Jun 172012
 

Tonight is the Season 2 premiere of Falling Skies, which is one of this blog’s shows. TNT has some good catch-up stuff and you can also read our post archives. This year, I’m sharing the Falling Skies love at Indiewire’s Press Play blog, and will cross-post here, just as I did with Mad Men recaps.

Tonight is also the Season 2 finale of The Killing. Rosie Larsen’s murderer will finally be revealed and unless something drastic and unforeseen changes, I’m done with this show thereafter.

Tonight is also our first post-Season 5 Sunday of Mad Men, and a good time to discuss the season as a whole if you’re so inclined. Questions of the week will resume next week.

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  33 Responses to “Sunday Open Thread: So Many Things to Discuss”

  1. Does anyone know—is The Killing a 2 hour episode tonight, or is AMC just re-running a 1-hour episode after it ends?

    • I believe it’s just a one hour episode at 10 est

    • Two hour finale!

      • Deborah–it was actually just 1-hour (I just watched, but I still AMC on right now—they’re re-running the episode)

        It was very, very good 🙂

        • or to be clear–I guess they considered last week “Part 1” of the finale, but tonight it was only an hour more of the show. (But a very good hour)

  2. Deborah – I’m not watching Falling Skies or even The Killing, and have no idea what they’re about, but I did realize I had a few last thoughts about Mad Men Season 5. Thanks for inviting further comments.

    Maybe Season 5 could be called Don Draper Explores Marriage, for real this time, (not DD and his Women, as in the past). It has mainly explored his behavior as a married man and his relationships with his present and former wives. We got a lot less of Madison Avenue than in previous seasons. Season 5 used more of its time to explore marriage, leaving everything else to dangle until well into mid-season.

    DD has had 3 marriages (technically) in the series. His marriage to Anna was asexual, but as emotionally intimate as he was capable of sustaining. He was able to be Dick Whitman while transitioning into his new identity as Don Draper. She made it possible for him to be completely relaxed and to gain self-confidence until she let him leave legally for a more traditional marriage relationship. Their conversations implied that he told her all about his childhood, and she understood how it would handicap him in life. Anna remained the perfect confidant for him because of her generosity and refusal to judge him. She gifted him with the chance to have a life as a successful man, which he might not have had otherwise. He gave her friendship and material comfort in return. Anna’s sister didn’t see this as a fair exchange, but it seems Anna did.

    Betty gave him a fulfilling sex life when he wanted it, along with 3 children. She was his beautiful desirable trophy, personifying his ideal ‘woman’, and she reflected back to him his success at being what constituted ‘manhood’ in HIS eyes. Betty Draper was his prize for being a successful Don Draper. In their traditional marriage, he was a great provider, the protecter of his family, and a husband whose wife continued to hunger for him sexually. She made him feel like a ‘man’! But he couldn’t give her the emotional intimacy that she needed (and that he had had with Anna) because he was too afraid that Dick Whitman would destroy their ‘perfect’ life together. His secrecy poisoned the marriage, and he lost her as he ‘knew’ he would. He gave her even more material comfort than he gave Anna, but without any honesty as a basis for friendship, it wasn’t enough. The poverty-stricken child inside him has always exaggerated the importance of material success. Season 4 showed us how traumatic the the loss of their marriage was for both of them. Her angry lack of gratitude left him an agonized alcoholic, and his cold emotional distance froze her into the ‘ice queen’ that so many viewers seem to dislike. A small mid-20th century American tragedy on TV.

    In Tomorrowland after Don received the ring from Anna, I think maybe he anticipated that a marriage with Megan might give him the opportunity to COMBINE what he got from and what he put into BOTH of his marriages. And he was in California, which has always seemed to warm Don up and to inspire clarity in his thinking. The simple unglamorous ring symbolized the intimacy he had with Anna. He may have thought that giving it to Megan would allow him that kind of relationship again ALONG with what he had with Betty. That was a warmer Mediterranean-climate kind of thought for him. I’m always trying to figure out new theories for why he proposed, but I think he wanted to start over and do it right this time. The main new thing about Megan otherwise was that she seemed to be good with kids unlike his previous serious women. That may be less important to her, though, than Don anticipated.

    During Season 5 he has tried to create a successful marriage. By telling Megan at least the basics of his past (we don’t know how much), he has tried to create a space for possible intimacy or the reality of something like intimacy. Oddly, Megan hasn’t seemed all that curious about his past – maybe she just doesn’t appreciate the heaviness of what he’s told her as Anna and Betty (or even Rachel and Faye) did. Don also has practiced monogamy willingly knowing how damaging that was to Betty. He’s tried to be a generous and good provider for Megan’s needs as he’s understood them.

    Can Don Draper really sustain a mature complete relationship, though? His ability to maintain relationships is limited because of who he is. In the end during The Phantom, he may have come to the realization that Megan is also limited and that no matter how successful he is as a ‘man’ (at least his concept of that), he probably won’t be able to have the marriage that he has envisioned; it may be a figment of his imagination. In addition, it’s not clear that Megan helps him ‘feel like a man’ as Betty did. During Season 5 he’s often seemed more confused, less confident and at least as angry as in the past. In his happier moments on love leave he’s appeared unfocused. It seems to me that Don’s need to feel successful in a macho kind of way is a hardwired sort of quality in a person. He’s never going to be a Boomer (or GenXer or Milenial) or anything close to it as Megan is. Youth limits Megan’s understanding of his needs and the profundity of his past, and the generational difference makes her more preoccupied with self-fulfillment than Anna or Betty were.

