Mad Men s1e6: Babylon

It’s Mother’s day! Don is not fully engrossed in breakfast-in-bed-for-Betty, and promptly falls over while reading the funny papers on the staircase. Somehow, he narrowly avoids death. This falling-backwards-down-the stairs-thing is my actual nightmare, by the way.

He then reminisces about Adam being born, as we glimpse Uncle Mac and the gawky kid Dick Whitman once was. His stepmother named Adam after ‘the first man’ which is just so clever.



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Mother’s Day is sort of bittersweet for Betty, whose mother died semi-recently. When she tries to open up and express what she’s feeling, a totally normal thing to do within the confines of marriage, Don shuts it down with his fucked out views on grieving, alluding to it as “extended self-pity”. Jesus Rollerblading Christ, that’s dark. Please refer to Sophia Loren’s face, above.

Here is the start of delving into Betty’s obsession with appearance. Clearly her mother instilled these ideas in her head from the getgo, and as a result she’s very concerned and insecure about ageing. Don is dismissive for all the wrong reasons and looks bored, which is always encouraging (once again, please refer to the flawfree Sophia Loren). He tries to turn it all into a bang sesh, and Betty flips the script, attempting to reel him in with reminders that she’s only for him. Don looks taken aback and a little irritated.

This is the first episode where we see Joan and Roger together, in the hotel afterglow. Their relationship seems comprised of witty banter, though you can see that he does care about her. She’s flippant about their whole arrangement, being pragmatic and knowing that it won’t last. Unflappable as usual.


image courtesy of BasementRejects

And hey, here’s the first appearance of Freddy Rumsen! Good god is this guy delightfully insulting/tonedeaf about women. Fun fact: when it looks like someone is drinking too much in 1960, that person is a certified lush.

Peggy is discovered for her creative prowess in the Belle Jolie brainstorming session, which really launches her character arc. Joan is clearly semi-bored by the brainstorming sesh, snark all the way. She’s really unlike anyone in that room and knows it; it’s the same idea with Peggy, though different in the execution. Peggy is thinking of ways to write for the product, whereas Joan is just enjoying being in charge. Peggy doesn’t want to be one of 100 colours in a box, and she’s starting to find her footing and her voice.

Joan is irritated that Peggy was recognised for her budding talent re:copy. Of course, Joan has been recognised in the office, but I’d guess not necessarily for anything like that. More behind closed doors, no shade intended. Their unconventional lady kinship will grow throughout the course of the series.

Working on an account, Don needs to know more about Israel and Jewish history than he can infer from Exodus and history books. Natch, he rings up Rachel. He is uncharacteristically super tryhard during his ‘working lunch’ with her– he’s nervous and not put together, being overly complimentary, and Rachel is having precisely none of it.

They speak about Israel, as Don is trying to find something real and unsentimental. He can definitely relate to exile, and that’s about it thus far. Rachel leaves him with a lot to chew on. She refers to Israel as “more of an idea than a place”. And, utopia/utopos; meaning the good place, and the place that cannot be. A perplexing and captivating idea, reality for all walks of life.

Later, she rings her sister Barbara to chat about Don and whatever potential may possibly exist. Wise beyond her 28 years, she methodically maps out bits and pieces of what could or could not be.

“Sometimes, things come. Good things, but there’s no future in them.”

Since he couldn’t get it in with Rachel, Don heads to the Village to see Midge. Watching him in the dim beatnik bar is pretty amazing. He seems a little more at home around those types somehow, he’s funnier and a touch more real. “I blow up bridges.” Midge’s friend refers to advertising as perpetuating the lie, and though Don follows up with a snarky response, he doesn’t entirely balk at the idea.

Don: “People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”

Roy: “When you say people, I have a feeling you’re talking about .. thou.”

Preach it, proto-hippie.

The ending of this episode is pretty fantastic. You can’t help but feel the loneliness and isolation seeping from these characters.