Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mad Men Recap - Time & Life

It was the end of SC&P in this week's episode of Mad Men; the end of Don and Roger's dreams of running their own successful and creative ad agency, the end of Joan's hard earned position as a partner, the end of what we've watched grow and change and experience such unexpected twists and turns. "Time & Life" felt like the end of the ad agency's story in many ways, the partners are finally faced with the reality that although they've cashed in on their agency, they've also given away their independence and that they have no control over what happens to the staff they've built, their own creative aesthetic, and clients. We've witnessed so many deals, and hair-brained plans to control the company in the past that we assumed Don's last grasp to head to California would pan out, but no, this is the end.

And yet Don is left literally alone as the rest of the partners go home to cry on the shoulder of their boyfriend/kooky-French-Megan's mom/college girlfriend/slightly, less bitter ex-wife. It is a contrast that each of the partners except Don leave to a slightly better personal situation than they had before, while Don is left with no one. Startling as well, was Roger's drunken and impassioned assurance to Don: "You are okay."

But does Don have any personal integrity, strength of character, or courage to pick up the pieces of his life now that his creative independence has vanished? Is he okay if he is alone? Don couldn't even find solace or a diversion in a move to California where he has gone time and time again in his life to recreate himself and re-spark his desire for importance in his field,  and sometimes even find the courage to reevaluate the mistakes he had made towards his family. Not even the hope of California is an option to him anymore. No more SC&P, no California, Don is very much alone.

But seen alongside of Don's loneliness we gain a window into Pete's relationship with Trudy. Surprisingly, Pete wasn't his usual vindictive self, he even came to Trudy's defence with the crazy principal of a prospective school for Tammy. Another absolutely perfect Pete punching scene! It was also very heartwarming that as both Pete and Trudy opened up to each other about the difficulties they have faced since separating, sharing that divorce has not been the promised land of freedom and new beginnings it's obvious they thought it would be. They are both maturing and at the same time recognizing their bond of marriage. It was nice to see that Pete had affection and care towards Trudy, and even went to check on her after their terrible day at McCann.

But the scene that had me in tears this week was Peggy's beautiful opening up to Stan. Peggy gets into a heated argument with a stage mom after the precocious young daughter staples herself with Peggy's stapler. The stage mom yells at Peggy that she can do what she likes with her kids, and Peggy can do what she likes with hers. It's very evident that the woman believes Peggy has no children. And so Peggy explains to Stan that she isn't a coldhearted person who just doesn't like kids, no -- she followed her heart and ended up in trouble, has since moved on with her life, but still cares deeply for her child who now lives with another family.

Now I know that her revelation is given through the lens that she continues to suffer for giving up her child so that she could have a career, and that she cannot move on like a man could. But that is precisely what brought me to tears. No, Peggy couldn't just walk away from her unintended pregnancy. Yes, her decision to give her child a family has cost her dearly. Yes, she still cares. And it is exactly because she cares still, after all these years, that makes her a mother. It is an indelible mark, an inimitable gift, that women's hearts are branded and changed by carrying life, and no matter how hard society, feminist ideology, and equal pay try to irradiate this fact, it remains that women are meant to be mother's and that motherhood changes you.

The scene to me was so powerful because it has been so long in coming. Peggy has never spoken of her child to anyone. None of her former boyfriends, even Ted Chaugh, were ever intimate enough with Peggy to be given the honour of this knowledge. It happened with such emotional power by being shared with Stan in the office. She said it in a dignified yet completely heartbreaking way.

Peggy has become a successful woman, but also a mature woman who acknowledges and accepts her past. Her acknowledgement is so honest that it can't help but betray everything the sexual revolution promised the young, teenage Peggy who started out as a secretary. But it's the honesty that may provide Peggy with healing, she is a mother, she does deeply care that she has a child.

And so Mad Men has shown that business ventures may end, the times may change, yet the fundamental truths of life return to family and these essential relationships that define us. Motherhood is one of these essential things.

Some quick things:

- Does anyone really think Roger and Marie are a match?? She's no Mona.
- "Meredith, we should get you a bell."
- I'm still laughing at the hilarious principal scene!
- And Lou, another hilarious tie-up of a much hated character.
- Ken's moment to shut Pete and Roger down was perfect.

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  1. Peggy + Stan!! Could it be a match? I've always had a soft spot for Stan.

    1. PS. I loved the Mad discussion on fountains of carrots! And by the way, I've almost hit the point where I've typed fountains of carrots in my browser so many times that it comes ahead of fountains of wayne. Almost.


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