There are times when "Mad Men" takes a turn for the cinematic. It doesn't happen too often, and I don't really believe that television shows should try to be like film, but when this show does, I'm always ecstatic.
This week's episode didn't follow the typical formula for a "Mad Men" episode (not that the show is formulaic, but there are times when you can tell things are just different.)
With the last few episodes hinting at something dark beneath the surface, I sat with a sense of doom lying in the pit of my stomach that followed me well into the last few moments of the episode.
Even though things seemed relatively patched up near the end, it still feels like this season is traveling down a darker road and I'm eager to see what's still in store. With that said, let's take a look at what happened this week.
We opened with Peggy, frustrated with boyfriend Abe (and he with her) and worn thin from the demands of the ever un-satisfiable Heinz. It's interesting to see Peggy put into the position of so many men in the office. She works hard and so her personal life suffers. We've seen this happen countless times in the episode, but unlike the others, Peggy lashes out.
Naturally, her estrogen levels seem to be to blame for the outburst and while I don't agree that it was right or professional of Peggy to scold the client, it's a bummer that later in the episode Bert refers to Peggy as a "little girl."
She's probably going to be further chastised for the result of her little "scene," whereas Don's Season 4 drunken shenanigans with LIFE cereal were quickly brushed under the rug. I'm interested to hear you guys weigh in on this whole scenario.
"I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana."
Later, Peggy takes a solo trip to the movies and indulges in a little pot-smoking and sexual freedom, so to speak. What do I have to say about the handjob in the theatre? Well, I think it was Peggy's small act of being in control on a day when everything else was out of her hands (ha ha, hands). She was bossy and at least she pleased somebody. Again, I'd love to hear you guys weigh in.
Peggy returns to work after the movie and passes out in the office, and later wakes up in the evening. I like that despite the earlier office snafu, Peggy still gets back to work because she's always determined to get things right. No slacking on her part.
Working alone with Michael, Peggy pries and we learn more about his past. My suspicions, and some of those of you, dear commenters, were correct. Michael was born in a concentration camp and his father [I'm still not clear if it's his real father or if he really is adopted, so if someone can please clarify for me, that'd be great] later brought him to America for a more prosperous life.
Michael's analogy of being a "Martian" is poignant. He is out of place and odd, and being Jewish puts him at a disadvantage in the office. After all, Roger was hesitant about bringing him on, and just look back to Season 1 and you'll see how embarrassing the behaviour of people at SCDP was toward anyone Jewish.
This episode works in vignettes for Peggy, Roger and Don and at this point, we're brought into Roger's evening. We find him and an immaculately dressed Jane in an elevator, passive-aggressively arguing because she's taking him somewhere he doesn't want to go. But gee, doesn't she look great?
I'm a fan of Jane's Bond-girl-meets-Princess-Leia ensemble.
Eventually we discover the place we've been taken to is the apartment of Timothy Leary. A group has gathered to drop some acid and see what happens. After a bit of coaxing, Roger decides to join in and the ensuing results are some of the funniest, most wonderful bits this show has put out in its run.
Roger's trip is funny and eye-opening for him and offers some nice insight into his character. His insecurities about getting old, his growing sense of uselessness, his yearning for his childhood. These aren't things we don't already know about Roger, but I find him to be such an interesting character. He's an asshole, absolutely, completely out of touch with current society. He's a racist and a misogynist, and yet he continues to be likeable because there's something warm to his heart.
While Pete, for example, exhibits similar tendencies, he doesn't possess Roger's ability to charm or connect.
Roger tries out the Cruella deVille look.
I also enjoyed seeing a bit more into the life of Jane. She doesn't get a lot of screen time but it was nice to learn a bit more about her. She's a girl who came to New York and was scooped up immediately by an older, smooth-talking man. They fell head over heels in love and he left his wife of roughly 30 years for her. Jane is unhappy, though. They're dining with her psychiatrist and the experiment with the LSD was a last-ditch attempt for Jane to connect with Roger and try to figure out what it really was that brought them together.
As the trip is winding down, Roger and Jane share a moment on the floor that I believe to be possibly the only honest moment their relationship has ever had. They come to the conclusion that their relationship is over and it's time to move on. It's kind of the sweetest "decision to divorce" moment I've ever seen. Who could ask for a better break-up?!
In the morning Jane is a little confused, then hurt when Roger brings the conversation up again (she was on drugs, she forgot), but ultimately decides it's for the best and Roger leaves the house in a most excellent mood. Perhaps this means he's free to be with Joan at last (seeing as they're both on the market now). A girl can dream ...
Heading into our final vignette, we find Don and Megan also heading out on a trip (of the non-hallucinogenic variety). Things seem to be going swell but there are hints at something foul. Megan's slight, subtle irritation at Don smoking in the car, forgetting her bathing suit (did she really forget or does she just not want to be there?), her complaining about being taken away from work. It all culminates in a spoonful of perfume-y orange sherbet to the frowny mouth and Megan telling Don to go call his mom. Ouch, even through the screen I felt it smart.
Don and Megan get into their first full-blown fight that we as an audience have been allowed to see. Yes, there was the post-birthday-party clean-up fiasco but I'm pretty sure that was more foreplay than an actual spat.
Don leaves Megan stranded in the parking lot and after cooling down and returning, she's nowhere to be found. Her pink sunglasses left behind on the ground hint at something off and Don goes into search-party mode. He's terrified, and for good reason. He loves Megan and he's made an ass of himself.
Even though Megan's behaviour in the restaurant was childish and reminiscent of times when Betty would act like a little girl, Don still wants her back. Again, I wonder what the situation would be like if it were Betty instead of Megan. Would he have searched as furiously, calling her family? Or would he have just headed off somewhere to clear his head?
On a side note: how groovy did that Howard Johnson's look? I want to stay there.
Eventually, Don returns to the apartment and finds Megan there, deadbolted inside and sequestered off. After kicking down the door (oh Don, so strong you are), he finds her sobbing and angry and they have a slightly-scary, knock-things-over chase through the apartment.
Falling to the floor, they both break down and Megan begs to know how he could have left her there. You can see Don's guilt, his horror at the thought of something bad happening to her, and the relief of her being OK. When Megan says that every time they fight, it diminishes what they have, there's a lightbulb moment for Don that goes off where he realizes he can't do this shit anymore.
He's still taking baby steps when it comes to having a normal, committed relationship and while this incident was upsetting, it's a learning moment for him and makes their bond stronger.
I also enjoyed the juxtaposition of Don and Megan on the floor vs. Roger and Jane on the floor. One, a heaving, heartbreaking reunion and rebuilding and the other, a calm, sweet end to a marriage. Mmm, interesting. Oh "Mad Men" showrunners, you so clever.
At the end of the episode, Don and Megan head off to work, tears dried and negativity pushed into the past. They're gleeful, but Don's mood is soured by a scolding from Bert Cooper. Things at the office have started to slide since him and Megan got together.
Yet again, it's a take on what Peggy was dealing with at the beginning of the episode. Can anybody on this show have it all? You either have to sacrifice work for a healthy love life or sacrifice any personal happiness for success in the office. Won't any of these people just find some kind of balance already?
Oh well, at least Roger's happy.
Listen: The Beach Boys "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"