Mad Men: Week 2 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Oh dear, Don Draper is having an affair with the heart surgeon’s wife. Does the fact that he spent his teenage years in a “house of ill repute” finally excuse his philandering? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him now that this nugget of his past has been revealed?

As the series heads towards its denoument, the characters’ storylines grow darker and more tragic. In conjunction with all the existential crises, the Vietnam conflict rages on, and America is in the throes of political turmoil, post Cuban Missile Crisis and JFK assassination. Watching these turbulent times almost makes me glad I was an infant during this time, blissfully unaware of all that was going on around me.

If the first three hours of Season 6 are any indication, the remaining episodes are going to be tough to get through. Call me crazy, but I got a vicarious thrill from watching all the previous drinking, smoking and clandestine debauchery Don, Roger, Pete, and the rest of the gang partook in, along with Betty’s overwrought suburban angst. As dramatic as it all was, it had an authenticity to it that I enjoyed. Moreover, it was thrilling to watch Peggy and Joan break ground as career women, as opposed to watching Betty light cigarette after cigarette as part of her stereotypical suburban wife façade. Now that they have a few more years of life under their belts, they still seem too young to be this miserable. Of course, Don is the architect of his own misery, but when you add in everyone else’s, it’s starting to feel like someone is trying to smother us with a metaphorical pillow.

I was surprised that the story lines didn’t really advance much from the first week, other than Peggy flapping her gums about Heinz ketchup, and Trudy standing up to Pete about his infidelities. The expression, “Don’t shit where you eat,” is something Pete should be all to familiar with, but he seemed not to care about the consequences. He was barely fazed by Trudy’s ultimatum to stay in the city unless she summons him home. Trudy’s strength was one of the few shining moments in the episode.

Megan’s miscarriage seemed a bit contrived, as does her and Don’s relationship. I don’t see it lasting much longer, but I do think she will leave him, rather than the other way around. Megan is less likely to adhere to 60s era conventions. I could see her having an affair with an actor on her soap, packing her bags and just leaving. It would serve Don right.

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: I am going to have to agree with Nava on this one and say that I see Megan taking the initiative to leave Don as their relationship spirals out of control. Though the miscarriage, I concur, was contrived, I think it might be an essential plot point that brings Megan dangerously close to Sylvia, and Sylvia and Don’s affair dangerously close to being revealed. The sadistic side of me very much wants there to be a very grand, very dramatic confrontation involving some sort of discovery on Megan’s part. Or Don’s part.

My favorite scenes in this episode involved the interactions between “the wife” and “the other woman” that occurred with Megan and Sylvia and Trudy and Brenda. Megan and Sylvia have a common Catholic upbringing, but mirror each other in modernity and manner. Both women are not afraid to pursue what they want, sexually or otherwise, but are both grounded in marriages that maintain a very specific structures in their lives, down to their laundry schedules. In terms of acting, I admire Linda Cardellini’s restraint juxtaposed with Jessica Paré’s melodramatic monologue. It is clear that she does not want to be in Don’s apartment talking to his wife, but one can see the struggle between the awkwardness of feeling like an imposition and wanting a form of female companionship. I like Sylvia a lot, and I want to see her and Megan become more friendly. Sylvia shouldn’t be cheating on that nice husband of hers, but she intrigues me, whether she orders Don the steak diavolo or the angel hair pasta.

When Brenda arrives at the Campbell household with a broken nose and it is very clear to Trudy that Pete has been having an affair with a wife on their block, Trudy does what Trudy does best: what she is supposed to do. She cleans up Brenda’s nose, gets her ice, makes her tea, and drives her to a nearby hotel. From Trudy’s earnest but focused demeanor, it is apparent that she knows exactly what has been going on and is not going to have her husband’s squeeze bleeding all over her beautiful kitchen. There is nonetheless a paralleled intimacy between these two women, a gentle but fierce understanding of the situation. The next morning Trudy is sitting like a mob boss at the kitchen table, reclined with her legs crossed prepared to get exactly what she wants from someone who has disappointed her. I admit to cheering when she lays down the law with Pete, just because we often see Trudy putting on such a good face, even if she thought there would be some “dignity” in her granting him “permission.” But I also fear for them. Trudy is not taking his bullshit anymore, and I truly hope she sticks to that.

Joan to Herb: “And I know that there are some parts of you that you haven’t seen in years.” Shazam. Need I say more?

 

 

 

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