Peggy, Don & McCann

 Posted by on May 13, 2015 at 6:50 am  Mad Men, Season 7
May 132015

s7-pete-peggy-2.w750.h560.2xPeggy’s handling of the McCann news in Mad Men episode 7.11, Time & Life, made an impression on me, especially in that these events and her responses to them were completely independent of her relationship with Don.

It’s fitting that Peggy would hear about it from Pete, as opposed to Don.  It partly shows how disengaged Don is from his regular creative work, which has become Peggy’s entire life, and partly shows how fully Peggy’s matured – she doesn’t need her mentor the way she used to.

This above all highlights the ways Don and Peggy are now separate, as much as they have been connected souls through the years.

Peggy deals with the news independently, keeping her own counsel, or thinking it through with Stan or the recruiter—did you, like me, half-expect to see Freddy Rumsen make an appearance?

1430149155-mad-men-season-7-episode-11-jay-r-ferguson-elisabeth-mossDon’s reaction was to fight to keep things together, while Peggy’s was to navigate, consider her options, adjust her sails and make it work. Granted, Don is more in a position to affect events than Peggy, so she has little choice but to accept and move on. But the fact that she didn’t go to Don for advice is notable.

I still believe they are soulmates in the long-run, but in 1970, in this moment, compared to almost every point in their relationship previously, Don and Peggy are separate. I think we know who’s ascending.

[Editor’s Note: This was written write after Time & Life aired, and held in the editorial queue. It’s remarkable how prophetic it is–in the subsequent two episodes, Peggy and Don remained entirely separate; they have shared no scenes. –Deborah]


  17 Responses to “Peggy, Don & McCann”

  1. You know, I never could see how they could be soulmates. I always saw it more as a younger sister/older brother type of thing. Oh my gosh I cannot wait to see how they are pulling it all together on Sunday.

  2. Excellent observation B. Coop!

    We have seen the intentional and very careful stripping away of virtually everything in Don’s life including his work relationships – even the real, warm and lasting relationship with Peggy. As you have wisely noted in prior posts, this story arc where everything “Don Draper” has must drop away is a prerequisite necessary to take Don-Dick wherever he is going, to learn whatever it is he is supposed to learn.

    Now the twist is the news about Betty. Don can’t even temporarily divorce himself from his relationship to his children and they need him now like never before. Yes, Henry has been a good step-dad to the kids. And it is so clear that Sally (who always grew up fast) will fill a larger role as a protector and guide to the boys but Henry is a wreck (to his credit – he deeply loves Betty).

    What will become of Don? I don’t know and frankly the particulars don’t much matter at this point but I believe his journey will somehow take him to a place where he can step into this vacuum and fulfill his role as a father – the kind of father he never had.

    Who needs Don? (I mean that rhetorically and literally). I mean who has ever needed Don? Rachel didn’t, Betty didn’t. Peggy did but as you say she doesn’t anymore. He thought his work did – but it doesn’t and never did. Work never needs you – that is just ego talking. The only ones who really need Don now are the only ones who ever did – his kids.

    What do you have when everything drops away? What is left to do? Don-Dick must return to assume the only really meaningful role he has ever had and help rebuild his family – something that he never had growing up.

    • “Henry is a wreck”

      Not sure I buy that. He cried momentarily while disclosing Betty’s terminal illness with Sally. And he was not as immediately accepting of the diagnosis as Betty. That hardly makes him a “wreck”.

      If we all of a sudden think Don/Dick will be a better father to those three kids than Henry I can only ask – based on what evidence?

      • I wouldn’t say Don/Dick would be a better father than Henry, but as far as custody goes that is quite frankly irrelevant. Don is their biological father, and it is up to him now to step up. Personally, I’ve seen a lot of growth in Don this season that gives me hope than he is capable of being the father they need him to be.

        • Exactly. I certainly don’t mean to say that Henry hasn’t been a fine father to Betty’s kids and I’m not at all saying that Don has been a better father. You are absolutely right, based on the evidence he is much worse!

          What I’m saying is that nothing can change the fact that Don is the kids Dad and soon there will be no mother and the children need him to act like a fully engaged parent like never before. He has been able to get away with kinda “mailing-in” his parenting role until now.

          Two things: Don has never really been needed before – really needed and Don has seldom if ever really had to think about putting someone else’s needs before his needs until now. The question is whether he will step up.

  3. If Don and Peggy aren’t important to each other at the end of MM, then the finale will suck.
    Cut and dried.
    I’m way too invested in that relationship, and for it to just peter out, and have “so I can shit on your dreams”, be the last line between them, is an abomination in my eyes.

    • Co-signing on this.