    Season 6 will show how accurate this interpretation is. The distinct possibility seems to be opening up in the final scene that MM will return to being ‘Don and his Women’ because the kind of marriage that he wishes for is possibly unattainable for a man like him. His past casts too much of shadow over his present. That’s part of what gives MM the sadness that sets it apart from most other TV series’.

    • This was a fabulous analysis of his three marriages, and how DD changes (or not) in response to each of them. Wonderful read!

      • mmaddict – Thanks. In rereading this I see I’ve still failed to make the point that I intended to make, though, which was that by giving Megan Anna’s ring, Don was trying to make Megan a replacement for Anna. Naturally, he also needed to continue the sex life and to nurture the children that he had had with Betty, so he needed a replacement for her as well. But Anna was the only one who made Don a whole person, and he was trying to fill the yawning emotional gap left in his life by her death. Maybe that hole was also the symbolic abyss we saw as an empty elevator shaft. Need to go back and watch that part again.

        I’m thinking that his receiving Anna’s ring was what gave him the idea to propose to Megan in the first place. I didn’t pick up on that possibility when I originally watched Tomorrowland. The proposal just seemed like a bolt from the blue, a shock.

        Were Don able to fuse his first and his second marital lives into one, he could become a whole husband, and hence, a whole man instead of the superficial macho man that he’s been up to this point in his life as Don Draper, master MM. The final scenes of Season 5 indicate (in my view, anyway) that he probably won’t be successful in creating the more perfected marriage he aspires to, nor in filling that emotional gap. Probably he’ll get something more like what he had with Betty, and less like what he had with Anna.

        • I don’t think I had thought about Megan as a repalcement for Anna before (or an Anna-Betty blend of some sort, to appeal to his dualities). Interesting commentary on the unfolding of these events.

          Somewhat tangential, I’ve often wondered if Dick Whitman would have been as much a womanizer as Don Draper was (is)? In other words, were his affairs an extension of how he perceived men like DD or was that who he really was? Or perhaps due to his anxiety surrounding his deceptions? Or perhaps just simply to due to the increased opportunties afforded by his profession?

          • I have thought about this too. As I remember in the scene where Dick/Don is on the train with the body of the real Don, but delivered to the family of Dick, he sees Adam and can not get off the train. At that point a woman offers to take him to the bar section and buy him a drink. So I think, given how he looks, women have always been available for him. As he gets more successful in life and looks more successful, the offers probably increased. I think this is just a fact of his life, similar to Roger and his access to money. It is characteristic that defines him, a given. I think he has a great ability to compartmentalize, like most abused or neglected children, “Glass Houses”is a great book about this, and marriage is one subset of behaviors and being with women are another. The two do not intersect in his mind, except in real life they do and this is the conflict he has within himself. Default behaviors are difficult to change, and yet, we see him trying to change, most shockingly in his dream sequence. I can not think of any job that would not afford access to women, I mean even guys on oil rigs get shore leave. And I suspect some situations/jobs/cultural contexts not only allow but encourage this behavior. So, I think Don has realized opportunity will always be in his life but it is his decisions that ultimately matter. I think it will always be a conscious choice, not an automatic behavior, and that may be the struggle for the next season. As a total aside I hope the last section of the last show is a look into the future(not unlike the movie Animal House) looking at all the characters, and I want to see Peggy described as a leading force in the advertising world, developer of new and innovative uses of media who forms her own multimedia worldwide agency.

          • mmaddict and Donna – You made me think some more.

            I think Don Draper IS a lot like a Batman or Superman identity, as has been alluded to, in that Dick Whitman as I remember him was a way meeker kind of awkward seeming character, much like Clark Kent. In the very first scene in the first episode, Don Draper was a heartthrob the minute you laid eyes on him. Dick Whitman wasn’t that at all. In a life as Dick Whitman, he would have had just as much trouble with relationships, but he needed to put on his Draper suit to be confidant enough to become such a womanizer. As DD, he has a powerful mystique; he has no mystique as Dick. The first time (chronologically) that you notice how good looking he is is when he’s got on his Don Draper uniform in the train scene you mentioned. An attractive woman immediately picks up on it – that’s the beginning of his James Bond-like life. That’s the first time we see him as Don Draper in the outside world, in a non-military and non-childhood world. Jon Hamm does such a great job of conveying the differences between DW and DD.

            Also, once I got to see the extent of Don’s past as it was revealed in the earlier seasons (I watched Seasons 1-4 over 3-4 weeks time), I always thought of him as a survivor of abuse with the accompanying coping mechanisms, a great compartmentalizer as you say, Donna. This is kind of a guess, but my impression is that becoming Don Draper greatly enhanced his ability to compartmentalize and certainly to become the ‘man’ of HIS dreams (or to live the life ‘you live for your dreams’).

            He compartmentalizes his entire previous identify, which is why he goes into a panic whenever he’s confronted with it, in addition to all the consequences he’ll suffer if he’s found out.

            I love the female characters on MM (Peggy, Joan, Betty, etc., not so much Megan), but I find DD/DW the most fascinating television character I’ve ever come across as an adult, more like an iconic literary or movie one. But then, I’ve probably watched a lot less fictional tv than most.

