The Mad Men Project: Week 3

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

Dreams, dreams and more dreams. That’s what we got from last week’s episode, an episode that might just be the beginning of the end for me. I’ve said it 5,083 times before, and I’ll say it again: I WANT TO SEE DON SELL ADS. Note the capital letters.

The drama is beginning to seem forced. Last week’s episode proved the following — Matthew Weiner makes a list of the things he thinks viewers think will happen. He then looks at that list and explicitly goes in the opposite direction, at this point, seemingly out of spite. We bring back Greg (who we all thought would come back in a body bag, anyways) just to get rid of him through a manufactured divorce? Just kill him off, Matt. Stop insisting you are bigger than the show, Mr. Weiner. You would be nothing if that cast wasn’t as brilliant as it is.

As for the rest of it, Peggy seems destined to “question herself” before ultimately coming out on top, proving to herself and the world that strong women can indeed succeed in the professional world. Great. I’ve hated Don’s dream sequences since season one and it actually led me to initially walk away from the show for a year. Roger looks more pathetic. And Sally is just as insufferable as Betty now. As in, “I can’t watch this girl act anymore” insufferable. Ugh. I want to watch Roger and Don wow possible clients and mistresses with their witty banter and bitter undertones instead of ultimately seeing them fail at growing old. I want to see Peggy struggle to find herself in an impossible work environment that she overcomes through her own personal growth instead of being able to haggle Roger out of a few hundred bucks only to turn around and prove she’s just as existential and insufferably quixotic when it comes to her own life choices. I want to see Joan walk around the office knowing she’s smarter than everyone around, torturing men with her sex appeal and women with her confidence. Ugh, again. I give it two weeks to turn the ship around, or else. Oh, or else.

Naturally, Courtney and I exchanged heated technological banter on such topics earlier this week, so I’m assuming I’m in the minority here. And if you read on, maybe you’ll see why. 

All that aside, enough about me. Let’s see what our board of experts had to say …

Adam Campbell (Blog) – Roger Sterling

Roger Sterling’s ineptitude and toothlessness were played up for laughs this week, albeit for only a few minutes of screen time. Having totally neglected his day-to-day management of the Mohawk account (to presumably spend all day lounging in his office in what appears to be a dentist’s chair), Roger is forced to find a copy writer to craft an entire corporate image campaign over the weekend for a Monday morning conference call with Mohawk. With “genius” Ginsburg out of the office, Roger is forced to turn back to the penis-free Peggy to handle the creative grunt work. Of course, he needs her to sacrifice her weekend and to lie about her sudden role in the campaign.

Roger thinks a simple $10 bribe will buy Peggy’s silence and compensate for the sudden overtime, but Peggy is not about to be manipulated so easily. Roger dismisses her protests over this raw deal by pulling rank and threatening to fire her if she doesn’t comply, but Peggy sees right through these hollow threats. Roger’s back is firmly against the wall and she lets him know it, giving him no choice but to sweeten the deal by upping the bribe. As Peggy hustles Roger for the $400 in his pocket, his lack of power is laid bare in a most embarrassing fashion. (This begs the question that Harry asked in week 1 — Why does Roger always carry so much money? And more importantly, how does he continue to have so much cash in light of his divorce and the lean times the agency is experiencing?).

Because Roger is effortlessly hustled by a woman who moments earlier he scolded like a child for having her feet on the desk (not to mention the whole lack-of-penis dig last week), the scene is another hilarious yet powerful example of Peggy’s subversion of the prevailing gender dynamics in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. And thanks to Pete and Peggy, Roger is receiving his due karma, no doubt to the satisfaction of the viewing audience.

Mark Zeltner (TwitterBlog and Blog) – Don Draper

The ghosts of Don Draper’s past confront him in this episode as he struggles with his self-destructive sexual history and the shifting perception of what it means to be a man in 1966. In the opening scene, a coughing and hacking Don is downtown on business with Megan when an unexpected old flame enters the elevator they are riding in.

