Mad Men 6-9

An old boss once told me that no matter who you go might lie down with in bed on any given evening, when you finally close your eyes you’re essentially alone with only your thoughts. It’s not an original thought, but there is truth in it – especially for nearly everyone in the latest episode of Mad Men, entitled “The Better Half”.

Somewhere between Don Draper (Jon Hamm) realizing he’s lost Betty (January Jones) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) realizing she’s lost a pair of mentors, the lesson rings out clear as a bell.

This season of the show has been particularly cruel to Don, constantly stripping away everything he once believed to have been under his control. It began with playing second fiddle to Megan (Jessica Paré), continued through Sylvia Rosen discontinuing their affair and leading to a tryst with Betty – who saw that coming? – only to have her think nothing of it the next morning while she shared a happy breakfast with Henry.

Of course, Mad Men wouldn’t be the same with a bunch of contented characters running around … and this week, there were plenty to share in Don’s misery.

  • See Roger (John Slattery) being cut off from his male progeny.  
  • Witness Joan (Christina Hendricks) understanding that Roger’s attention to his child will always be fleeting and using that clarity to keep him at arm’s length.  
  • Behold Peggy being told by the consciously-misguided Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) that their lives are diametrically opposed to each other.  
  • Look on as Pete Cambpell (Vincent Kartheiser) is reminded that he has alienated himself from any semblance of a family.

For as successful as the lot of them have been professionally (they’re the ’27 Yankees, according to Harry Crane), their other link has been an uncanny ability to undercut the foundations of their personal lives. Maybe they’ve achieved the former in spite of the latter, but it seems more apropos to think they’ve gained that good fortune because of their individual failings.

So what does it mean that Don looks ready to jump off this bandwagon of despair? The finality of his connection to his ex-wife might have been rock bottom. It was the one thing that had come easy for him this season. Seeing her at Bobby’s summer camp, sharing a drink and reminiscing about days gone by was as free as he’s been in a long time. Perhaps Don figured out that Betty closing the book on their life together is a blessing in disguise as it forces him to re-dedicate himself to his wife and find creative balance with Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm)

Sure, we’ve seen this movie before. And the ending has never been pleasant for anyone – Don included. But you wonder if maybe this time, the script plays out differently. As time marches on and he struggles to keep up with progress, it’s apparent that Don Draper is running out of chances. If it doesn’t work this time, it’s hard to believe there could be anything resembling a happy ending.

Mad Minutes

  • Okay, so more about the Don-Betty hookup. Yeah, that happened. I’ve never been a fan of Betty Draper/Francis, but this episode has me inching toward her corner. Don’t get it twisted, I think a part of her enjoyed having leverage over the man who kept her under his thumb for years, but there was also genuine empathy for what his life has become. It was probably the most self-assured she’s been – it’s a good look for her.
  • Oh … and Betty’s flirting again. The weight’s off and it looks like she’s ready to play. It’s getting Henry hot and bothered for now, but that certainly won’t fly forever.
  • Don and Betty weren’t the only ones getting a little action. Arlene was back again and tried to make another pass at Megan. It ended up being even more awkward than when she and Mel tried to proposition the Drapers earlier this season. Turns out, Mrs. Draper might be young, but she’s not quite so adventurous as to spice things up with another woman.
  • Speaking of awkward, Roger took a major blow to the ego when he arrived unannounced at Joan’s apartment to see Bob Benson looking quite comfortable. It’s probably been an underplayed storyline, but for as many problems as Don has had trying to cope with the changing times, Roger might be struggling even more. Now a younger man has taken a shine to the woman he kept on a string for so long. Getting older is never kind.
  • Bob Benson might have reason to get comfy in the office as well. For the second time this season, he’s done right by Pete. Who knows how long Campbell will be hanging around SCDP-CGC, but could there be a future for Bob alongside Pete, wherever the future might lead?