      As I have said many times here, the Don/Peggy relationship is the mysterious heart of the show, mysterious because it can’t be defined simply as father/daughter, mentor/student, brother/sister, whatever. I once suggested “secret sharers” from Joseph Conrad’s story “The Secret Sharer.” That story, where a ship’s captain shelters and saves a hunted stowaway, is itself mysterious, in that it doesn’t truly define the relationship, or explain why they have a bond. It just is, and it’s up to the reader (or in this case viewer) to decide what it is. Though the captain and fugitive both have a secret that they share, and share things secretly, over the years the term “secret sharer” has come to define that undefinable bond that certain people share. I expect that in the future people will come to define it as “oh you know, they have that Don/Peggy kind of thing with each other, you know?”

      • A certain something that defies description Melville?

      • Secret sharer? Hardly.
        While Don has intimate knowledge of many of the most intimate details of Peggy’s life ( AND HER GIVING OF LIFE ), Don has never shared his essential secret with Peggy.

        • Peggy was the first to know for sure that Don had a secret (the “It will shock you how much it never happened” let her know that Don had a secret in his past. The others “he could be Batman” talk was mere speculation, though it could be argued that Bert Cooper already knew a great deal of it).But, it’s true, she has never learned anything specific about it, while Betty, Faye, Megan, and even Pete know much more.

    • Exactly, and didn’t Weiner say it’s not an accident that the series started on Peggy’s first day at the office? Peggy is going to play a major role in the finale, in some way.

      • I sooo soo soo hope so. Peggy is DA MAN. Her evolution has been extraordinary, in every sense of the word.

  4. Oh I agree 100% with you Tilden. I bet there will be some very warm Don-Peggy moment and it would be a huge waste and a cheat not to close it better than where it is. I mean think of how much we have invested in this thing – I mean The Suitcase for Pete’s sake!

    The bond between Don and Peggy is permanent and I think (certainly hope) we’ll finish in a better place with Don and Pegs. But we needed to get Don-Dick reduced to nothing to get his story arc to make sense.

  5. I was thinking about the arc of Peggy’s development as an independent person and two thoughts came up:

    In the scene where she asked Don for a performance review: he never gave her one, and it all ended on a sour note. That forced a separation that was coming anyway (tho fate could bring them together again – I like to think Tilden is right!). But Peggy also said something that I found poignant, all the more because she wouldn’t have been able to see it. She said she’d like to create something of lasting value. To which Don retorted, ‘In advertising?!” Yet Peggy’s presence as a young professional woman, in that office, in that moment in time, did create something of lasting value, for every woman who followed her. Just by her presence, fighting the fight without a playbook or a net. I’ve had long talks with women friends who started professional careers in the 60s and 70s. Believe me, we didn’t have a clue and many of us spun off the merry-go-round because of that. And Pegs, doing it in the toughest field, I suspect she’ll have a rough ride at McCann but just that she’s there created something of lasting value for all the young creative women who were allowed to follow by Peggy’s example of excellence.

    A second thought: I think Peggy moved from Don, as mentor, to Roger as protector (and mentor of another kind). That conversation between them at the torn-down SCDP was a way for her to establish a new bond, with a powerful man, moving into a new location. That is critical when professional life changes.

    Joan passed up the opportunity for protection when Don offered to help her (in their elevator conversation – at least my understanding of that conversation) even though they had different accounts and were on different floors. Joan clearly didn’t get how power worked now, thinking she could figure it out on her own. Roger protected her money by getting her to leave, but it was really advice, not advocacy. I think Peggy may figure it out and/or have a powerful ally to help. Her trajectory has been planned and calculated by her for success. I was even impressed that Pegs contacted a headhunter – and more than a bit convinced that he may have deliberately steered her towards McCann rather then another firm. It may be that he was working with McCann’s people and attempting to be independent, in the similar head hunter vein as Duck working for Learjet and pretending to be working in McCann’s best interest.

  6. Peggy Olson doesn’t need Don Draper in her life anymore. However, Don Draper has been the most important person in her life. When Peggy delivered her baby; Don Draper came to the hospital to see how she was. Peggy was on the psyche ward and Don told her to leave and this never happened. She returned to work. The alternative for Peggy was living under her mother’s control. Peggy and Don have shared many moments together. Don is burned out of advertising. Advertising has had an adverse effect on his life. He is a wreck. Peggy is at the pinnacle of her career. Don is a broken man and a drunk. Peggy knows Don better than anyone. She drove to Long Island to get Don and Bobbie Barrett when Don cracked up his car. Peggy also knows that by the grace of God go I. She has learned from Don’s pitfalls. Advertising destroyed Don’s life. Peggy will not abandon Don in his time of need. He didn’t abandon her at the hospital in 1960.

  7. The suit Peggy is wearing in the scene above with Pete is almost identical, slightly different blue, to the one Betty is wearing as she climbs the stairs. Only just realised it. They are also mirrored in the slouchy cigarette dove shoot/octopus strut scenes. I was thinking it showed moments they are in control. It does. But perhaps it also marks them as Don’s women?

    • I noticed that, too. When I first saw Peggy in this outfit she looked like a minister to me–not really sure why, maybe the light color and the collar and stole.

      Like Peggy, I was raised Catholic and no longer practice, but it will always remain in my subconscious mind. 🙂

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