Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mad Men Recap - The Strategy

A good dose of friendly reuniting and Frank Sinatra can cure a whole host of Mad Men least for me! This week's episode had the in-and-out theme of family working it's way through the characters and even through the agency's "Burger Chef" pitch. Whether the characters know it or not, they're all looking for family and the love you find within it.

We'll jump in with Don who seems to be on the up-and-up work wise as he's actually listening to Peggy, contributing to the team pitch, and staying quiet in meetings. But on the home front Megan comes to New York for a visit, (Gah, Megan again?! Why?!?), she's still way behind the curve when it comes to Don's work situation and even though she's up early making breakfast on the Balcony of Doom and Foreboding in a flouncy nightgown, she's not really home. She's scouring for her possessions in closets, and desperately searching for her fondue pot telling Don she'd rather they next rendezvous on neutral ground and not L.A. Don's look of dismal introspection shows that they both know this relationship is over. This second attempt of his to create a family hasn't panned out. The idea that two people could come together under the assumption that they were solely working and pursuing their own goals has been a bust. With no mutual sacrifice, or even sacrifice from one side - like Betty sacrificing at least in having children, there is no hope for a family.

Next there's Pete. The depths of Pete's slimy-ness apparently have yet to be fully mined! He's smartly set up with his blonde Californian girlfriend, free from the responsibility and commitment he always loathed in his marriage, and comes to visit little Tammy. His daughter hids behind her nanny at the sight of him and doesn't have the ability to even speak to him when he arrives. To Pete, who always wants everything because he feels it's owed to him, this seems like a terrible slight that he can't preserve his fatherhood with the absolute barest amount of time and effort put in. When Trudy returns to find him drunk and angry in their kitchen, (the literal heart of their home), he spews awful, hypocritical vitriol at her. His sense of entitlement runs so deep that he accuses her of the very things he himself is doing. Trudy responds to his ranting by saying, "You are no longer part of this family." Which was true even when he was living in the same house and not the other side of the country. Again, the lack of sacrificial love, of putting another ahead of oneself is nowhere in Pete's relationship with his ruptured family.

The idea of family is again seen with Joan and her interaction with Bob Benson this episode. Bob, in New York with the Chevy execs, waltzes in for a visit with Joan, her mother and little Kevin. His friendship with Joan is still going strong from last season. But when Bob proposes getting married to Joan as some kind of arrangement, Joan immediately stands up for the truth that no good can come of such an setup. She says Bob shouldn't be with a woman and then that she still lives with the hope of finding real love, both truths come as a complete shock to Bob. I wasn't a fan of Bob Benson last year - his cold ambition was so off-putting, but I couldn't help feeling so sorry for him this episode. His offensive proposal to Joan was done out of fear and ambition, possibly out of the belief that love is impossible for him, but it was done in such a way that you couldn't help feel compassion for him. I think Joan shows that she's been through enough tragedy when it comes to love and marriage to know that the pain is real and, in a way, a testament to the real, self-giving reality of love actually existing.

Then we wind back around to the idea of family back at the office. Peggy has pulled off a successful pitch to the rest of the office, but when Don casually tosses another idea at her, she is thrown into her customary whirlwind of self-doubt. Many have pointed to this as a female response to always being beholden to the male leadership in the office, but I also think it speaks to Peggy's artistic personality and how she truly strives for creative integrity in her work. It's her own powerful driving force, and while you can't ignore that she's always been pushed around on the job, she is her own worst critic and harshest task master. Finally Don and Peggy begin working together again. Their working together has been one of the best facets of the whole show, and it always makes good viewing, this episode included. Peggy gradually thaws as she knows only Don can quite understand her desire for creative expression through the work. Don in turn feels on equal footing with Peggy in a casual, familial sense over their work and when it comes to how they accept each other and their personalities. Peggy also sadly asks what she's done wrong, why she hasn't been able to find love and family, and yet Don hasn't either and has nothing to say to her deep yearnings.

Peggy and Don are finally reunited in their friendship and office camaraderie. The sweet dance to Frank Sinatra may be my favourite scenes on tv ever - I kinda swoon just thinking about it! Then as they sit casually in a booth at Burger Chef discussing the pitch, it's ideas of creating a sense of home and family the show comes full circle. Don, Pete and Peggy share burgers, showing that the only relationships close to real family, honesty, and acceptance may be the ones they have with each other. Their brokenness on display for years creating a shared yet unintended intimacy that stills binds them together.

Quick notes:

  • I am in full belief that Roger is on top of Jim Cutler's plan to Take Over the World. His scheming demeanour when Joan railed him for Harry Crane's partnership makes me confident.
  • Ugh. Harry Crane! He's the worst!
  • Is this the last we'll ever see of Bob Benson?
  • Stan's beard gets better every episode I think.
  • I'm beginning to think I want Megan's demise at almost Andrea-from-The-Walking-Dead levels. So, we're talking momentous proportions people!
  • Next week is the last episode of this horrible split season! Tell me your predictions!

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  1. Stans beard is the worst!!! Seriously though, so sad for all these people longing for love but with no idea it takes sacrifice to find happiness!

  2. Christy, I so look forward to your reviews each week, but then I never comment on them because I feel the need to digest your wonderful analysis before coming up with a comment! Anyway, I'm going to do it now! 1. Ugh. I hate Megan too. Always have. I figured when she came on the scene that she'd be like Roger's second wife Jane and eventually disappear, but she's hung around too long and she's such an annoying character. I agree with you about preferring Betty. Sure, she's not exactly likable, but her character is much more complex and interesting. 2. While we're on the topic of not likable, Pete is the slimiest of all slime balls, isn't he? But he's so great at it, I just love his character because he's that bad. 3. During the Don and Peggy dancing scene, I was terrified that Don would make a move on her and ruin the whole thing. I didn't say anything out loud and then all of a sudden, Dave said "Kiss her! Kiss her!" and I said "Noooooo! He can't ruin this!" It was pretty funny. 4. Go Joanie! I've always loved her (albeit isolated) strength of character. 5. I have absolutely no predictions about the end of this half of the season. I'm incredibly apprehensive about it though. We're all so in love with everyone right now, how is it going to be ruined? I'm assuming Don's going to do something positively horrific, but we'll somehow forgive him for it next year in the conclusion. I'm on pins and needles!


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