Part 1–The section from the recent Fresh Air interview where MW discusses the opening credits
(In response to Terry Gross saying it reminds her of September 11th)
I did the opening credits almost two and a half years years ago. And I had this image of this man falling out the window because if the show was on the air in 1960, they’d be talking about the stock market crash. When businessmen jump out of the window, it means something is wrong. I did not want it to be part of September 11th, other than the way that is part of our consciousness that something’s wrong, and that this man is metaphorically in freefall, and that canyon of buildings which are covered with images from his life in advertising–that’s the world that he’s falling through.
And then you just see him; that this is going on in his mind in the end, and that he’s sitting there in the pose of perfect confidence. And that’s what I was interested in, was a psychological state. It’s funny that no matter how much you abstract that image… it’s so powerful, and he’s a modern man he’s got a suit on and it’s computer animation and there’s a lot about it that should technically distance you from it, but it doesn’t. And the music is falling also… so for me I wanted to introduce people to this character and I only was allowed thirty seconds; the Sopranos opening titles are a minute and a half, and you can tell a whole story . So I had to go to the graphic punch of that. And AMC is in New York, I lived in New York; I understand what this image means to people. This is part of the message of the show; it’s unpleasant and it reminds you of something.
Part 2–Betty falling through a canyon of buildings
A Night to Remember… Betty’s storyline in this episode, though it would have proven frustrating for the viewers, would have made for a perfectly respectable season closer. I know it wasn’t planned this way, but I’m glad it wound up that there was breathing room afterwards, via a week off to watch the Emmys.
First, she rides. Hard. Trying to shake it off; all the horrid feelings. And hugs that horse, gives it love for helping her, and being willing to connect with her the way no one else is willing. She turns to the horse the way she turned to Glen.
Then she starts in on Don. Not nearly as sweet as when she gave him her ‘honeydo’ list in Marriage of Figaro.
Later she uhh… beats on that poor, innocent chair.
For the dinner party, she is poised perfection. Her smile never breaks, even as she and Carla are cleaning up. And the second that she is alone with Don, she goes to the ledge.
You embarrassed me. And Don won’t budge. He is the cruelest opponent; denying, condescending, dismissing. But she doesn’t back away. And finally, she leaps.
I know about you and that woman.
There. She’s said it. And Don–Deny, deny, deny. Leaving Betty to spin through the troposphere.
She crawls into bed with Sally, though I doubt she slept. The next morning her hair is unkempt and she is still in the dress. We have never seen her like this (looking, IMO, prettier than I’ve ever seen her). We have seen Betty in a nightgown, we have seen Betty in the morning, and she is never, never less than perfect.
And now the tumbling. Glass of wine in tow, she tears through his clothes, smelling them, looking for evidence because her bastard husband won’t ‘fess up. And then it’s onto his office; his desk drawers. What she finds are, to quote a friend, “images from his life in advertising–that’s the world that he’s falling through. What do women want? Any excuse to get closer. Scribbled-on napkins; you just know I love smoking is in there.
And for Don, but also for us, for the viewers, each of these finds is a memento. And isn’t it heartbreaking that we know what each of them means and that Don’s wife does not.
(I just want to say that this was it for me. This was the moment I am writing about; the moment where the opening credits are echoed and we could just call it a season.)
Then she is drunk, collapsed on the bed, surrounded by Don’s useless clothes. She steps on her glass, and now she is on her knees, surrounded by broken glass, utterly weakened, and bleeding.
And when Don comes home, she is raw. There is no pretense left in this woman. Every aspect is visible; her sorrow, her resignation, her sense of betrayal, her anger. It’s all out there. Yes I’ve been looking all day for validation, and you wouldn’t even give that to me. And here, in front of me, you still won’t.
And tonight it’s Don on the couch (in his white t-shirt; damn his perfection!) and Betty comes to him. Finally showered, but again, as we have never seen her. Her wet hair is flat, not an ounce of makeup, no poofy skirt, just a slim fitting white robe… she comes to him vulnerable…
Do you hate me?
…but will not accept his comfort unless it is on her terms–truthful.
I don’t want to lose all this.
EHNHHHH. Wrong answer. Again. Jesus, Don, do you even hear yourself?
And finally, she is forced to pull it back together. I mean, you only have two choices, really. Fall the whole way or get back up. And the human instinct for survival pulls you up, unless mental illness insists that you see it through. But Betty hasn’t crossed over, so she gets dressed and puts on her face.
And then the Utz commercial is Jimmy Barrett’s intrusion all over again. And she is sickened.
I don’t care if you don’t like Betty. I don’t care if she is privileged, if ‘you wish you had her problems’, if she deserves the life she has based on choices she has made. You have to admire her. Through all the falling apart, she never, ever, wavers from insisting on the truth, even when she can’t find evidence, even when the man who has been her main source of… everything tells her that it never happened. I love more than anything about this episode that she doesn’t find anything tangible, and yet it never deters her.
Betty calling up Don at the office and telling him that he is not to come home, that she doens’t want to see him–that is the strongest woman I have ever seen.
Betty will sleep tonight. It’s Don who won’t, for a change.
Interesting side note; last season Helen Bishop struck the Fear of God into Betty’s heart. This season we have Duck Phillips as a constant presence, and yet Don is so confident in his ability to land, if you will, on his feet, that Don doesn’t appear to notice that Duck is where Don could potentially be.
And really, I’m writing about Betty’s fall, but ultimately she seems to be rising, and it is Don who has fallen.