This was an episode that made time to wrap up things and also indicate that yes, there are still loose ends and there are future mysteries to ponder next season. But let’s go over what got wrapped up first and start with the after effects from the suicide of Lane Pryce.
A considerable amount time has past going from the early March, eternal winters in the Northeast (Easter came late in 1967) to the budding spring of late April (Casino Royale played in the movie theater Peggy and Don were in that clued me in on the date). The effects to the agency see their most successful quarter thanks to Jaguar and perhaps some other, smaller, unnamed accounts brought in. It is unclear if they got Dow Chemical and some current clients are restless (Topaz) and some have bleaker futures (Mohawk Airlines in June of that year has a plane crash), but the agency’s on the up and up, literally. They are expanding to a new floor with the five partners gaining that new space, since the other floor is seemingly haunted by Lane Pryce and Ida Blankenship. Hell, the agency even gets a profit with Lane with the life insurance. In a bizarre way, Lane leaving puts them in a better position. But that is not to say there is no guilt still felt.
The void of Lane was spatial, an empty chair present in scenes but never named. Joan and Don, the only two who could say had interactions with Lane beyond professional still have a limited mindset for the suicide. Joan thought offering herself to him romantically could have fulfilled him when there are probably darker issues in Lane’s past that made his trajectory unavoidable. With Don, following previous behavior in other episodes and other characters this season, tries to do the ‘nice thing’ and give Mrs. Rebecca Pryce money on the agency’s behalf. She refuses, believing that the agency had poisoned her husband both morally and ethically painfully accepting her husband’s professional limitations were his downfall. Money cannot buy away that kind of pain and personal agony about a love one and I think the Lane ending was very realistic and in-line with the stiff upper-lip that has clearly boxed in the Pryces.
We find out that Peggy working at CGC as the creative head has pretty much fully transformed into the female Don Draper with a take no prisoners attitude toward her creative underlings and hanging out in movie theaters while on the job to figure out the questions of the day later. Her superiors seem to accept this and let her take a personal business trip on behalf of what I believe we are being led to believe are Virginia Slim cigarettes. Peggy as a creative head taking on a cigarettes account? Oh my lord, she is Don! It is not the classiest business trip (even without the dog-humping shot the hotel was a by-the-numbers kind of shabby set-up) but it is something and she is reveling in it where she is trusted to get the account instead of being patronized as ‘the little girl’ by Bert Cooper and under-appreciated by Don at SCDP. We saw Peggy shine this season when she got to actually tap into her feminine side instead of professionally cross-dressing with the Heinz pitches to be Don-esque. She was already a Don-type of ad person but the Chevalier Blanc pitch showed a certain promise that makes me think even if she does not get Virginia Slims, her feminist streak is really going to come out next season, picking up the scraps of women products from other agencies and turning them into gold. It could just be that I am a Peggy fan and this is wish-fulfillment, but her and Don at the theater are equals and given that Don has to give angry, fire-breathing pitches to the big boys, I think Peggy may be in a better position than him come Season 6.
The last shot of Don Draper seems to be contemplating proposition by a woman at a bar who gets her girlfriend to do it for him. We never see his answer and it is a pretty blank canvass to project on if he will stray from Megan or cooly reject it like he did at the brothel in “Signal 30”. But the motif of a Don’s animalistic, carnal, ‘beast’ yearnings when his ‘beauty’ is no longer in his life (Mad Men writers seem to get the original story more than the those blinded by the Disney film) seem to signal ‘DANJA ZONE!!!!’. We know now that there is a definite possibility for stray Don Draper to happen.
Megan’s self-worth this episode took a substantial dive in order for her to get what she wanted. A rejected screen-test, a bitchy mother who is more in town to schtup Roger Sterling than hear about her problems, an acting friend trying to play a game of ‘I scratch your back if you scratch mine’ to appear in a commercial by SCDP, and ultimately deciding to get her major break by using her husband’s connections to appear on that commercial. Don initially rejects it that it is bad for business but there is a part of him that decides to let her go. Watching her screen-test, he realizes that for him, she was ‘his discovery’ romantically the way Peggy was his discovery professionally. But as Peggy tells him, letting them go and watching them succeed has to be something he wants. Don has kept Megan close in ways that verged on the abusive professionally. She rejects working in advertising, a major sin since she revealed to be good at it, but wants to be very public face in the crowd and if that includes appearing on a national campaign, then so be it. We have seen her give performances, from sex games to ‘Zou Bissou Bissou’, but Don has always been in the room and in a way he is in the commercial with his name on it, but she cannot just be his wife for her to be fulfilled and get traction. He cannot be the only person watching and falling in love with her on camera, others will have to as well. He has to walk away from the sound stage for her to get what she wants. That is going to be hard on the marriage and whether or not it lasts (I think there will still be a marriage next season but its strength is another matter) is up in the air.
In a way that Peggy was Don this season, Megan engineered her wooing of Don advertising a somewhat false avatar very much in the way Don has always advertised himself to others. He thought she loved advertising and was thrilled at the thought she also wanted to be his work partner. It is much more transparent now. She is an actress. Don knows Megan the way she knows all about him. She accepts him but does he and can he? Again more questions for next season.
