Mad Men 6-4

 

After throwing a few coy jabs in the first few hours of the new season, Mad Men threw several haymakers in this week’s episode, titled “To Have and to Hold” – though it would probably have been better dubbed “Know Your Place”.

Madison Avenue in general – and Sterling Cooper Draper Price, in particular – have been bordering on utopia. Forgetting the interpersonal struggles that every character suffers (which also make the story go), Mad Men has given us a recent sense of harmony. Women are moving up in the world. The workplace is starting to integrate, even if it’s one face at a time. Even the youth are getting a voice in social affairs.

Reality is a punch in the gut.

Joan (Christina Hendricks) is reminded in humiliating fashion that while she may be a partner at SCDP, it is often in name only. Her attempt to fire Harry Crane’s (Rich Sommer) truant secretary was heavy-handed, but not one of the other partners attempted to side with her – even after Harry’s not-so-thinly-veiled insinuation that Joan slept her way to the top. She reverts to her former role as a sex kitten cougar for a night, making out with a young pup in a bar during a night spent partying with an old girlfriend.

(While Harry might have been feeling his oats, he was not above getting a comeuppance in the form of a commission check which stood in lieu of granting his brash demand to be made a partner.)

For Dawn (Teyonah Parris), it was being reminded that while she may be getting along with her co-workers, she’ll never be completely accepted. It’s an admonition that loses some of its sting when Joan surprisingly gives Dawn an added level of responsibility, by handing her the keys to the supply closet and the timecards.

Of course, the biggest blows are reserved for Don (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré). Don has tried to play the supportive husband as Megan’s role on her soap opera has expanded, but it’s been hard to miss his anger and jealousy. It only grows when he sees his wife in the arms of her TV beau. His reaction could have been in response to watching another man touch his wife, it could have been because he knew she was good at this job and what it could mean for the dynamic of their own relationship. Regardless, he was unmistakably hurt and turned that hurt around on Megan.

But that was merely child’s play compared to what came next for Don. He slides in for another nightcap with Sylvia Rosen (Linda Cardellini) and he bristles at the crucifix around her neck. She looks at Don plaintively and tells him that she is praying for him to find peace.

It’s a comment that’s as subtle as a summer breeze but hits harder than a sledgehammer. It’s the one thing Don has admitted he wants for himself yet can’t seem to grasp. His response? Continue to seek comfort in that which is causing his own self-loathing. Except this time with a little less religious guilt.

The real deconstruction has begun. Something tells me it will get worse before it gets better.

Mad Minutes

  • Last week, I asked for more Harry Crane. Who knew he would get so out of pocket? He’s always been an afterthought in the office – a guy who worked just hard enough and didn’t make a lot of waves. That made it so much easier for Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) to blow him off so easily. But SCDP leadership could have some hard choices to make if Mr. Crane continues to rock the boat.
  • Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) learned the hard way that there isn’t much room for friendship in the cutthroat world of advertising. Whether Stan’s middle finger is a just a release of hurt feelings or the crumbling of a cordial relationship remains to be seen.
  • Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) has exhibited weaselish tendencies since .. well, forever. It could be coming back to bite him. Between Harry calling him out for giving Joan an indecent proposal and Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) fuming after word leaked that SCDP surreptitiously pitched Heinz ketchup, Pete’s got some ‘splaining to do.
  • I was happy to see Dawn’s character fleshed out a little bit more. It’s hard enough working for Don Draper, but as the company’s token black hire, it can’t be an easy existence for her. Her quest to walk the line between being being too bold for her own good and too quiet for her own self-esteem is a story worth exploring.
  • Every week we’re reminded how much Don is standing still as the times change around him. The quite forward suggestion that Don and Megan swing with one of the show’s co-stars and head writer (hey, it’s Ted McGinley!) reminded us that Don likes his adultery the old-fashioned way. I don’t imagine this is the last we’ve seen of the swingers.