After backing her down with a stiff “This is my wife,” Draper confronts Megan’s disdain with his sexual past and she begins to wonder aloud when they will ever stop running into people her husband has had casual sex with. Of course the context of this attitude is that Megan started a casual affair with Don despite the knowledge that he was in a happy relationship with another woman. Megan is discovering it is much easier to be the other woman with a man like Don. She suspects, with good reason, that for a man like him, a wife is merely an accessory — a sometimes unnecessary accessory.

Don heads home to tend to his cold and soon hears a knock on the door only to discover that his elevator paramour, Andrea, has stopped by for a quick reunion. The whole situation seems odd (it wasn’t that easy to discover someone’s address in the ’60s) and Draper shuffles her out the service door. A few minutes later Andrea reappears in the bedroom and goads Don into having sex with her. His reaction to her casual attitude after the sex is to throw her violently to the ground and choke her to death.

After surveying what he has done Don kicks her body under the bed and goes back to sleep. By this time it is obvious that this entire sequence is a product of Draper’s fever dream. Although not real, the consequence of what Don dreamed lingers and illustrates the theme of the entire episode — the intersection of violence and society’s changing perception of what it means to be a man.

Two major subplots of this episode (Joan and her rapist husband, Sally and her fascination with the Richard Speck case) emphasize the same theme. When Draper kicks Andrea’s body under the bed he is reenacting Speck’s modus operandi for his gruesome murder of eight nurses. The obvious interpretation of Don’s dream is that he is murdering his sexual past in an attempt to be faithful to Megan, something he never attempted to do when married to Betty. But the emphasis on the Speck murders indicates that something darker is developing. The pressures of the quickly approaching sexual revolution may soon throw into question everything that Don and his male colleagues believe about sex and women.

Courtney Pomeroy (TwitterTwitterBlogBlog) – Joan Halloway

“I’m glad the Army makes you feel like a man because I’m sick of trying to do it.”

Instantly on the Top Five All Time Joan quotes list, no?

“Mystery Date” was a huge game-changer for Mrs. Harris, who will hopefully revert to her much better maiden name soon since she literally dismissed her husband — for good — after finding out he volunteered for another year of service in Vietnam. The fight in Sunday’s episode was a long time coming, because Greg making that life-changing decision without consulting his wife was far from his first misstep.

One of the first times viewers even saw Greg, in the season 2 episode “The Mountain King,” he raped Joan in Don’s office after hours. Yeah, remember that disturbing scene, which no one has ever spoken of since? Although Joan didn’t mention it outright, she clearly touched on that in her rant, which we can only presume has been pent up for a while now.

“The Army makes me feel like a good man,” Greg spat at her, trying to defend his choice.

“You’re not a good man,” she retorted. “You never were, even before we were married, and you know what I’m talking about.”

The rape alone was enough to mar Greg’s image permanently, but lest we forget, Mr. Harris didn’t tell Joan his plans when he originally enlisted, either. And he has a history of treating her like a trophy wife and sex object rather than a partner, which is clearly Joan’s preference for her marriage. So, good riddance you wannabe surgeon. Who needs you anyway? Joan and baby Kevin sure don’t (and Joan said as much when she was wishing Greg a not-so-fond farewell).

But Joan may not be as confident about the answer to the next question. What will happen now? In a season that has so far been entirely about characters feeling their relevance slip away from them, what will become of her and her career as she deals with her new role as a single mother? Will she start to feel more fulfilled, as she realizes her son’s complete and total dependence on her? Or will she feel like motherhood is pulling her away from the one place where she’s consistently felt needed and important, Sterling Cooper Draper Price. In their last screen time of the episode, Joan, Gail — who has become a little more likable, by the way — and Kevin are laying on the bed together. Gail is asleep, but Joan looks tired yet restless and we can only assume she’s contemplating her brand new set of circumstances, including, though not limited to, no longer having a husband to lie to regarding Kevin’s true parentage.

