SONIA BRAND-FISHER: “Someday she will spread her little legs and fly away.” Wow, “Mad Men.” As if the show couldn’t get more carnivalesque, the amount that we are allowed to see of male and female sexuality in this episode, in this time period, is brought to the forefront in kaleidoscopic chaos. The women are costumed as wives, mothers, whores, and go-go girls. The men put on their respective uniforms of social acceptability. Yet the tags are switched around, identities are put into question and concern. We can’t believe our ears. We can’t believe our eyes. We can’t believe that’s Peggy in an apron holding a ham. Or can we?
Feminine presentation and performance was a fascinating theme in this episode that manifested in shades of shocking pinks and purples, muted blues and blacks, and sparkling silvers and whites. A jarring image was Peggy arriving to dinner with Abe in an uncharacteristic hot pink mini-dress with a gigantic bow on the front. What costumes can do to create mood is exemplified amazingly in this scene, and in this episode as a whole. With the soft shadows of the restaurant and Abe’s black jacket, Peggy arrives as the big pink reminder in the room that their relationship might very well be taken to the next level. Under Joan’s advice to prepare herself for the best, Peggy dresses the part of a woman on the verge of romantic excitement. As someone who works in advertising, she knows what colors pop, how she should register her emotion, what every tiny word signifies (“I do,” anyone?). Her performance of young romantic femininity shifts from the youthful pink to the muted blue and green dinner party dress that she wears to serve her mother the ham, and announce her decision to move in with Abe. We had seen Megan earlier in the episode in a dress of subtle blues and greens when hosting her parents for dinner with Don, a color scheme that is signifying to the audience comfort, stability, and matrimony. Then later in the episode, Megan adopts the hot pink color scheme that Peggy introduced when going to see Don receive his award. She is like Cinderella getting ready for the ball in a classically cut A-line gown, show-stopping to say the least. These women are aware of their drag and where to showcase it, which unites them on a level that hasn’t been explored much up until this point.
On the opposite side of the romanticized young, ambitious women there are the sexualized figures in this episode, which are Sally, Mona Sterling, and Marie Calvet. These women are all at untraditional ages to be sexualized by Hollywood, but here they are on “Mad Men” appearing in blacks, silvers, and grays, constantly aware of their age and their relation to what they can’t have. When Mona is brought back briefly (and fabulously) for cocktails with Roger, she looks spectacular. Sultry and far from matronly with her heavy silver eyeliner and her died Bobbie Barrett hair. She is shot so that we can see her body, her legs, and her expressive and knowing eyes that stare effortlessly into Roger’s soul. Marie Calvet, the unhappy mother of Megan wears her black and silver gown to Don’s award ceremony with a deliberate sex appeal that she uses to lure Roger into the back room. Her hatred of her husband draws her to the cunning charms of Roger Sterling, and Roger to her immense charisma. However, it’s Sally Draper’s entrance in the silver Jetsons mini-dress, white go-go boots, and rouged cheeks that stops everyone in their tracks. Nothing is right about the way that she looks, but 13 year old girls don’t want to be 13 year old girls. They want to go to fancy balls, they want to dress up, they want to be mature. Though the situation sexualizes her, and Emile’s comment makes our blood run cold, Sally Draper is still just trying to figure out her adult self, new sets of responsibilities, and what pleasures she wants to see and take part in and which makes her lose her appetite for Shirley Temples.
Keep it up, Season 5, you’re batting 1000.
HOWARD MEGDAL: So much to love in this episode once again, as brilliant in emotional interplay and subtle moments as with the visual imagery Sonia broke down.
To me, some of my favorite moments came in little giveaways. Emile, looking to make Don and Megan’s apartment a bit less decadent, passive-aggressively lets Bobby fill a fountain pen on the white carpet. Peggy’s mother, expressing wry surprise that ham is a favorite of, as she calls him, “Abraham”. And really, everything Roger says to Sally all night is perfect, reminding us that while it is his job to charm clients, as Pete so perfectly shows Emile in his brief appearance, Roger is actually that charming with nothing on the line other than entertaining a little girl who otherwise would have been all alone. He gets Julia Ormond for his kindness, and who can begrudge him that? Not me.
The extent to which Heinz is rescued from near-defeat by Don and Megan really just reinforces how right Peggy was last week- the new pitch isn’t particularly better than the one Peggy had presented while Don and Megan went to Howard Johnson’s. The Heinz man simply needed to hear it from Don. It was an unfortunate byproduct of the SCDP triumph that the beans double-crosser gets to keep working with them, he didn’t deserve it.
More ominous by far: is the revelation from Ken Cosgrove’s father-in-law that no big company will work with Don, thanks to his letter against Lucky Strike, building in a ceiling for SCDP? And what will this mean for a company that is clearly bumping up against that ceiling already?
Maybe Emile will get his wish, and the decadent apartment will have to go. I hope not; Emile’s line about little girls struck such terror in the heart of this relatively new father.