know she’s made an appointment with a divorce lawyer. Trying to minimise her feelings again, he treats her like a child by saying she’s had a rough couple of weeks. Super slimy shit, Denial Don.

Don: “Forget it. I’m not gonna let you break up this family.”

Betty: “I didn’t break up this family..”

Get this motherfucker to the Burn Unit.

Betty and Henry meet with his attorney, who reveals a magical divorce loophole.. looks like they’re headed to Reno to establish residency and get on with it. Henry, in order to not drag things out, insists that he’ll provide all she could ever need in life; he doesn’t want her owing Don anything. An incredibly kind gesture, one that Betty is not accustomed to.

A clean break.. and then drunk Roger lets the fucking bomb slip re:Betty’s new sidepiece and Don ain’t pleased. He’s drunk, pissed off, and truly nasty to her; they both know he crossed the line. Ugly shit. Marriage over.

Lane is let into the conversation, and doesn’t yet know that PPL is being sold along with Sterling Cooper. Incredulous, he rings London to find out what’s up. Saint John confirms that PPL is indeed being sold as well, and realising that he would be left to flap in the wind, Lane is ticked that he hasn’t been considered beyond a cog in a gigantic machine who will statically “prove himself irreplaceable”. Man, fuck PPL.

In a moment of great storytelling, Lane’s indubitable authority to fire anyone at the firm was set up way back in the season premiere. And this is the lightbulb moment, the one Don was trying to crack.. in one fell swoop, Lane can sever Don, Roger and Bert’s contracts by giving them the sack. There’s a partnership on the table for Lane, and the negotiations begin.

“Well, it’s official: Friday, December 13th, 1963.. four guys shot their own legs off.”

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image courtesy of IGN

And thus Don pulls off another hobo move, a truly great escape.. by managing to trash the contract that’s vexed him.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Time to snag some accounts, which means it’s time to see faux sick Pete Campbell at home. Admitting that Pete has been ahead of the curve on loads of things, and that he’s a valuable person to have on board for the new firm moving forward, Don and Roger implore him to come along for the ride; Pete agrees, finally receiving the recognition he’s wanted since the pilot. Like everyone else on earth, Pete wants to feel valued.

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image courtesy of Vulture

Before getting everything firmly in motion for the new agency that weekend, Don and Betty have to tell Sally and Bobby about their divorce. It does not go well, with Don attempting one last time to shape the narrative to his own reality, saying it’s only temporary. “Nobody wants to do this.” No shit, Don.

Completely failing at getting Peggy to jump ship and go with him on Friday, Don follows up at her apartment. The first time around he essentially ordered her to come with; he’s been such an aloof haughty dick to her this whole goddamned season, it’s not shocking that she turned him down. Having that horrendous conversation with his kids humbles him just a touch, and it dawns on him that he doesn’t want to see important people in his life slowly slip away because of his own shit actions.

“Do you know why I don’t want to go to McCann?”

“Because you can’t work for anyone else.”

“No.. because there are people out there who buy things, people like you and me, and then something happened. Something terrible.. and the way that they saw themselves is gone. And no one understands that.. but you do. And that’s very valuable.”

“Is it?”

“With you, or without you, I am moving on. And I don’t know if I can do it alone.. will you help me?”

“What if I say no? You’ll never speak to me again..”

“No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.”

That’s how you get Peggy on board, Don. Gotta be genuine. He knows they are alike; they’ve both had experiences that set them apart from the crowd, that make them see the world a little differently as a result. He understands and appreciates Peggy, and he manages to salvage their relationship in that moment.

Watching all of this come together is nothing short of magic. Getting the old team back together (with Joan!), albeit pared down, is done in a series of jazzy sequences like those of a good heist flick. This entire season has shown some very strained relationships at Sterling Cooper, making this reunion and these character reconciliations have real weight.

As everyone sits down to sandwiches via Trudy, Don rings Betty; the tone is entirely different from the last time they talked. He’s apologetic and an actual human person, emphasising that he won’t fight her in the divorce. He hopes she gets what she’s always wanted, the fulfillment and emotional support he completely failed to provide. Looks like that jab about valuing relationships really sank in.

“Good morning! Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, how may I help you?”

Will the future be better than the past like Roy Orbison croons in the closing scenes? Here’s hoping. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will assuredly be a different agency with a forward-thinking point of view; after all, it’s a pivotal moment of the 1960s.. it’s time to get on with it.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

That’s all for 2016 here! I’ll resume with Season 4 posts in the New Year.. and here’s hoping 2017 is less of a fucking dumpster fire. Check out what I’ve written here Mad Men-wise thus far.. and thank you all so much for reading! Happy Christmas, Festivus, Hanukkah, and all that junk.

