Mad Men: Dark Shadows

 

 

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: I have come to terms with the fact that I might be the only person in the world who has any sympathy for Betty Hoeffstadt Draper Francis. However, this episode really made an attempt (a successful one, at that) to show the insecurities of a woman “who has everything [she] wants.” Her pettiness from seasons past perpetuates and progresses into this episode driven by her her reluctance to accept things that are out of her control. Yet seeing Betty know which cards to play against the new Drapers, and how Don and Megan react to Betty’s strategy, is very interesting to watch.

The scene where Betty is looking at Don’s new apartment is one of the best scenes that I have seen in this season thus far. Betty, with her hair and jewelry very much in the style we have always seen, is taking in the bold modernity of Don’s apartment, view, possessions, and wife. There is a devilish curiosity in the way that she surveys the space, potentially looking for imperfections, always passing judgement, but it appears that she is looking for something to shock her as a form of post-Don catharsis. And she gets it. Megan, thin but voluptuous, undresses in her marital bedroom. Betty watching her possesses a sorrowful fury that is one of the aspects of Betty that I find so compelling. She is a woman with so much wrath, but also so much sadness. It’s terrifying, and I love it.

But the way that Betty exercises this anger is amazing, by dropping the Anna bomb on Sally. Sally, at 13, is beginning to question the loyalties of everyone she knows because she is the liaison between Don’s home and Betty’s home, and hence has access to the now very new lives of her parents. Everything that she knows is being constantly questioned and tested with the amount that she is exposed to in these new lives, and when Betty brings up Anna that lack of trust heightens. Betty knows what she is doing. She is conniving out of this deep sorrow that she feels in a life where she over eats, is trapped in the country, and has to be constantly aware of her divorce. Her attempt at causing a dissonance between Sally and Megan, Megan and Don, and Don and Sally is evil in nature, but coming from a place of such insecurity that I can only feel sorry for her. Somewhere she knows that this petty infiltration won’t make more than a tiny conflict that will blow over very quickly. She’s lashing out, and when whipped cream doesn’t do the trick, she can always revert back to her flimsy, transparent dominance.

Don’s handling of the conflict with Sally was very cool-headed, firm, and confident. One really does get the sense in this season that he is attempting to be a good father in ways that we have not seen before. He is talking with Sally like she is an adult, explaining a very complicated situation in very approachable terms with a seriousness that seems to mollify Sally and restore a little more of that trust back into their relationship. Sally does not have that with Betty, and hence Don has, yet another, advantage.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Do I love Betty as a character? Sure. But did I adore seeing Sally beat her at her own game? Oh so much.

No, I don’t have any sympathy for Betty. She made her marriage completely inhospitable. She still got rescued by a kind man, thanks to that face and figure. The face is full now, the figure gone. And still, the man treats her with such kindness that even when she briefly sits at the dinner table and pretends to be his actual partner, rather than in name only, it looks like she just made his year.

Bottom line: you are nicer than I am.

But who do I love? Pete Campbell. No, not sympathy for him, either. But how spectacular was it for Pete to all but tell Howard the Insurance Salesman, “Hey! I had sex with your wife!”, and Howard can’t see it.

More to the point: I do feel for Jane Siegel, who had no idea what she was getting into marrying Roger Sterling, and can only dress up like Cleopatra, apparently. The scene between Roger and Michael Ginsberg is similarly fun. I seem to like any scene with Roger Sterling and a Jew.

About Sonia Brand-Fisher

My name is Sonia Brand-Fisher and I am a film studies major at Smith College. Interests include vintage film and fashion, fake-swing dancing to early Standards, cooking lavish meals that stem far outside of my culinary comfort zone, and musing over the implications behind all things aesthetically intriguing.
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