  3. One more thing, which is to add what made me start writing this in the first place. Anna was the only one in Don Draper’s personal life that ever made him feel NOT alone. Megan may have her ring, but she probably can’t replace Anna in that sense. Maybe he doesn’t feel alone with Peggy or Joan, but they know nothing about his past.

  4. If I could summarize the five seasons of Mad Men these are the words I would use:

    Season one (1960): Nostalgia and tradition

    Season two (1962): Female metamorphosis

    Season three (1963): Wrongheadedness and self-indulgence

    Season four (1964-1965): The Agony and the Ecstasy

    Seaons five (1966-1967) The Survival of the Fittest

    • Here are the reasons for my summation:

      Season one:

      If you view the movie The Apartment which was released in 1960 in black and white and compare this film to the first season of Mad Men set in 1960, I believe if one is not aware of the history of the USA from the end of WWII to 1960, one would get a pretty accurate picture of what life was like in one of the most prosperous eras in American history.

      We are introduced to not only the dominant position cigarettes and tobacco had in the personal lives of the majority of Americans at that time but also the cultural and business significance it had in the world of advertising. We soon learn Lucky Strike is the #1 client of Sterling-Cooper (SC) and SC will bend over backwards to satisfy its client and SC has no moral qualms in marketing the product in a most aggressive manner, subject to government regulations despite knowing cigarettes could cause major health problems in Americans or shorten one’s life span.

      We are shown a traditional office setting at SC where women are secretaries or office or support personnel and men are the movers and shakers who contribute directly to the advertising product and output and are the decision-makers. For most of season one there is no female copywriter at SC.

      Men are shown in various personas: playful, lecherous, ambitious, the head of the family, and jealous of each other. They do not perceive that women are any threat to them or in competition with them for their jobs. And like the plot of the Apartment, these men see no or little need to remain faithful to their wives and almost feel entitled to stray by searching out female companionship.

      The fashion sense of 1960 is representative of the movies shown after WWII. Most men wore a hat. Businessmen always wore a white shirt and tie, even at home. Women who worked in offices dressed conservatively in dresses and blouses but were told not to hide their female assets. On the other hand there was a boundary which was not to be crossed to the point of openly flaunting one’s sexuality by dressing to come on to men in the office as opposed to what we saw in season two where Joan told Jane she was dressing inappropriately.

      We find out soon that Don Draper is a traditional American protagonist, that he is actually a throwback. Don rejects the influence psychology or consumer research has on marketing products and rejects the concept of the “death wish” and instead relies on his own wits and creative ability to determine what is more likely to maximize the sale of products or services for his clients. Don is a hands-on guy, a rugged individualist in the mode of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Having said that throughout season one we also learn that Don is definitely NOT a mossback and indeed recognizes that change is on the horizon and that he fanatical about the idea of moving forward and not looking back in the past.

      American families are shown for the most part of being traditional. We know from the outset Betty doesn’t work outside the home, that Trudy is walking down the same road after her marriage to Pete and that single women live in hope they will find their own husband eventually who will ensconce them in similar lifestyles of being housewives, bearing children and looking after house while their husbands are at work during the day. And Pete takes Trudy on their honeymoon to Niagara Falls. How traditional is that?

      Concern with social issues is not a priority for these folks. Blacks are called Negros. Racial humor is tolerated. And no one except perhaps Paul Kinsey sees anything wrong with how America is dominated by Caucasians and the white way of thinking and that minorities are discriminated against. Notice there is not one minority working at SC in 1960.

      And here are some other references to tradition: Roger telling Don he drinks for the wrong reason as opposed to business executives of the past, Betty consistently conversing with her girl friends in her home, Betty’s comparison between Joan Crawford and Suzy Parker, stereotypes on Jews, Roger’s story of “three on a match” and his story about his participation in WWII, Roger’s belief in the experience of Richard Nixon to the youth of JFK and Peggy having a child out of wedlock and giving the baby up for adoption rather than choosing to raise the baby on her own.

      But as we head toward the end of season one and with The Wheel and Don’s “carousel” presentation focused on nostalgia and the loss of what one had, we get a glimpse of the uneasiness and uncertainty these men face as they venture into the 1960’s. Slowly, these men realize that the 1960’s will not be a duplication of the 1950’s and that “the times, they are a changing” despite their best efforts to do their part to maintain the existing power structure and the social relationships that they believed had served American well up to then.

      And that is reflected in Betty seeing a psychiatrist on a regular basis, Don hanging around with Midge and her beatnik friends, Don telling Mr. Menken that his clientele has changed and that he must change with the times or die and Don presentation of nostalgia in The Wheel which makes Harry Crane cry and leave the room. And government intervention in tobacco advertising is definitely a precursor of what is coming down the road generally as legislators pass laws and regulations that further restrict what advertisers can say or do because the public interest must be protected. Advertisers can no longer operate with impunity. And when Don promotes Peggy to junior copywriter at the end of season one, Don fully realizes what is coming in terms of increased female participation in the American way of life and the increased autonomy females will have in making decisions for themselves.

      As for the women we learn of Peggy taking birth control pills who is symbolic of the millions of women who would do the same and thinking it through to its logical conclusion, we see that as the 1960’s move along women will begin to understand they now control their bodies and now get to decide whether to become a mother or not or are able to entertain the possibility of becoming a career woman rather than a wife, at least for a little while.

      Bottom line: Season one showed the background from where the characters of Mad Men had come from. The future seasons will show where they are heading.