“Very good! Happy Christmas!”

Mad Men s3e6: Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency

“I bet he felt great when he woke up this morning.”

Reconcile! The British are coming! Potential dual position in London and New York for Don? Kenny rolling into the office atop an actual John Deere riding mower?? All around an intriguing episode where nothing is as it seems.

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image courtesy of BurnThisMedia

The British are coming for an inspection, around July 4th nonetheless. Nobody knows the purpose of this visit, but it’s reverberating as a Big Deal(TM). Could Don be courted for some crazy dual position in London and New York? Don’s casual conversation with Betty later that evening, discussing a potential jet-setting life together in London over chicken salad, is the most relaxed we’ve seen them as a couple on the show thus far. Flirtatious, even; Betty happily opens his beer, they appear to be interested in one another.

Bert is tired of Roger and Don’s manpain fight bullshit, and forces them to kiss and make up over a close shave.

“Part of the problem with Mona.. is that one day, she just started judging people. I’ll tell you right now Don, I don’t like being judged.”

Fair enough, Roger. Message received.

The PPL visit happens around Joan’s last day at Sterling Cooper. Looks like Greg has convinced her that he’ll be the alpha in their household, but it turns out he was not selected for the lucrative resident doctor position like the proper fuckup he is. Turns out he’s a shit surgeon and is super dramatic about this outcome, choosing to go dark on his wife ignoring their dinner plans to booze it in a bar alone for ~12 hours. Manpain central, and as she shuts off the lights for the night, Joan looks positively fed up.

PPL has arrived, and here’s Guy MacKendrick! He’s some young, stupidly charismatic asshole with great teeth in the Don Draper grey flannel suit uniform, but without the mysterious depth. Feelings in the office are ghostly and tense. Turns out that PPL wants Guy to come in and run the show, effectively replacing Lane (who will reluctantly be shipped off to Bombay), and thus keeping Don in a holding pattern.

This restructure is presented to Lane as some sort of faux reward for being a cog in the machine. Natch, Lane is not at all pleased to hear this news, as his wife and son have just gotten settled in Manhattan; but his concerns are belittled. “Don’t pout. One of your greatest qualities is that you always do what you’re told.” Really fucking demeaning, but Lane takes it in stride. You get the vibe that he’s heard all this before, he’s accustomed to it.

There’s a bigwig meeting about the reorganisation. According to the overhead projector, Guy is the new COO, Roger is left off of the diagram entirely (an alleged oversight), and Harry is the only one who gets a promotion. Mess. Meanwhile, Don doodles the American flag.

Guy delivers a heartfelt and hollow toast to Joan, who weeps. Her life is a mess, and Sterling Cooper offers her a valuable and vital respite; and soon enough, it seems she won’t even recognise the place. And in the midst of this nightmare, Conrad Hilton’s office rings Don, much to his total surprise. When Don vaguely recognises him upon officially meeting, he feels a little dumbfounded.

“Apparently you don’t have long chats with everyone.”

Peggy, in limbo between the worlds of the steno pool and the copywriters and not wholly fitting into either just yet, yearns to be a meaningful part of Joan’s last day. “I don’t want you to think I never listened to you, but it’s just.. we can’t all be you.” Poignant and true.

These women could not be more different, but they fight the same battles and want some of the same things. Peggy imagines that Joan is off to get what she always wanted in life, but Joan is beginning to have second thoughts; this is a massive change, and she secretly wants stay in the workforce. Joan is a woman who’s admired and revered in that office, she’s great at her job; and Peggy longs for that sort of status someday as well.

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image courtesy of Uproxx

There’s a lot to say, but it’s cut short by a fucking hot mess. Smitty is on that John Deere mower riding it around the goddamn office.. and then, dolt Lois mounts it which is of course a complete DISASTER. Bye bye, Guy’s foot. Joan saves the day with a tourniquet, ruining her dress in the process; but she manages to save his life.

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image courtesy of AMC

Roger finds it all pretty funny. “Right when he got it in the door.” Secretly relieved that this shit is over and he’s relevant again at the agency, Roger nonchalantly moves forward. And hey, Lane will remain in New York! Deus ex machina at work; Don, Roger and Lane are all silently relieved. The status quo is restored.

“Believe me, somewhere in this business, this has happened before.”

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image courtesy of DigitalSpy

Don and Joan share a moment at the hospital waiting room. You can sense there’s a deep history there; they’ve worked together for so long and seem at ease with one another. As the PPL guys show up, they lament that Guy’s career was tragically cut short; he’s lost a foot, he’ll never golf again. Love that dry British wit, but good fucking god. Lane senses the depth of what’s gone down, and knows that PPL will find another way to ship him off somewhere else.

