Let’s look back at one of the greatest Mad Men episodes of all: Season 4’s The Suitcase. Here’s how we knew we were gearing up for a titanic fight when Peggy returns to Don’s office after she broke up with Mark.
It’s set up perfectly, Peggy’s resentment of Don, her devotion to her career at the expense of everything in her life … she complains that she couldn’t tell him it was her birthday.
Don: So now this is my fault?
Peggy: Well it’s not my fault you don’t have any family or friends or anywhere else to go …
We know this is a low blow and not 100% warranted. Peggy lashes out and Don picks up on it.
Don: Go. Go run to him … like in the movies.
That line is the kicker that boots this exchange into overdrive, and like so much else great about Mad Men, it’s a payoff from long ago.
Peggy’s line is clearly meant to wound Don. You can tell Don is hurt by her remark, but he doesn’t address her comment— mostly because she’s right. He responds by calling her average, by comparing her to those women in movies who chase after men who’ve left them. Those saps.
“Go. Run to him,” isn’t advice, it’s derision.
We know from Season 3 (Shut the Door. Have a Seat) that one of the reasons, the main reason, Don values Peggy is because he sees them as both as above the masses … seeing things from a different vantage point, and having insights nobody else can have. They’re special.
Because there are people out there who buy things, people like you and me. And something happened. Something terrible. And the way they saw themselves is gone. And nobody understands that. But you do. And that’s very valuable.
People like you and me. Don considers Peggy his soul mate. They are not the kind that go running after boyfriends. Work comes first, last and always.
From that moment it’s game on.
If you cut Don, he’s not going to give you the satisfaction of bleeding. He’s going to attack the thing that makes you special. To Don, and Peggy too, there’s nothing worse than being common.