      • Season two:

        For me, season two was all about the portrayal and evolution of Peggy, Joan, Trudy and Betty. And then you can throw in Bobbi Barrett, Jane Segal (Sterling) and Anna Draper, the female reaction to the death of Marilyn Monroe and the girl Pete meets in the elevator.

        And then you have the Maidenform vs Playtex advertising plot line which deals with the way women and men perceive bras and women’s chests.

        For Peggy, we see how Peggy adjusts to being a mother who takes Don’s advice and moves on, how she grows in her role as a junior copywriter and becomes more comfortable with the idea of being a career woman and how her personal life with her mother and her church had a detrimental effect on her desire to forge her own identity as a modern single woman working in Manhattan. Besides Don, if there is one character that has grown the most in MM it has been Peggy. And her climb up the ladder has been pretty consistent without any major setbacks. Peggy gradually gains the respect of her male colleagues and the execs at SC because she is good at what she does.

        As for Joan we see her transition of being Roger’s mistress for years to realizing she is not getting any younger (her birthdate is posted on the bulletin board) and decides to get married. Joan had already told Roger of her intentions. Did Joan marry Greg because that was part of her plan or because she really loved Greg? Why did Joan go through with the marriage to Greg after he raped her in Don’s office? Joan is a cynic who is only interested that the times are changing for her personally and has little interest that the world around her is also changing.

        As for Trudy we see her obsessed with having a child and “joining the club” and then becoming gung-ho about adoption until Pete puts his foot down and forbids it. We also see something that is not as common in the early 1960’s: Pete Campbell in public expressing hesitation whether he wants children now or not. We see Trudy also wrestling with Pete’s ideas as well. Clearly Pete and Trudy are not on the same wavelength regarding having children but nevertheless Trudy forges ahead and lives in hope the stork will eventually arrive but grows more miserable in the process as she feels she is not living up to the role she was taught to fulfill by her parents. For her not having a child is a failure of monumental proportions.

        As for Betty, we discover at the end of season one in her conversation with her psychiatrist that she strongly suspects Don is having an affair. For me this is the most underrated revelation of the entire series. Many MM viewers act like Betty was completely naive or completely in the dark to Don’s shennanigans but clearly she was not.

        In addition Betty learns from Francine that Carlton is cheating on her and see Betty’s reaction to Francine’s news.

        What is interesting these two scenes are juxtaposed against Don’s nostalgic presentation of The Carousel to the Kodak execs.

        Season two showed how Betty became more outraged over Don’s aberrant behavior and his massive disrespect of her and the gradual disintegration of their marriage as the season wore on. I know this may be a minority position but I believe the Draper marriage was over by the end of season two and that the birth of Gene only delayed the inevitable from occurring.

        These watershed moments come to mind. Betty’s conversation with Don over “what Carlton has put Francine through” and Don’s indifference to Carlton cheating on Francine, Arthur telling Betty she is “profoundly sad”, Betty’s confrontation with Don ending with shoving each other after Don had lost the American Airlines account and Betty accuses Don about not putting a high enough priority in raising the children, Betty accusing Don of embarrassing her before her guests because she served Heineken. These moments represent a gradual but steady deterioration of the Draper marriage and when you throw in Betty being upset that her father had a stroke and Don being at odds with Grandpa Gene, Betty reached a point where she was ready to confront Don about cheating on her.

        With Jimmy Barrett confiding in Betty his suspicions about his wife Bobbi and Don, Betty had all she needed to read Don the riot act and to eventually order him out of the house. At this point Betty had become a very bitter woman and her sexual interlude with Don while he was sleeping on the floor of Gene’s house in The Inheritance was completely against the grain of what had happened in season two up to that point.

        And while you would think an accidential pregnancy would mend their marriage, we clearly see by the reaction of both Betty and Don that they are not thrilled by the news at the end of season two and that season three will be more of the same except the Draper marriage will not only be shown to be sidetracked but heading for permanent derailment.

        As for Bobbi Barrett, she is a hard-nosed businesswoman who becomes a temporary mentor to Peggy while she is recovering from her car accident and is totally amoral.

        We see Jane Sterling playing the role of a young femme fatale in contrast to the traditional women on MM in the first season. Clearly Jane wants to flaunt her sexuality.

        And Anna Draper is an example of a woman who is good-hearted, forgiving, and willing to take Don Draper at face value and love him dearly even though they do not have a sexual relationship. And for MM viewers she serves as a nurturer and a contrast to what we know about DD and helps us to understand what she has contributed to making his life better.

        As for Marilyn Monroe, Joan says, “The world destroyed her.” In an earlier episode we also learn from Joan she is disturbed by the plot of The Apartment where a girl tries to commit suicide. Clearly Joan is expressing a feeling held by many women at the time that men use women and that women must get wise to it and not allow it to happen any more.

        The girl in the elevator who was at SC trying to land a job advertising Playtex tells Pete, “They fall in love with a picture and then you end up disappointed.” and then goes on to say, “It doesn’t make sense because all they needed was a picture.” We see here how superificially many men regard women and do not take the time to evaluate them based on human contact and getting to know them.

        As for the Maidenform vs Playtex episode we see the emphasis placed on women imagining themselves as Jackie Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe and that men see them in the same way.

        Bottom line: Season two spotlighted a variety of women and really gave us a sense of how women overall saw their roles in 1962 and not all women were aspiring to live in the suburbs with a husband looking after children. And we also learn most of these women are not totally happy or content with their lot in life. And we also see many of the men in MM are not happy that these women are unhappy or discontented.

