If it's Sunday at ten o'clock, that can only mean it's time once again for Mad Men, our weekly sojourn into the world of 1960's advertising, ennui, sideburns, and horribly patterned jackets. Last week was another thigh-slapper of an episode, featuring Joan giving Harry Crane the DEATH STARE, Harry Crane being an asshole, Don being an cheating asshole, Pete being a repulsive asshole, and Megan looking sad and weepy. Oh, and in an attempt to score the Heinz Ketchup account, SCDP wagered what they had of their business and lost.
What exciting thing does this week's episode hold? Let's find out!
"Don't do anything stupid"
"It's too late--I'm going to Harlem in a tuxedo."
It looks like things are going to go one way--it's time for the Ad Club of New York's awards ceremony and Megan's up for an Award as is Peggy (and their respective agencies are given a seat somewhere in New Jersey, apparently) and things seem set up for a really ghastly evening full of sublimated tension, when the news drops--Martin Luther King has been shot. Needless to say, this stops the world dead in its tracks (though not so much that Pete can't be an asshole about--some things can't be put on hold.
Proving how unusual this episode is, Bobby actually gets a subplot to himself (not a big one, but when they remember a Draper child other than Sally, it's well worth noting) wherein he's completely aggravated by an uncertain world and wallpaper that doesn't line up (in what must be said is a rather laboured metaphor for the events of the episode and those promised) but I did get a kick out of he and Don going to see Planet of the Apes. Meanwhile, a whole season after all of this got set up, Ginsburg actually gets a follow-up on his subplot, as his Topol-esque father sets him up on a blind date, and Ginsburg, ever eager not to play to stereotypes, Woody Allens his way through the whole thing. I'm sure these kinds of things endear Ginsburg to some people, but . . .dear Lord, it's like the greatest stereotypes of yesterday and today and there's not much character to it.
The death of MLK leads to an interesting ripple effect--given most of the characters are trapped in a city that's threatening to blow itself apart (in a country equally close to blowing apart) Pete calls Trudy, and you get a sense that it took the upheaval of an assassination for him to get how badly he screwed thing up with Trudy, but contrition or not, she's not having it (and good on her) Pete looks shattered after she hangs up on him, trapped om a city busy burning itself down. This leads to him getting really pissed off that Harry's main source of upset about the whole business is they're losing TV ads, which gets on Pete's nerves to the extent that he straight-up calls him a racist (which Harry doesn't exactly make a case against--he's now two for two with being an unbearable dicknuts on a weekly basis) and Bert has to keep it from exploding into a straight-up fist-fight.
Meanwhile, our other "favourite" peripheral characters are happy to get in on the jerk-assery as well--Megan's dad thinks it's splendid news, which Megan summarizes as "I'm so sick of his Marxist bullshit." Betty decides to needle Don about not picking up the kids and forcing him to drive through Harlem because the one thing Betty Draper can not afford to have is a sense of proportion. Also, her with black hair is really weird. But things are going well-ish for her, as this whole thing has really lite a fire under Henry's hard-line conservatism and he's setting his sights on a seat in the state Senate. He also thinks that the MLK thing is as bad as it's going to be. The lesson here is DON'T put a lot of faith in Henry Francis' predictions if you know . . .anything . . .about 1968.
Oh, before I forget, Roger's prospective client--Randall the insurance agent--was a ray of sunshine in a very bleak episode, as he both acted like he'd wandered in from a David Lynch movie and is completely insane. The scene where Roger, Don, Stan, and Ginsburg have to listen to him rattle off his batshit idea and chant like Tecumseh. Don looked even more exasperated than he did when he and Megan were being scouted for some swinging action. It was sublimely hilarious.
Oh, and Peggy's appalled that he rental agent would use the race riots as an excuse to try to underbid for her prospective apartment, but not so much that she doesn't try it out anyway. They don't get it, and Abe's not much help, as that would get in the way of his insufferable effete liberalism, and proposes they try for something in the west 80's.
In the wake of all this and the fact that Don has tried to cope with this by crawling into a bottle and retreating (you can kinda see as he might do, given the last time a major seismic event like this happened--the Kennedy assassination--his life fell apart around him) and he finally tells Megan why--he's not really sure he loves his kids all the time, and hates himself for pretending in the moments in between. Megan looks a little appalled, but given that Betty doesn't seem to love her kids at all (that would, after all, require emotion, and Dr. Soong hasn't installed her chip yet), Don's kind of the least worst parent by default, if nothing else.
This was a pretty heavy episode, and I was pleased they didn't really beat the MLK event into the ground. This was more about the fractures that happen in the wake of something like that and where they point the characters in the wake of something like this. Don gets pushed inward, Henry gets ambitious, Pete has a macrocosm event that sheds a light on what a mess he made of the microcosm of his home life, and Peggy's just trying to find her way through. Oh, and Randall went utterly batshit crazy.
Big events change people, and the big events are just getting started.
And that's all for this week. Join us next week when Roger, Don, and Bert decide to open up a pet store as a front for a ring of burglaries, Joan nets the coveted Johnnie Walker Black account because she ordered it, and Peggy can't stop playing with Tinkertoys. All of these things are guaranteed NOT to happen in seven days in a little tale they're calling "For Immediate Release." It'll be "fun!"