Mad Men season six, week two. This episode was quite Don-heavy despite being directed by Jon Hamm. Correct me if I'm wrong, but when Hamm and John Slattery have directed in the past, they usually aren't in the episode as much, right? In any case, here's some thoughts on tonight's episode.
Don and Sylvia
I didn't know what to think of the revelation last week that Don was sleeping with Sylvia. It was pretty clear from last season's finale that his loyalty to Megan was over, but I was a little disappointed the new dynamic brought us back to where Don was in the show's early seasons. Of course, the show is trying to make a point with the cyclical nature of Don's marriage and of course it goes perfectly with his personality, but it is also far more original than my initial reaction let me believe.
There is the fact that the world around Don now isn't the same as the world that was around him in the early 60s, but there is not that much of that in this episode. What is present is the fact that Don and Sylvia have to interact with each other's husband/wife a lot. Even after Don's expressed desire to stop the affair last week, he now doesn't seem like he wants to stop. I don't know about you, but my initial reservations are gone and I am enjoying this Don and Sylvia dynamic. I mean, that cross-cut scene between the restaurant and Sylvia's bed was just amazing and very well directed by mr. Jon Hamm.
Pete is Don Draper
Last week we got our glimpse at how Peggy had become a new version of Don Draper, but while Peggy seems to have adopted Don's professional traits, Pete Campbell seems to inhabit some of the mental state Don was in when the show began. Pete has always been a deeply unhappy man so it wasn't a surprise to me to see him cheating on his wife in such a systematic manner. But Trudy, of course, is no Betty. I was so glad to see her stand up to Pete and show him how smart she really is. She has her priorities in check. She knew what Pete's city apartment was for and she was (in some ways) using it for her benefits. Her biggest concern is her image and she won't let that fall apart even if her marriage becomes nothing but a charade.
Peggy gets a small story-line this week. We get the downside of being a female version of Don Draper in the jokey response her workers have to her attempts at being a motivational speaker. This made me remember what Joan told her at the end of season four's "The Summer Man", about how power actions made her be perceived as a humorless bitch. And even if Peggy acts tough, this affects her in a way her feelings generally didn't affect Don. She later tells Stan how nobody likes her at her new job.
But, hey, on the other hand Teddy Chaough does seem to really like her. And the idea of getting the Heinz Ketchup account Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce can't get. Peggy isn't all that comfortable with that. She seems to still have some loyalty to SCDP. When Teddy tells her there's nothing like seeing things go wrong in your previous workplace, her reaction didn't tell me she was agreeing. I wonder what will happen to Peggy in the future of the season. It's been just two weeks and I already miss her interactions with the other characters, yet at the same time I understand it would be a cop-out (and wouldn't make much sense from a character's perspective) to just have her come back to SCDP. Or worse yet, come up with convoluted ways to have her interact with the other characters. I hope Matt Weiner has something up his sleeve with this particular story-line.
The Jaguar Account
Herb, from the Jaguar account, is the sleaziest, most disgusting character that has ever been on the show, right? Right off the bat he got to Lucky Strike-levels of abusing his power at the agency and he doesn't seem to be stopping down. After what happened in "The Other Woman", Don won't have it. But at the same time Pete is right in understanding how badly they need Jaguar. Talking about "The Other Woman", I was both amused and incredibly saddened at the way Joan treated Herb when he arrived at the agency. The way she put him down is empowering but only in an artificial way when you consider their history. This makes me think, is Joan the most tragic character on Mad Men?
Finally, I just wanted to talk about Bob Benson, played by James Wolk and introduced last week. From what I understand he is a new accountsman at SCDP and the man seems to be going places (or at least trying to). Last week with his giving coffee to Don (and Pete) and now this week's talk with Pete he is clearly trying to make his way up SCDP. From the way he's being set up I can't imagine there isn't an arc to his character. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up owning the place or something.