        Is it any wonder that there is a lot of discontent in season three?

        • Season three:

          There are many examples of wrongheadness and self-indulgence in season three:

          a) Setting Pete and Ken against each other to fight it out who would prevail as head of accounts at SC.

          b) Don and Sal pretending they are government G-men to airline employees in Out of Town and finding it humorous.

          c) The personal pleasure of watching Ann-Margaret in Bye Bye Birdie and then thinking it would translate into being a successful commercial with a completely different girl.

          d) Don going to great lengths to land the Madison Square Garden account and then having the rug being pulled out from him PPL.

          e) The idea presented to Joan by Dr. Ettinger’s wife it would be wrongheaded and self-indulgent for her to have a child while Greg was at this point in his career as a doctor.

          f) Sally behind the wheel of a car on a public street while Gene is trying to teach her how to drive.

          g) Horace Cook (Ho-Ho) pursuing Jai lai as a commercial venture while being warned by Don that SC will continue to take his money if he remains foolish, wrongheaded and self-indulgent.

          h) Either Pete is wrongheaded to suggest folks at Admiral should target the Negro market or the execs are wrongheaded to summarily reject Pete’s idea which is based on consumer research.

          Pete says, “It seems illogical to me that they would reject the opportunity to make more money.”

          i) Could an argument be made that Betty was wrongheaded and self-indulgent by naming her son Gene?

          j) Riding around in an office on a John Deere tractor and cutting off a man’s foot: what better example do have?

          k) Don picking up the two young hitchikers, partying with them in a motel room and then hit over the head and left face first on the floor.

          l) In Rome Betty pretending to be single to two amorous Italians.

          m) Pete raping Gertrude, the au pair.

          n) Lee Garner Jr. comes on to Sal and after Sal rejects his advances is fired from SC.

          o) Don’s affair with Suzanne

          p) Betty confronting Don over his secret compartment in his desk and Don presumptuously thinking it should remain private.

          q) Paul Kinsey believing he had written down a brainchild while he was drunk and then searching all over the place for it.

          r) Annabelle not agreeing to changing the name of Caldecott Farms dog food even though the name has been “poisoned” according to Don and Roger.

          s) PPL hiding from Lane it was also being sold to McCann and being inconsiderate to his needs causing the eventual formation of SCDP

          t) Roger’s marriage to Jane and singing My Old Kentucky Home in blackface.

          Things are beginning to unravel big time in season three on various levels.

          Yes, there are so many examples of various characters simply making wrong or perverse decisions or taking wrong actions and not being magnanimous, gracious, generous, considerate or understanding. A good deal more people in the USA do not live by the Bible or go to church every Sunday.

          But also many of these decisions or actions were taken by business people or by prominent people who appeared to be completely oblivious to the “new reality.” Prejudice prevails over logic; habit over objective research.

          And it is Don of all the lead characters who appreciates for the most part that too many things in season three are going haywire, that individuals are behaving or acting foolishly or stupidly, and that the chickens will eventually come home to roost. And that may have happeened with the Kennedy assassination because that led the nation after it to question its fundamental values and to look inward at their own lives. It is not a stretch to say out of the assassination a collective consciousness arose that focused on what was wrong in America including the idea of materialism, advertising-based consumerism, and the social wrongs in American society.

          Watching the end of season three with the birth of SCDP and watching Don walk towards the building where he would live as a divorced man is an indication that we would enter a brave new world of the unknown with Don and the other lead characters in season four.

          • Season four:

            If you watched Tiger Woods play golf in the US Open you would have noticed he played well in the first two rounds and then awful in the final two rounds. It could be considered The Ecstasy and the Agony.

            For Season four, if you analyze each episode from episode one to the very end of episode seven we see the Agony and from episode eight to episode 13 we sees many scenes of ecstasy although there are still a few scenes of agony thrown in.

            For the first half of season four we see:

            a) Don at loose ends or completely coming apart at the seams as a single, divorced father while smoking and drinking way too much, who doesn’t know whether he is coming or going, is apprehensive about what to do when he does see his kids, is excoriated by Betty for allowing Sally to cut her hair while he was on a date, is uncomfortable going out on dates, and finally reaches a point in Waldorf Stories that he wakes up with a woman he does even remember meeting and forgetting what day it was and then finally sobbing uncontrollably at the end of The Suitcase when Stephanie confirms Anna has died from cancer. Don is clearly headed for the abyss, if he is not there already.

            b) From a business point of view we see Don giving a poor interview with Advertising Age and be called “a handsome cipher” and Don being reminded by Lane that an ad man can’t afford to be considered mysterious.

            Don bombs out with the Jantzen execs in a presentation and reaches a point he unceremoniously order them out of SCDP.

            Don’s secretary Alison drops off his keys which he had forgotten at the office and proceeds to have sex with her which leads to her in The Rejected throwing a crystal ball at Don, storming out of his office in front of many witnesses and quitting SCDP. Obviously these witnesses figured out what Don had done to her.

            Don doesn’t go to Acapulco after he learns Anna has cancer but instead flies back to NYC. He runs into Lane at the office and ropes him into going out for the evening where they eventually land up with hookers. So not only is Don corrupted; he also corrupts Lane.

            Don while drunk steals Danny’s idea “The cure for the common breakfast” in pitching to the Life’s execs taking away Don receiving a Clio for Glo-coat and is forced to hire him.

