Mad Men: Week 8 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Poor Peggy. If I had a nickel for every time I stabbed my boyfriend with a homemade bayonet because I didn’t feel safe in my own house… What a way to end a relationship; I have to say, though, Abe was a real mensch about their break-up despite having a knife sticking out of his stomach. As my mother would have said, he’s a real “catch.”

I felt really badly for Peggy during the entire episode, being caught in the middle of Ted and Don’s egotistical power struggle, and having such a rough time at home. There is no worse feeling than having a crappy day at work, and not having a sanctuary to go home to. And of all things to be fighting over: margarine; fake, oily butter substitute. I found it extremely ironic that they’ve gone from attempting to sell the public on the Chevy of the future, to fighting over how much the average housewife is willing to pay for margarine. Is it any coincidence that a fake blend of oils costs more than real butter? Do we really value a façade over the real thing? Apparently, we do.

And speaking of façades, could the newly slimmed down Betty have been more annoying? Honestly, I liked her better with a few more pounds, and when she was eating whipped cream straight from the can. She was more human and less plastic. Now, she’s nothing more than your average attention whore, and loving every minute of it. Never was that more apparent than when a stunned Don walked into the restaurant and saw her sitting at a table with Henry. That scene served two purposes: it validated Betty’s appearance, and it gave Don a taste of his own medicine for the very first time.

I found Betty and Don’s reunion in bed to be somewhat contrived. I had the feeling as soon as they met at the gas station on the way to Bobby’s camp they they were going to wind up in bed together. No matter where their lives have taken them since their divorce, Don and Betty will always have one thing in common: their appearances. Not only are they two very attractive people, they appear to be perfect, until they are confronted with life’s realities. Don and Betty were hardly Mike and Carol Brady when Bobby was trying to get them to sing “Father Abraham.” They looked for all the world like the most uncomfortable childless couple left in charge of an errant nephew for the day.

Maybe Matthew Weiner is considering a spin-off of “Mad Men” that will feature the screwed up Draper children. I read an interesting quote from Dr. Henry Morgentaler, the recently deceased Canadian reproductive rights activist, who said, “Well-loved children grow into adults who do not build concentration camps, do not rape and do not murder.” The Draper children are not what I would consider to be “well-loved.”

The title of this week’s episode, “The Better Half” did little to clear up much of the weirdness we had to endure during last week’s drug-fueled odyssey. None of the relationships on the show are what anyone would refer to as “healthy,” and I’m thinking that was the point of the title. Instead of watching the characters travel through a bizarre-o world, we saw how really dysfunctional they are during their everyday existences. Still, I would rather see them as they really are, instead of impaired by any substance. When it’s real there’s no hangover, and they are left to deal with the consequences of their actions. In the real world, tomorrow always has the potential to be a better day, but in the world of “Mad Men,” with three episodes left in the season, fantasy and reality are both up for debate.

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Though I absolutely agree with Nava on the contrived rendez-vous of Betty and Don, I must admit a sick satisfaction with seeing them together, in bed, cheating each other as much as they are cheating the people they are married to. Betty and Don, though not always “equal” in society and in their households, they have always registered to me an equal level of conniving and attention-seeking that ultimately drives them farther from each other, despite their mutual goals. Some part of me felt really good seeing them with Bobby singing “Father Abraham,” being silly, engaging in their powdery banter, and enjoying a beer on a porch. They “look” great together, and they know how to play each other.

Indeed, Abe was a mensch, but I’m glad to see him out of the picture. I did not think that Peggy was the one who was going to be dumped in this couple, but then again she did rail Abe with a makeshift bayonet. Suddenly the violence we have seen all season has visually transitioned from dropped jaws and personal disillusionment to the real, physical puncturing, penetrating pain on screen. This whole season seems to be foreshadowing an impending death or chaos for Don, and the literal bleeding of this chaos into the lives of the other characters suggest an even greater impact than we could possibly anticipate. Speculative articles on Buzzfeed etc. wonder if Megan is going to be murdered. We still have questions, with very few answers.

Speaking of speculation, who in the world is Bob Benson?? I am enjoying the possible leads as to his identity and purpose, but for right now I am thoroughly enjoying seeing him make Joan happy

HOWARD MEGDAL: Regarding Bob Benson first, I’ve increasingly come to the conclusion that he is the result of comedy introduced by putting a legitimately selfless person into the world of Mad Men.

This provides both a mirror for the rest of SCDPEIEIO or whatever the firm is right now, and it also allows us to root for a good guy and for Joan to be treated properly in a relationship. That’s plenty of emotional payoff.

As for Roger’s daughter, I think she underestimates how hard it is to find a good babysitter. We’ll see, though.

Let’s not discount Megan’s unwillingness to be mollified by peace within her own household. What will be unleashed when she discovers Don isn’t merely distant, but unfaithful, should be astonishing to behold.

And Peggy, I will totally buy your upper east side apartment at 1968 prices. Call me.

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