Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mad Men: Random Bullets of Time & Life

  • I didn't realize until tonight that Mad Men has been playing the long game of "false antagonist turned ally" versus "true antagonist." CGC is the temporary antagonist, but going back to Season 1, McCann has been the true antagonist, just waiting to overpower our Sterling Cooper partners with money.  Kill them with kindness? 
  • At any rate, they don't have to struggle for Heinz, the Coca-Cola of ketchup.  They now have the gold standard, the Coca-Cola of Coca-Colas.
  • Diana the sad waitress is mercifully absent, although Don looks for her.  I fear that she will meet Adam's fate because I have an illogical suspicion that she is somehow Don's half-sister, Archie's daughter.  [Edited to add: Think about it.  Don is born in 1926, and Arch is killed by a horse when he's 10, or 1936. If Archie has another encounter with a prostitute that had resulted in a child in 1935 or so, that would be about the right birth date for DtSW. That's why he creepily believes that he already knows her. Either that, or Diana is going to be Don's Charlotte Corday.]
  • But she is also Mildred Pierce, which is what Roger called her, with daughter dead of the flu (check), another living (check), and an ex-husband (check). Mildred would never have left her children, though. 
  • When Diana comes on, I keep thinking of Keats's "I have been half in love with easeful death." 
  • Why was Megan so angry last week that Don had to write her a check for a million dollars? How had he ruined her life? Giving her a shot at advertising and helping her acting career and financing her pretty lavishly for several years?  I missed the memo where that defined ruination--and anyway, if you look back to the beginning, the moves are mostly all hers. 
  • Edited to add, on rewatching S7Ep9 "New Business" (5/2017):  Megan is an operator. 
    • She was a secretary--admittedly a good one. She went after Don fairly aggressively, seducing him and flattering him about wanting to be a copywriter.
    •  Every time she wants something or he does something for her, she says, "I love you, you know." He sees her as an idealized version of Youth and Motherhood in Season 4's finale, "Tomorrowland," marries her, makes her a copywriter, uses his influence to get her a break in commercials, and then bankrolls her very lavishly for at least two years. 
    • He buys her a house on the hills above Los Angeles (Laurel Canyon? I don't know the geography) with a spectacular view. He visits her there, where she now is in a relationship with the red-haired friend from her acting class (or so it's implied) and instead of waiting tables or something has plenty of time to hang out at home, sunbathe, and get her toenails painted.  
    • Megan drives away Stephanie, Anna's niece, out of jealousy, yet won't admit to her cruelty. Turning out an 8-months-pregnant woman who has just made her way to your remote doorstep and then lying about it? Come on.
    • When Don is threatened with expulsion from the agency and asks to come to California--he's been trying to hold their marriage together after the end of his Sylvia Rosen obsession--she tells him not to bother. Is it a coincidence that this happens only when he loses his job? 
    • Megan claims that she will take care of herself, despite Don's offers of assistance, yet a year or so later she is badgering him for more money. She charges him with ruining her life, presumably because she left the soap opera and has never really had another job. If she never had another job, um--isn't the universe, or L.A., or someone, telling her something about where her talents lie, a little less cruelly than her mother had done but equally decisively? 
    • Don was a terrible husband, as he told the woman on the plane, but how is he to blame for Megan's failures as an actress? Yet he meekly accepts the blame and gives her a million dollars. Is he to blame for her becoming, as Joan had predicted, "Just another failing actress with a rich husband"?
  • They went all the way back to Glencoe, really, to deny Pete and Trudy's daughter admittance to Greenwich Country Day School?  This episode really is about everyone's history and its inescapability, isn't it? 
  • Speaking of history, a nice callback:  when Peggy is telling Stan about the baby she gave up, the music in the background is "Stranger on the Shore."  That's the same music that played at the end of Season 2, "Meditations in an Emergency," when she told Pete that she had given up their baby.  What are the odds that it would still be playing on the radio in 1970?  It may have appeared in other episodes, too. 
  • I love that Peggy asked Stan to stay on the phone, the way they used to stay on the phone when working late at night. 
  • The other thing that this episode was about is people getting something that ought to be seen as good (as Don tells them all) but no one believing it.  
  • Also about tantalizing illusions: even if you hope Bruce Greenwood will swoop in and be Joan's true love, that wouldn't be enough for her.  Trudy and Pete back together? Stan and Peggy? Ted and college love? Roger and Marie? The Mad Men overlords won't permit this, I'm sure. 
Update: NPR tells me  that "Stranger on the Shore" also appears in Season 6, Episode 11, "Favors," but it doesn't fit my Peggy-son theory, so I will ignore it.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

This was a great episode -- made greater by your observations. I said to hubby last night that the chickens were coming home to roost. Peggy talking about the son she gave up so many years ago really stung, but it also added so much to her character to acknowledge that that history still affects her.

I'm not sure that pairing everyone up with various lovers would really satisfy my desire for closure with this series. I don't think that Don can be paired up with anyone and make it feel final, since he's been such a pinball, whizzing between women and bumpers without much control. I kind of feel like the only logical end for him is death. Where else can he go? What else can he do? Walking off into the sunset is a perpetuation of the Don we've been watching for years, and that doesn't seem final enough to me. Then again, he doesn't seem desperate enough to commit suicide (like the opening credits seem to suggest he will), and I'm not sure anyone is mad enough at him to kill him. (I could be wrong, considering the last couple of minutes of yesterday's episode when everyone stopped "drinking the Kool-aid" and started getting drunk. Metaphorically speaking.)

I just don't know. And with only a few episodes left, I can't imagine how it will end. But I kind of suspect it will end with Don's death.

undine said...

Thanks, Fie! I don't necessarily want to see everyone paired up, but after all the misery that this show has put its characters through, I want to see something better for Don than suicide or murder via Diana, the Waitress of Doom.