SONIA BRAND-FISHER: A tense and turbulent episode of “Mad Men” this week where we get insights into the ambitions of women in marriage, and the positions of the husbands who must accept and love them. Megan’s ambitions take her out of the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce into capris and acting classes so that she can pursue her dream while Don accepts it and lets her fly away as he breezes in from work. Beth Dawes (played surprisingly well by Alexis Bledel) is leading a similar life to her husband, Howard, in her ambitions to have “side dishes,” or really more like side amuse bouches since they seem to come and go pretty quickly. And then Pete, with the absent but still very present Trudy, wants someone to make him feel complex and validated and not that he is doing everything that he should, which seems to be Trudy’s strategy. I do wish we could see more of Trudy and Pete’s home life like we have in previous seasons, because right now I wonder if we are supposed to assume that her life is taken up by the baby and hence nothing really changes for her, or maybe Matthew Weiner is waiting for a big reveal later in the season.
Though I admire Megan’s self-assurance in pursuing her acting career, and also Don’s integrity to respect her decision and let her leave the office, I worry for the couple as the season goes on. Megan being present at Don’s work everyday united them on a level that Betty and Don never had, which was a professional one. The separate spheres of Betty and Don’s relationship made for extreme distance and lack of connection, and ultimately a lack of understanding between the two as a couple. Though Megan is a very different woman than Betty and she is not staying home making stews for Don every night of the week, I am wondering if the lack of physical and professional togetherness will add a strain to their relationship. Roger’s line to Don about getting into a routine with Megan so that they can stay out of trouble was seriously bunked. The routine is lethal to a relationship, any relationship, let alone one with Don Draper. Megan is not going to be at the office every day as a constant reminder of Don’s married status, and Don is not going to be Megan’s “boss.” Though they both clearly love each other deeply, I am wondering how this separation, of sorts, is going to fair in their future.
I am really curious about the lack of Pete and Trudy scenes in this season. Besides the first few episodes where we see Trudy’s preoccupation with the baby and that gem of a dinner party scene, one really just gets the sense that Pete and Trudy are living their separate lives, aren’t very happy, and that’s about it. Are we supposed to see Beth Dawes as a counterpart to Trudy, whose life, minus the child, is more or less the same? Lonely with a short dalliance here and there? I felt, as a viewer, that I should be thinking of Trudy while watching Beth, and assuming that their fates are the same with their husbands looking for something fresh to keep in the city and a false sense of security that they can heat up and put on the table a few nights out of the week. An aura of entrapment surrounds these suburban families, regardless of gender, position, or place.
You know, I am kind of wanting my Betty fix. Hopefully she will pop up in next week’s episode.
HOWARD MEGDAL: You should be thinking of Trudy? What about Pete? Hell, Trudy would take up most of my thoughts, if I didn’t have a wife who tops even the fabulous Alison Brie!
But I agree, this episode, while quite good, felt like it contained a piece, continuity-wise, that it shouldn’t, and missed something it should.
On what it missed- you hit it exactly. We see that Pete is unhappy at work despite clearly moving ahead of Roger, and succeeding generally, making the payoff for his dissatisfaction greater each time. But we’ve had no parallel buildup in Pete/Trudy, which not only seems odd, but means we have received less of one of the best dynamics in the show.
As far as what made little sense to me, why did everyone think Don would be so upset about Megan becoming an actress? He clearly loves her, doesn’t get trapped in old-fashioned notions with this relationship- if he did, the idea of working together itself would have tripped him up. Seemed like some manufactured drama, frankly.
But let’s not ignore the work wife scorned, Peggy, and their classic old married couple fight at the Cool Whip factory. It was spectacular. Just taste it, indeed.
One other moment I particularly relished: Don asking Joan what to do to mark the departure of the woman who is, after all, his wife.
Sign of a strong character: Lane was missed. Strong of a previously overburdened character: I didn’t miss Betty much. At this point, I like seeing Sally on screen more, while Betty feels peripheral.