The weak point of this episode was the Misadventures of Pete Campbell in Cos Cob. It was a bit too soapy for Pete to emotionally strip himself naked to a woman who no longer remembers him. It was also much too quick and resolved that Trudy agree he gets an apartment in Manhattan because his excuses for looking beat up stem from car accidents. I much more enjoyed professional Pete this season because he is such a ruthless manipulator and at-all-costs type of ad man. Seeing him distracted by Howard and Beth Dawes, after so much time elapsed, at work just did not feel right when we saw him so power-hungry in the previous episodes. If the episode just cut to the chase and had Howard reveal he had Beth shocked which led to the very strange territory of the audience actually pulling for Pete Campbell in a fight, I would have found his sub-plot a bit more acceptable along with Trudy being more feisty and not so gullible. Pete is one character I am most curious about going forward. I would much prefer to see him more business-driven next season if just because I find Roger, Joan (though I loved her authority in the partner meetings), Bert, and Don to still be woefully old-school about business where I think Pete is going to have to find the new blood accounts and finally get the company featured as a hip ad agency. He can also be despicable at the same time but I want office Pete to be the focus rather than retreading suburbia.
Overall, this season has been divisive for a lot of people. But for me a lot of the doom and gloom, the marginalizing of certain characters (Lane and to a certain extent, Peggy), the battling behaviors characters are fighting internally and externally, the yearning for control or maintaining control, the loss of control, and the changing times have made this season almost a prelude, an appetizer for the next two seasons. The agency is growing but there are still a lot of flaws that could preclude them from reaching their potential. Relationships seemed to have irrevocably changed on a professional and personal level. Characters know what can and cannot change them, some are accepting of that and others just do not care or try not to care. But the world and cultural landscape are going to make things even harder to turn away. Things are going to be more transparent, more cynical, and a lot more colorful. This is a show that knows it cannot be the same smoke-filled rooms of biting subtext. This is where modernism and ends and post-modern begins and I cannot wait to see what the show does moving forward.
I will be ranking the episodes in the next coming days. And I do not care what anybody says, “Mystery Date” will be near the top!
I saw the ghost of Adam Whitman coming and Don’s toothache added more opportunity for him to have macabre hallucinations. It was okay but it spoke more to Don also dealing with his new life leaving an indirect body count that finally hit him after Lane. Don knows he can never leave him but I am wondering why he wanted Adam to stay.
“You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra for the music montage and close-out song was a perfect choice considering this season has shown the lives of many characters fulfilling essentially these ‘other lives’ or ‘new lives’.
1968, much like the Kennedy assassination in Season 3, appears very unavoidable. Things start to go to hell immediately in January with Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive but Vietnam is still background noise with only side characters involved at this point. I think Dow Chemical would have to be under the agency for there to really make the war come out front and center.
I think Civil Rights are happening next season as well. Given that there is a lot of dissatisfaction and lack of bodies in creative, could there be a person of color hired? Or will they actually listen to Topaz and hire a girl (before Peggy clearly steals Topaz from them)?
I enjoyed the hell out of Julia Ormond as Mrs. Marie Calvet. She killed her lines both in English and French with a lot of dry wit and tone that was both devastatingly true and really funny. You get her affair with Roger Sterling as they are a bit of the same kinds of people.
Speaking of Roger, I think his LSD trips are going to be apart of his banality by season 6 and his phone-stalking for Mrs. Calvet was hysterical. And I am sure that was not the brief nudity people expected on the episode warning last night.
Shoot me, internet, but I enjoyed Jessica Pare as Megan (the character as well) and thought this episode in particular was a good one for her. Drunk-driven episodes on Mad Men are always good for characters on this show.
Excellent job by the people behind Inside Mad Men on misdirection. We know Jessica Pare had the hair flip wearing an outfit she wore in a previous episode when talked about the episodes but of course her last scene was in the kitschy, sorta Disney’s Snow White outfit. Christina Hendricks also was still in her costume from “Commissions & Fees” that made me think that episode was her last appearance (until I saw the preview, of course) but wore several different blue outfits this episode. Same with Jared Harris being in a different suit than he wore in any of the episodes. No stains and rope burns in sight. Also served as a good clue Peggy would re-appear since she never wore that red number until the finale.
Noted Loose-Ends Never Answered and Ones to Contemplate:
What are the partner percentages now after Lane. Pete seems to be on equal footing along with Joan. Was it too soon for a name change? How much does the rest of the agency know about this? Clearly nobody wants to touch Lane’s office.
So is Abe like Peggy’s wife sitting in her apartment writing for radical weeklies? We never returned to Peggy’s home life and now I am siding with her mother that Abe is test-driving her. I personally always found her dynamics with Stan more interesting and his explicit declaration that he is sick of working with Ginsberg makes me think Peggy will take him with her a la Lady Godiva on a horse.
Dow Chemical. Again, will the agency suddenly become politicized beyond doing campaigns? Will Ken successfully phase Pete out and will Ken’s standing at the agency be hurt or helped if they do get it? Will his personal life be in any danger? Will Don’s political apathy be challenged by the younger creatives given that I get a feeling Ginsberg hates war based on his personal history and Stan seems to be a firm believer in the military industrial complex. Guess they are saving that nugget for next season. Hopefully it means more Ray Wise.