“You know, there are some parts of town where we can run into some people I worked with.”
Hello, dark-ass episode! This episode is filled with nightmares, fever dreams, literal murder, shame, but not without a tinge of light at the end of the tunnel.
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As we all know, Don’s a guy with a whole lotta hangups. Even with our initial glimpses of Don on the show, he’s ~an adulterer~ though of course, we don’t know it just yet. You see him banging Midge in the pilot and hanging around at her Village digs, and that’s what we know of him. They have a chat like a couple would, he frets about work and being a fraud while she soothes and reassures during their pillow talk. Then as Caravan pipes up, he boards the train home to his idyllic suburban home in Ossining at the very end.. revealing his picture-perfect wife and 2 kids.
quelle surprise.. || image courtesy of Giphy
What starts to come into focus as Mystery Date unfolds is just how deeply ashamed Don is of his past fucking around, how intrinsically broken he is inside. This show has never really presented Don’s philandering in a good way, but there’s a pretty harsh fluorescent DMV floodlight blasting directly upon his bullshit here. Here’s a guy who hates himself, deep down.
Banging around with Midge, Rachel Menken, Bobbi Barrett, that annoying Palm Springs teenager Joy, the incredibly irritating Miss Farrell, tons of other randos like the remarkably uncomfortable elevator encounter Andrea.. he’s looking for someone or something to fix whatever the hell is wrong with him, and he plunges in hardon first. We know he’s never had a loving mother figure in his life which certainly doesn’t help.
That feeling of isolation and shame eats away at him, and he’s terrified that it’s some keystone part of his personality he can’t move past; marrying Megan was maybe a move to convince himself that it’ll be better this time around. He was unhappy while married to Betty, and you never know.. perhaps he’s right, Megan will save the day with her sunny bubbliness and her love for him. Maybe she’ll coax him and love him into fixing that part of himself. But hey, Don.. we create our own demons.
Ginsberg knocks a presentation out of the park for Butler
Shoes Footwear, and natch, rattles off like a maniac about the idea of Cinderella being inherently dark; and it does make sense. Think about it– a woman with only one shoe desperately running, hobbling, to get the fuck away from a dark, imposing figure of a man. Ginzo describes the ad’s moneyshot with the chase, Cinderella’s shoe, as we see Andrea’s limp leg from under Don’s bed later.. juxtaposed against that sumptuous white carpet after he strangled her to death in his fever hallucination.
And Don frantically shoving Andrea’s body under the bed is the inverse of the oft-discussed Speck murders in this episode; instead, it’s a dead girl under the bed versus a frightened live one.
Because of Speck looming over everyone, there’s talk of people popping up at your door and what might happen. The soldier who crosses Joan’s threshold should theoretically be fulfilling a dream for her; Greg, her husband, back from Vietnam on leave, with less than a few months to go before he’s back home for good and they can be a family again.
But we all know Greg is more of a shit nightmare creep than a daydreamer’s hero. We know that he raped Joan on the floor of Don’s office. We know that he’s a wildly insecure manbaby, whom Joan married more for the expectation of a lady of her time than true love. We know that they’ve tried to make things work, with some nice moments here and there, but at the end of the day Greg is just the handsome face she settled for. Either way he’s her husband, and she’s relying on him to be home soonish and help her day to day make sense; instead, he volunteered to stay in Vietnam for another year because he feels “needed” over there. Fucking hell.
The surprise news is dumped on Joan at a classy Italian dinner with her mother and Greg’s distraught parents, immediately followed by some bro blaring an accordion to ease the tension. Last time an accordion made an appearance on this show was when Joan had to serenade a similarly uncomfortable trash dinner!
image courtesy of The New Yorker
So, Joan ditches said shitbag husband once and for all, thank fucking Christ. She has reached her limit of bullshit, and Greg and his microscopic dick can go and be Very Important(TM) in Vietnam. Good riddance, dead weight.
As the dawn of the next day arrives, it seems everyone’s waking from their nightmares, and probably none more than Joan. Don’s shit fever dream only lasts that night, whereas Joan is breaking out of one she had been living for years.
And while Don is left feeling wary of his wandering eye in the harsh light of day, Peggy is consumed with guilt and embarrassment over a split-second moment with Dawn and her cash-addled purse. And in fairness to Pegs, I feel like she was more worried about having a relative stranger in her house when she’d swindled Roger for so much cash that day (roughly $2600 in 2017 dollars!) rather than a race thing. Either way, that split second moment of hesitation with her purse on the coffee table as they said goodnight is something she can’t really bounce back from.. awkward.
image courtesy of Crasstalk
Joan lies on her bed next to her tiny baby and her mother, mulling everything over and wide awake. This isn’t the life she thought she’d have, and it’s certainly not the one she was sold, but at least she doesn’t have to worry about Greg and his bullshit Fragile Man Feelings(TM) anymore.
Can everyone break out of their bullshit? Can we ever really do that? Guess we’ll have to see.
“I mean, she’s running down this dark side street. And it’s outside a castle, so it’s got those walls and the cobblestones. And she’s running, but she’s only got this one incredible shoe for her incredible gown, so she’s hobbling, wounded prey. She can hear him behind her, his measured footsteps catching up.. she turns a corner; those big shadows.. And she’s scared. And then she feels a hand on her shoulder and she turns around. And it doesn’t matter what he looks like, he’s handsome at that moment offering her her shoe. She takes it. She knows she’s not safe, but she doesn’t care. I guess we know in the end she wants to be caught.
….See? It’s too dark.”
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