“I feel like I just went to my own funeral.. and I didn’t like the eulogy.”

At home, Betty tries to relate to Sally about baby Gene. Sally seems scared of the new baby, refusing to be around him. Betty makes up a sweet little story, and gifts her a Barbie doll from her baby brother;  Betty emphasises that he wants to be her friend. Close-up on side-eye Barbie as Betty leaves the room.

Turns out Sally is completely terrified of baby Gene, believing he’s a reincarnated version of her dearly departed Grandpa Gene. Don spots the Barbie doll in the bushes outside the house, and innocently places it back on Sally’s dresser. When she wakes up late in the night and sees the dead-eyed Barbie staring back at her, she starts screaming at the top of her lungs in fear. “He’s not supposed to be here anymore.”

Blaming Betty, Don is pissed that she named the baby after her father, a man whom he did not like and vice versa. She retorts, “It’s what people do, Don. It’s how they keep the memory alive.”

After the midnight hysteria quiets down, Don has a nice parent moment with Sally, showing her that there’s nothing to be afraid of when it comes to baby Gene.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

“This is your new brother. And he’s only a baby, and we don’t know who he is yet, or who he’s going to be.

And that is a wonderful thing.”

Touching, really. Who is this baby? Where will he go, what will he choose to do with his life? How their relationship evolve over the years? There’s only room for love at this point. Solely love and hope can exist at this juncture, and those are two of the most important things in life.

“Well, that was strange.”

Mad Men s3e5: The Fog

“What time is it? What time isn’t it??”

Don and a very pregnant Betty are at a parent teacher conference at Sally’s school, turns out Sally’s been acting up in the fortnight since Grandpa Gene has passed. She hasn’t properly grieved, maybe because Don doesn’t believe children belong in graveyards. Not an uncommon line of thinking from that time, but as a result, Sally didn’t get any sort of the closure she would feel from attending the funeral.

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image courtesy of BurnThisMedia

Sally and Don have something crucial in common here — he lost his own father when he was a child, just as Sally has lost her surrogate parental figure. Later that night, Sally’s thirst trap teacher Suzanne drunk dials the house, telling Don that her own father died when she was just 8 years old and apologises for over-relating to Sally. Don is probably popping a boner at the fact that he and this practical stranger have something ~so deep~ in common, but now it’s time to have a baby! He can consider shitting where he eats later on.

At Sterling Cooper, Pete tries to crack the code behind Admiral Television’s flatlining sales; they’re total shite except for one market which is showing expansion. He lands on the growing African-American market and finds the idea worth pursuing.

And hey, Duck is back! He’s at Grey now, trying to coerce Pete (and Pegs) to lunch. Upon seeing Peggy there, Pete ain’t pleased. Maybe he thought he was special, but Duck is pulling some bizarre headhunter shit trying to capitalise on their “secret relationship” to get them both to come work with him. Pete storms out, then feebly tries to strike up a conversation with Hollis in the elevator about his TV. Hollis is resistant. Gotta be more normal and less business, Pete; when he’s himself and jokes about baseball with Hollis, it’s a much more positive interaction. Relax.

In the Admiral meeting, Pete tries to show the clients that targeting the African-American market would be extremely profitable as ad space is exponentially cheaper than the white market; shifting a portion of the media budget to focus on the black community would really blow up their sales.

Sadly, the clients don’t see any of the appeal that Pete does; after all, he’s quite advanced in his thinking being that it’s 1963. Duck’s hypothesis that Sterling Cooper won’t ever reward Pete’s forward thinking and new ideas proves true in that Admiral meeting, and how superbly poorly it was received in the aftermath. There’s a bunch of yelling, and Roger lets him know that 90% of that job boils down to “I don’t like that guy”, a sore point for a guy like Pete Campbell; he’s been dealing with that sort of shit his whole life, no doubt. Lane offers a little bit of sanity, acknowledging that Pete at least had a thoughtful approach.

About to get pumped full of drugs and give birth, Betty feels nervous and alone. She is wheeled down the hallway as Don is shooed off to the waiting room; she fretfully looks back for him as he evaporates into the ether. Betty thinks she sees her father mopping the floor, and shouts out for him. Her nurse, who’s about 110% done with everyone’s shit for that day, lets her know she needs to keep quiet once they roll close to the nursery.

In the waiting room, Don meets an overly anxious prison guard, Dennis Hobart. They proceed to get loaded together. He’s waiting to see his wife and newborn, very on edge, raw. Spanning the course of several scenes, Don and Dennis have a peculiar, heady interaction.

