Monday, June 17, 2013

Mad Men: The Quality of Mercy

"You're a Monster" 

That was Peggy's final words to Don in this episode. So, is he? This season has certainly gone to great lengths to put Don in situations that make him come off as more unlikable than he's ever been. But is he truly worse than he's ever been?

Don vs. Peggy
When Don sat on that meeting with the St. Joseph's executive and put Teddy on the line, suggesting he came out and confess he is in love with Peggy only to come up with a bullshit story about Gleason to save the account, well, that was undoubtedly a dick move on his part. He might tell Peggy (and himself) that he is doing it to save the account, that Teddy has let the budget skyrocket because he is blinded by love, that he did all of this so that the company wouldn't have to pay thousand of dollars in residuals, but we know that at the bottom of his being, he is just jealous. He hangs up on Harry when he announces Sunkist's interest in the agency out of respect for the promise he made to Ted last week. But then, when he sees Ted and Peggy sneak out to watch Rosemary's Baby at 5 in the afternoon, he calls California right away. 
Not that he wants to be romantically in love with Peggy, we know Don better than that. But what he can't tolerate is to see such a beautiful relationship develop between Peggy and Ted. They just giggle and joke and love their work. It isn't only miles away from his tumultuous work relationship with Peggy, but also reminiscent of what he was hoping to achieve with Megan. The huge theme this season has been duality. From the poster showing a Don doppelg√§nger, to the multiple comparisons in plot to previous seasons, it's been all about history repeating itself as a new set of characters take the place of those that came before. Ted is bizarro Don, and Don just won't have it. 

The Other Secret Life of Bob Benson
Ok, so it isn't exactly clear if Bob Benson is actually gay. But what is clear is, first, that he probably isn't a psychopath, but keeping in line with the season's big theme, a younger version of Don Draper. He too has changed his name and fabricated a new identity in order to make his way up to a better life. And in another parallel, it's again Pete who discovers the secret identity of a Sterling Cooper employee. Only this time, instead of running to Bert Cooper (maybe out of fear of the whole thing blowing up on his face just as it did when he discovered the identity of Dick Whitman), he decides to let Bob Benson be Bob Benson, as long as he stays under his watch. 
To be frank, Pete talked in such vague terms that I barely understood exactly what he wanted out of Bob in that scene. But as far as I could understand, he basically wants to have leverage in order to make Benson work to his benefit. Pete has lost a lot throughout this season (from his marriage, to power in the company to the sanity of his mother) and has been lusting for any kind of power. Now that he not only gets the Chevy account that got Kenny shot in the eye* and now the feeling of having complete power of Bob Benson, which may not be much, but being a proxy to having power over Don Draper, will definitely do. 

*the latest Mad Men theory is that, after surviving the car accident and now being shot in the eye, Ken Cosgrove is actually immortal. 

Little Miss Draper
The last big story of this episode mirrors Don's and ties in with what happened last week. After discovering her dad in bed with Sylvia Rosen, Sally and Don are in horrible terms. Don drinking heavily and sleeping in his kid's room, Sally wanting to go out to a boarding school. Betty, who also doesn't have such a laid-back, relaxed relationship with Sally is ok with this, and so, while Sally stays for a night at her possible new school, we get out yearly Glen Bishop appearance. This time, he brings a friend along to visit the girls of boarding school. 
When Glen is goes out to get lucky with one of Sally's new friends, the other boy makes a move on Sally, who stops his advances and calls out Glen for help. Now, sure that boy insisted on kissing Sally when she didn't want to, but what the girl really wanted was to start a fight between the two friends. Either because she has a thing for Glen and wanted to see him defend her, or because, like her father did to Ted and Peggy, she didn't want Glen to be happy if she wasn't, or probably because of both things. In any case, she is Don Draper's daughter. For sure.

All three story lines this week focused on people trying to dominate other people, molding them into something that will exist in function of what they want them to be instead of just letting them be other human beings. Pete Campbell sees the possibility of creating an ally out of Bob Benson (even if it is by force). Sally has a clear idea of what and how she wants Glen to be and won't tolerate any other versions. And, finally, Don has been trying to fabricate his life for so long that he has alienated almost everyone around him and fallen to a place of deep and dark isolation. He can't resist Sylvia because something about her reminds him of his true life, of the whore that fed him soup. But at the same time, going after his most primal instincts has made lose everything else in his life. He doesn't care for his wife anymore, he has lost any interest in his job, he has lost the respect of his daughter and he is losing the admiration of Peggy. Everything that he has fabricated is slipping through his fingers and he can't do anything more than lie down on his couch in the fetal position and keep hoping he can divorce himself from his most truthful past.

Next week is the season finale, so I hope you're as excited as I am! 

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