Late, rather than never, here’s a few thoughts on last Sunday’s Mad Men. In a conversation with G.D. earlier this week, I said that I didn’t really care for this episode, overall, despite it having really great moments. I’ll stand by that in this write-up.
First for the things I didn’t like: Peggy’s conversation with Don about equal pay. One of the problems with period pieces is the temptation (or need) to wedge the Issues of the Day into the plotlines. This felt like one of the moments. It’s true; Peggy’s self-assured, competent and quite the rising star at Sterling Cooper. It’s true that she hasn’t been rewarded enough for that (although getting ol’ boy’s office was more than a start). But that conversation in Don’s office felt a bit too nail-on-the-head for my taste. “I read this piece in the paper about equal pay…” Oooof course you did, Pegs. How convenient!
Speaking of convenient: what was up with shoehorning Medgar Evers into the plot, first with an almost throwaway line of dialogue from Sally’s elementary school teacher, then sitting him in Betty’s kitchen while her mother holds the back of his bloodied head and tsks, “See what happens when you speak up?” I get that there were levels of metaphor at play there, but I can’t say that I found them effective.
What I did find effective was Pete’s plotline about integration in advertising. This, too, is an issue that had to be addressed, given the period in which the show is set, but Pete’s dollars-and-sense approach to marketing was better woven into the thread of the times and the crumbling empire setting than Peggy’s dialogue in Don’s office. Best yet was the elevator scene in which Pete hounds Hollis the operator for an inside track into Black consumerism. Love or hate Pete Campbell, but he really came across as human here–especially in his golly-gee attempt to break the tension with a baseball reference (presumably thinking the sport would be mutually beloved because of Jackie Robinson). Hollis’ half-chuckle and Pete’s modest grin upon exit were pitch perfect.
In other news, does anyone think Duck will be successful in wooing Pete or Peggy? Was anyone else deeply satisfied by Pete and Peggy’s hallway showdown: “What you do affects me.” Word, Pete. Word.
You’ll note that I avoided talking about Betty giving birth to Eugene. That’s because I hated that section, too—from the random, oversharing prison warden with whom Don got stuck in the waiting room (another too-obvious juxtaposition between the optimism of first-time fathers and the cynicism of third-time ones) to Betty’s drug-addled musings (could’ve done without her stroll down the sidewalk, tight-fisting a caterpillar and her “Do you know where he is? Have you been with him? He’s never where he says he’ll be” rant). The only thing about the hospital that worked for me were Betty blurting out clearly, certainly, “Daddy.” when she saw the janitor and just as clearly and certainly declaring, “She’s beautiful,” before Don shut her down with, “It’s a boy.”
I loved that Don didn’t want to name the baby Eugene, even in spite of his father-in-law’s death.
I also loved Sally’s teacher and her obvious play for Don, either as lover or kindred spirit (probably, hopefully both).
Speaking of Sally, her scene with Don (her first with just him?) was wonderful and odd. Overall, Sally seemed a little too plucky for this to just be two weeks after Gene’s death. Or maybe I’m still stuck on her curled in that leotard on the living room floor in episode four.
Even if it’s not still fresh in your mind, weigh in below with your thoughts on last Sunday’s ep.