And Don’s watch, the one Betty had fixed and monogrammed for him, suddenly stops ticking while he’s in the waiting room. Ah, shit.

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image courtesy of StillEmAll

Betty experiences some strange dreams in the fog. She’s wandering down a street in her plush neighbourhood, flawfree as a painting, crushing a caterpillar in her hand; then she’s at home, seeing her dead parents. Her mother is standing over a bleeding Medgar Evers, a notable Civil Rights Activist who had been assassinated in the days following Gene’s death. A news story about his funeral can be overheard in the hospital waiting room.

You see what happens to people who speak up? Be happy with what you have.”

Betty may be in her house in Ossining, but it’s a trippy backwards house. Gene mops up blood in the kitchen.

“You’ll be OK. You’re a house-cat.. you’ve very important, and you have little to do.”

That’s the kicker, Betty isn’t happy with what she has. And despite his best efforts to the contrary, Don isn’t either; he’s mostly restless and indifferent to it all. As Dennis yaps about all that he’ll do with his future child, how wonderful all things will be and what a good dad and better man he looks forward to becoming, visibly unsettled Don withdraws further, reminded of his own failures. He doesn’t even know if this is the life he truly desires, in spite of how much he continues to dedicate himself to it. Is that all there is?

“This is a fresh start. I don’t know who’s up there, but I’m going to be better. I’m going to be a better man.”

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If only Dennis knew how many times Don said those words to himself, tried it on for size, and ultimately fucked it up due to his eventual and effervescent apathy. Those are some lofty goals to achieve. As a prison guard, Dennis has seen some shit; he can spot a liar from miles away, yet is keen to insist that Don is an honest, good guy. Once again, Don flinches. What this guy doesn’t know could fill a warehouse.

Armed with the knowledge of what’s out there via Duck, Peggy tests the water with Don regarding a raise.. at the worst possible time as Lane is losing his shit and cutting expenses left and right. As Don holds firm, she’s surrounded by a bounty of baby gifts, gorgeous teal Tiffany & Co. box included.

“I look at you, and I think.. ‘I want what he has..'”

“Really?”

“You have everything. And so much of it.”

“I suppose that’s probably true.”

Miles away, Don can’t hear that this life he finds so eternally vacuous looks so remarkable and so lavish to someone on the outside looking in. As much as he wants to cultivate The Image(TM), his existential loneliness persists and gnaws at the edges of his vision. And Don feels he knows Peggy better than that, and she him; he does not even humour her about that raise. He lets her down.

As Peggy leaves Don’s office, she runs into Pete; he’s convinced she’s told Don about their offers to work at Grey. Cagey and slighted, she doesn’t respond to his particular brand of panicked nonsense. Pete retorts, “your decisions affect me”, and it speaks fucking volumes.

Betty signs the birth certificate for the new baby, Eugene Scott Draper. She looks genuinely pleased with her decision, at peace.

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image courtesy of AMC

Walking down the hall with a perf bouquet in hand, a picture-perfect Husband(TM), Don spots Dennis walking toward him with his wife in a wheelchair. Don looks at him with a touch of warmth, and as their eyes meet, Dennis immediately averts his attention once he realises who Don is. It’s jarring. Perhaps he’s ashamed of oversharing his emotions with Don in the waiting room that night, an actual stranger.. who knows. Maybe he thought better of calling Don an honest guy, his vision unclouded in the AM.

There’s a new Eugene in town, and not a moment too soon after the death of the former Gene. Since this season began, Don and Betty appear to both be making an effort at intimacy and closeness in their marriage. Don’s doing it because he figured out (during his California jaunt) that he wanted to quit being a spectator in his own life.

Betty, on the other end of the spectrum, has been keeping it all up for this baby. Natch, she doesn’t want to be a single mother to an infant on top of two young kids, and it’s become crystal clear over the past few episodes that Betty has convinced herself (as many soon-to-be parents in dumpster fire marriages do) that the kid is some sort of magical salve, a cure-all for deep-seated issues.. But when she’s lost in the depth of The Fog, she’s able to vocalise her true fears about Don;

“He’s never where you expect him to be. Have you seen him? Have you been with him? Someone call him.. I don’t wanna be here. I’m just a housewife.. why are you doing this to me?”

Y I K E S on bikes. The episode ends on a shot of her paused in the hallway of the Draper home, shrouded in inky darkness as baby Gene shrieks into the night; the ethereal music seeps in as Betty’s posture changes slightly.

“Our worst fears lie in anticipation.”