            And Don becomes openly antagonistic to Peggy in The Suitcase ridiculing her abilities and using sarcasm when she questions why she never got any recognition for her Glo-coat idea.

            Don says, “You give me ideas and you give me money. That’s how it works.”

            c) As for Roger we see him humiliated when Lee Garner Jr. insists he play Santa.

            Roger say in the Chrysanthemum and the Sword:

            “Let me spare you the agony and the ecstasy we are not doing business with them (re to Japanese execs at Honda).”

            And Roger pits himself against the rest of the partners as a result.

            Roger embarrasses himself when dictates his autobiography to Caroline and later Don and Peggy hear a tape of Roger telling the workd that Cooper has no testicles.

            In a flashback Don tells Roger he has hired him and Roger doesn’t remember doing that but can’t deny he didn’t.

            d) Peggy’s agony:

            The embarrassment of the two ladies who worked on Sugarberry Hams ending up in jail and Peggy having to contact Don for the bail money.

            During The Rejected, Don watches as Peggy tries on Faye’s wedding ring.

            Peggy is upset when she learns Trudy is pregnant.

            Peggy having to tell Don that he stole Danny’s idea.

            Peggy is upset having to work with male chauvinist Stan who calls Peggy repressed.

            Peggy being kept a work by Don in The Suitcase, being chewed out by him for being ungrateful and unproductive and during the episode breaking up with her boyfriend, Mark. Eventually she talks about her personal life more, that she hates dating, doesn’t think she’s attractive, that the guys in the office think she has slept with Don, and how she feels about giving up her son for adoption.

            As for Lane and Joan it is not their finest hour when the florist gets cards sent to Rebecca and Joan mixed up and they get into a fight over the mix-up.

            In addition Joan cannot get the days off after New Years to be with Greg.

            As for Pete, he gets in a dispute with his father-in-law over SCDP having to give up Clearasil due to conflict of interest and with Lane because of rumors Ken is returning to the fold.

            Pete almost gets into a fight with Roger over Pete bringing in new accounts and making Lucky Strike less important.

            And finally for Betty she learns that Sally has cut her hair and is playing with herself at a slumber party and decides to send her to a psychiatrist.

            For the lead characters this is not the best of times.

            Episode 8-13:

            Examples of ectasy:

            a) Don re-examining and re-evaluating his life by keeping a daily journal and swimming every day.

            b) Don showing up at baby Gene’s birthday party at the end of The Summer Man

            c) Don and Sally bonding and going out in the morning together to Central Park as father and daughter after she runs away.

            d) Don having sex with Faye

            e) Don being exhilarated after he wrote “The Letter” in response to Lucky Strike cancelling its association with SCDP.

            f) After Roger and Joan are mugged they have passionate sex.

            g) Don and Sally see the Beatles.

            h) Lane and Toni are ecstatic for each other.

            i) Peggy and Abe have sex.

            j) Pete has a daughter.

            k) Don has sex with Megan after Faye told him she would honor The Chinese Wall.

            l) Don meets Midge and realizes he is not as bad off as thought compared to her. (She is now a drug addict).

            m) Don and Megan in California and subsequent proposal

            Let me be clear. I don’t want to diminish the downbeat scenes or story lines in the second half of season four such as government investigators question Betty about Don, the partner’s reaction over The Letter, Betty getting mad over Glen and Sally being together, SCDP having to lay off employees, Lane being knocked down by his father but overall the arc of the story line imho was trending upwards, especially as it related to Don’s storyline.

            In the second half of season four we see a rejuvenated Don, a Don who no longer feels sorry for himself, a Don who had the courage to write The Letter, and a Don who what he needed to do to move forward by becoming engaged to Megan. Think back to the first seven scenes of season four: There is no way many viewers would have thought Don would end up even close to being happy at the end of the season. Compared to where Don was, he was at the end of Tomorrowland in a state of sheer ectasy because he now was committed to a steady routine or structure he needed to keep him physically and emotionally healthy.

          • I disagree with the statement:

            “It is not a stretch to say out of the [Kennedy] assassination a collective consciousness arose that focused on what was wrong in America including the idea of materialism, advertising-based consumerism, and the social wrongs in American society.”

            I was just about Peggy’s age at the time of the Kennedy assassination and I think it is a big stretch to say that the assassination “resulted in a collective consciousness focused on the wrongs of materialism.”

            We thought Communists, or the Mafia, or the CIA, or a power grab by Lyndon Johnson or J Edgar Hoover caused the assassination, and not the wrongs of materialism.

            The nation was entranced by the Kennedy facade of elegance and wealth. Women wanted to be Jackie and men wanted to be JFK.
            The assassination simply brought shock and sadness that success and glamor can’t protect you from the harsh realities of life.

            The civil rights movement was a demand by the disadvantaged for a chance at the material success available to white American men. The marchers in “A Little Kiss” were seeking jobs and a chance to share in the (materialistic) American Dream.

            The revolt against materialism came with the protests against the Vietnam War, and even the beat movement which actually started before 1963. I don’t think the Kennedy assassination had anything to do with it.

          • Season five:

            The concept of the survival of the fittest is not based on surviving because one is stronger than another but on the concept of “fitness” which implies an ability to adjust and adapt, go with the flow, or being aware of having the knowledge one needs to have to move forward.

            Let’s start with Lane Pryce. Clearly he could NOT adapt to the idea of resigning his partnership at SCDP and moving back to England and having then to explain why he was no longer at the firm and working in the USA.