Because Joan and Roger talked about what might happen if Greg were out of the picture while at lunch together last season (if you recall, Roger said a little too lightheartedly that they might get lucky and Greg would die in the war), it’s always a possibility that they will rekindle their romance. But Roger still has that pesky wife to worry about. And having gotten very familiar with the idea of his own mortality in past seasons, will he really want to take responsibility for a newborn? And has he already written Kevin off because of the assumption of Greg’s permanence? You’ve got to wonder if the events that unfold during the rest of this season will leave little Kevin playing the Mystery Dad game later in life.

Tyler Hannah – Pete Campbell

Fill in the blank: Pete is to the venerable cartoon mouse Jerry, as Roger is to_________. Would the correct answer be Jerry’s feline counterpart, Tom? Or perhaps the following analogy is more apt: Pete is to the Road Runner, as Roger is to Wile E. Coyote. Simple cartoon characters aside, the only scene featuring Peter Campbell in episode 4 was comical in nature.

Bloated with his Mohawk Airlines catch, Pete found Roger splayed in his chair and barked orders and simple reminders about Mohawk’s account. Waiting until Pete was down the hall, Roger spied around the corner and ducked into Peggy’s office. In what is a set-up for future episodes, Roger usurps Ginsberg’s anticipated copywriting abilities and enlists Peggy’s expertise for an ad campaign.

Viewers are well aware that if Pete loathes anything, it is to be undermined at work. Pete will certainly view Roger’s actions as an attempt to steal the reigns, despite the fact that Pete delegated some of the daily incidentals on Mohawk’s account to Roger. It is difficult to discuss Pete’s existence without discussing Roger’s existence. The two names together are as ubiquitous as “Tom and Jerry” or “the Road Runner and the Coyote.”

Peter Campbell thrives on tension. The forces between Roger and Pete that both repel and attract must exist in order for Pete’s character to sustain himself. This duality allows Pete to be bound to his fellow colleagues by hatred and contempt; however, let us not pity Pete for his disposition because Pete would not have it any other way. Pete won’t be caught; he’s too sly. Until then, Roger will just have to keep chasing him.

Cristina Moreno (TwitterTumblrWebsite) – Peggy Olson

Peggy’s identity continues to evolve throughout the series. By season two, gone was the young girl in flowy skirts with her hair in a ponytail, replaced by a mature adult in corporate America. But unlike Joan, who uses her clothes as a chance to revel in her sensuality and femininity, Peggy went the opposite route. She tailored herself to look like a man so that she could be taken seriously in the male-dominated world she inhabits. Things seem to have gone well for Peggy since her transformation, but we all know that things are never as they seem and for all her posturing, she’s still the same person. Or is she? This week’s episode shed a light on the person that Peggy has become and forced her to examine some interesting truths about herself.

Seeing Peggy wrestle cash out of Roger (and rightfully so because not only was it his screw up, but he’s also the one who said Mohawk Airlines would need a male copywriter) was delightful, but felt slightly out of character (though the whole sequence may have been a result of the alcohol). It also set up an interesting conflict for the end of the episode.

After finding Dawn sleeping in Don’s office and inviting her home, the two have a heart to heart. Peggy finds out little about Dawn and mostly rambles drunkenly about her feelings. She seems sad and somewhat defeated about her position at work. It turns out that while she fell into her role easily, she’s not sure that she wants to keep changing herself to succeed. Those moments of self-awareness and vulnerability were beautiful to see.

But then there’s the purse and the moment she hesitates to leave it in Dawn’s presence. Is it because Dawn is black or simply because Peggy had the sudden realization that she had a boatload of money in there? Would she have had the same reaction if it had been Joyce? Either way, the tentative friendship that she and Dawn were building was compromised at this point. When she finds Dawn’s note the next morning, she looks gutted. Peggy with her liberal journalist boyfriend and her lesbian friend, probably thought she was above all forms of racism and prejudice. Just another dose of reality about the person she has become.

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