            If there is a real survivor it is Joan Harris. Clearly she knew what she needed to do to secure a future for her and her son. And she did it. Joan is not a talker but a doer. She always know what she is doing and is always planning how she will survive.

            Pete Campbell is a survivor because of his talent at work and not because of his talent of living life as a human being. By being consumed with work, he is able for awhile to block out any negative feelings he has. When they do crop up, he feels the pain but he is not so despondent or depressed that the cannot wake up each morning and go to bed.

            Roger Sterling is a survivor because he is not sure as told Marie Calvet that committing suicide will put him in a better place. So Roger decides to live and venture into the world of LSD to survive and give him the high he needs to attain enlightenment. I live because it beats the alternative.

            Betty Francis is a survivor only to the extent she is married to Henry. She is simply an extension of him and does NOT possess much of an independent streak. I would venture to guess if Henry met a premature death or left her, she would not survive.

            Peggy Olson’s survival is based on her career path and so far she has been successful. I would venture to say Peggy would NOT survive without her work. Fortunately for her, she is talented and should remain a hot commodity for years to come. And she is now entering her prime. I see Peggy surviving very well in the coming years unless she is derailed by a bad relationship or marriage.

            Megan Draper is survivor in the sense she made a smart, safe decision to abandon legitimate acting to work in commercials and get back in the advertising industry. She could have kept her dreams alive, remained despondent, become a chronic alcoholic and wallowed in her failure as an actress for a long, long time and risked the breakup of her marriage but she knew how far she could push the envelope with Don. And despite pleas from her Emile to embrace the struggle and live on the streets away from her present exquisitely decadent lifestyle, she has no interest in walking down that road. Megan is not about to sacrifice her lifestyle to become an artist. And ironically it is this feature of Megan’s makeup which is the reason she will never succeed in acting but also why she will survive as the wife of Don Draper as long as he decides he wants to stay married to her.

            As for Don Draper he is a survivor because he is a creative genius and a problem solver. But Don has an Achilles’ heel. He does not do very well if he does not receive sex and love on a regular basis and feels he is alone.

            The first half of season four is an excellent example of Don Draper in the abyss because of living alone and because of the acute pain of being there I don’t see Don ever wanting to travel there again. Don will only leave Megan if he is absolutely sure he will not risk his own survival. Because Don realizes one must survive to move forward. Of course if Megan stops loving Don or is not as sexually fulfilling any longer that would definitely change the equation for Don.

            But the bottom line for Don is: He will never lack for female companionship. And he knows that. That is his ace in the hole and why he knows he will always survive. But like most people Don would rather thrive than to just survive.

  5. Mad Men Season 5 was a season about marriages, relationships, and parents. How far should one go to keep up appearances? What roles should each partner adopt to make the marriage successful? What battles are worth fighting?

    In The Phantom, when Don watches Megan’s screen test, I think he realizes that the money to keep her comfortable while she looks for an acting job isn’t enough to quiet her insecurities about finding a gig. His face changes when he watches the camera zoom in for her range of sad emotions, and at that moment, she hesitates to open her mouth. I interpreted this as a method she’s adopted (or was taught in her audition classes) to avoid revealing her teeth for close-ups — something Don knows she is incredibly self-conscious about. That vulnerability on the screen makes him move to get her casted in the commercial and fulfill part of her dreams. (It’s no coincidence her first commercial looks like a fairytale moment for her.) Pare did an excellent job of conveying the beast until she reached the role of the beauty. But does Megan know what she’s lost in Don by asking him to make the road easier for her? After all, this is the same Don who had “blood on his mouth” after an intense meeting with Dow executives about getting their business.

    We see marriages and relationships ending or nearing their end of their honeymoon periods: Greg is divorcing Joan after abandoning her for the prestige of being an army doctor; Roger and Jane split after an LSD trip. Lane and Rebecca’s marriage sits on a web of lies about money, about America, about London. Ken has a growing reluctance to involve his wife and her family in business situations, after the revelation of his book writing at Pete’s and her interruption during the Heinz dinner/pitch. Harry begins to shun his wife and family as his career becomes more stable and youth culture lies around his desk and at his feet. Pete’s marriage is unstable as he wants to frolic and philander through the city where he grew up, while Trudy embraces suburban and family life. And of course, we know about Don and Megan’s troubles: they still don’t understand each other’s rhythms. They push each other’s buttons — sometimes for passion, other times out of spite. They thankfully have honesty on their side at times; but Megan often doesn’t put up her end of the bargain with being open to Don about what she wants or how she feels. Then she gets angry when Don “surprises” her.

    Peggy’s shacking up with Abe was a new development; however, you wonder how long their happiness will last if Peggy takes more business trips. The only happy marriage that appears in Season 5 is, remarkably, Betty and Henry Francis. He knows when to step in; he knows when to back off. Despite Betty’s weight gain (and Sally’s wishing he wouldn’t), Henry loves his wife and wants her to be happy. She’s embracing that, even though she resents Don for replacing her with a younger, more fit woman who seems to know all of his secrets. And of course, we have the dissolution of Joan and Roger’s trysts, Sally and Glenn’s adolescent flirtation, Pete and Beth’s affair, and Roger’s perpetual hunt for all things young and sexually impressionable. Everyone this season has had a different perspective of marriage, sex, and expectations; Mad Men really rose to the occasion of showing how people’s thoughts and the times were changing for relationships.

    (Yeesh, that was long!)

  6. This is a minor thing, but Roger Sterling’s Wikipedia page has him being born in 1912. Has there been anything on the show that mentions his age or birth year? I always guessed he was about 10 years older than Don, but I don’t remember the show ever saying anything about that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Sterling

    • No, they have never said his birthdate. We know he fought in World War II and when he spoke to Annabelle (Caldecott Farms dog food) in Season 3, I believe there was some mention of his age when he met her before he went to war.

      Also in Season 2, Jane said he had had a life with Mona and Margaret for 40 years and he corrected her, “30 years.” That was in 1962.

      • But when Mona comes into the office and reams out Don for telling Roger he should move forward, she says “25 years of marriage” were destroyed.

    • Irrespective of the data in the Wiki article, Matt Weiner has stated on the record and frequently that “Roger Sterling” was born in 1916, graduated from a university in 1934 and subsequently lived in Europe, mostly Paris, until 1939. It was during Roger’s time in Europe he had his romance with Annabelle.

      Matt Weiner has stated that Roger volunteered for a direct commission in the US Navy at the start of WWII, but has not been specific if that was before or after 7 December 1941. According to Weiner Roger and Mona were married in 1942, perhaps upon Roger graduating from US Navy Officer Candidate School. It is entirely possible that Mona was pregnant with Margaret at the time of the wedding. Bert’s sister Alice Cooper said that she had babysat Roger when Sterling Cooper was being founded in 1923 when Roger was 7. Alice also said that she introduced Roger to Mona.

      Since Matt Weiner has made all those statements we need to consider all this Roger/Mona time line as Mad Men Logic.

      • Re-reading I see I made a typo. Matt Weiner stated that Roger graduated from an unspecified university in 1938, meaning he had slightly over a year in Europe before Poland was invaded. He could well have spent most of that time with Annabelle.

      • Mad Men logic– Roger must have been quite a prodigy if he was born in 1916 and graduated from university in 1934 at age 18. More likely he started university in 1934 and graduated in 1938.

  7. Re: Punchable Pete. We’ve all delighted in seeing Lane punch out Pete, Howard punch out Pete and the conductor punch out Pete. Well, it occurred to me that these are the only smacks we’ve SEEN Pete endure, but Pete Campbell probably has suffered a lifetime of punches, from the kids on the schoolyard, to the boys in the locker room at private school, to anyone else Pete’s weasely smugness provokes. There are just some punchable people in the world, as much as I abhor violence, I think there are some people who push people’s buttons to the point of violence, and are so smug and un-self-aware that they never learn or understand how they came to be punched, so they continue to do punchable things.

    • I agree that Peter is punchable when he’s acting smug, snotty, and entitled, like a petulant child. The smackdown with the train operator and Lane are examples of that. But when Howard and Ken (season 1) punched him, it has been about Pete defending a woman. When he hit Cosgrove (and I recall Ken hit back) Pete was responding to Ken insulting Peggy (“all the meat is in the tail”) and with Howard, Howard said Beth “spread for anyone.” It reminds me of the fight in season 4 between Duck and Don (which sounds like a line of kids’ clothes) when Duck called Peggy a “whore,” and Don tried to hit him.

      I actually think Pete might have come out looking like a better man if he hadn’t picked the fight with the train master (can you tell I have no clue what his title is?) because he just confronted Howard about calling his wife a “whore” and using (abusing) EST to control her and remake her, at least temporarily, so he can the American dream of suburban wife and kids and cute home and indulge his lust with busty 20 year olds in the city. Pete is lacking as man and as a husband in a lot of ways, but he gives in to Trudy quite a bit and doesn’t really seem to set restrictions on her (the adoption discussion being the most dramatic exception to that).

      • Linda, for “The Phantom” the “Conductor” is credited as being played by James Martin Kelly who is a well-respected character actor who has played a million cops, detectives and prize fighters. Probably JM Kelly as worked un-billed as a stunt performer. When he did deck Pete, it was an outstanding stunt performance.

      • Pete has always been given what he wants. I suspect his father opened the doors at Sterling Cooper for him.He has always been attracted to vulnerable people.Peggy was vulnerable in season one.He also exploits vulnerable people. Pete will get his apartment in the city.Trudy will tire of Pete and move on.

        • I agree with you that Pete is both drawn to and exploits the vulnerable. But I can’t fathom Pete’s father helping him in advertising in any way. Pete’s father had nothing good to say about his career, and from what I could see at least, nothing kind to say to or about his son (which probably explains why Pete has a cruel streak, misery loves company). Both Pete and Trudy are accustomed to getting what they want, and Pete often gives in to her demands. The apartment they got in season was her idea (he opposed it), as was the move to CT. She constantly had her parents over to the apartment (against his preference, it seemed). It’s one of the things that makes their marriage so fascinating and yet exhausting for me to watch. They are both spoiled, petulant children of privilege who want what they want when they want it.

  8. Just watched 5.01/5.02 again and there is a scene where Pete Campbell is happily telling his trainmates that he is considering building an inground pool even though one points out how expensive it is. The season ends with Trudy showing Pete the landscape drawings of the pool complete with a picture of Pete sitting on a lawn chair poolside. At that moment he complains that the pool is too permanent and may be a place where his daughter drowns. Not only is this another example of season 5 beginning and ending in a similar fashion but it also shows how much Pete’s attitude changes during the season.

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