Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, The Strategy (SPOILERS)

Photo by AMC

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by AMC

SPOILERS BELOW!

Pete joined the Mile High Club. Yawn. It’s Pete. Who cares. But Bob Benson’s back! (Sorry, I could not resist the alliteration siren call.) I guess the fact that he’s been absent for a number of episodes dictated that he return with a couple of showstopper scenes? Other things happened that were quite interesting, but I have to get the Bob Benson bit out of the way first.

Bob and Joan

Sal was one of my favorite characters, and it crushed me when he was fired. I don’t have the same kind of attachment to Bob Benson, though I love the fact that he was the catalyst for Pete’s “Not great, Bob.” But I do have enormous sympathy for Bob’s situation and how awful it has to be to hide such an important, defining facet of yourself because people are giant, judgmental jerks. Despite my sympathy for Bob, I felt worse for Joan during the proposal scene. Her life has been anything but easy. She’s fought for every small success that she’s enjoyed, and that partnership came at a steeper price than any person should ever have to pay. For her to be offered the position of beard for Bob, a man she genuinely cares about which means that she will have to swallow any indignation that she feels at the proposal so she won’t hurt him, is just another in a long line of concessions that she is expected to make to navigate the life she’s been handed. And I’m really happy to see that she held out for love. She certainly deserves it.

Roger and Cutler

I’m nothing if not overly dramatic, but does it seem like Roger is being set up to architect his own destruction? Cutler is clearly working on Roger to have him assist with the ouster of Don. And Roger is going to become powerless without someone else in that firm to join with him. He’s leaking power daily. If Don does leave, either on his own steam or otherwise, Roger is toast.

Pete and Peggy and Don

First, I noticed how Don put his dining table back to its former state, including the centerpiece, when he scooped up all of his work stuff and typewriter. Don’s always been a careless type. Always. I’m not saying we’ve not seen successful runs from him, but he’s always been carelessly successful. This, while it may be short-lived, is definitely a change for him. I sincerely hope it’s not. But that was a telling little change, and it’s clear that he’s committed to making a real, sustained turnaround.

I stupidly was delighted when Pete invited Don to the Burger Chef campaign presentation. I knew it would create friction with Lou. I didn’t think about what Pete’s motivation might be. Even after the episode, I’m not sure what Pete’s motivation is in continuing to champion Don. I think the clues are all there, but I’ve been unable to read them. It’s either Peggy or Lou that he’s surely setting up, I’d imagine. Don and Pete have had such a tortured relationship that I need assistance with this one. Help me out, people. What’s Pete up to? Regardless of the motivation, Pete’s maneuver allows me to check out a delightful Lou underbite reaction, and I’m super giddy. I love a pissed-off Lou. I’m less thrilled with an unhappy Peggy – I want her to succeed – but I’m happy to see that she hides her reaction far better than Lou.  

I hate this whole mess. They’re making Peggy construct her own glass ceiling. It’s disgusting. And Peggy lost her last bit of naiveté after Lou gave her Burger Chef and put Don on her team. She instantly knows how gross the maneuver is as it’s happening. The fact that they are trying to make her complicit in it by stating that it’s up to her is one of the nastiest moments on this show. She knows it’s not up to her. And Lou’s disgusting face when Pete says his ridiculous comment about how Peggy is as good as any woman in this business makes me want to find every stupid cardigan sweater within a 100-mile radius, cut it into tiny pieces and let my dog pee on it. Peggy handled it with incredible poise and equanimity.

When Don mentions to Peggy that she change the campaign’s POV from the mother’s perspective to a kid’s, she, perfectionist that she is, begins to doubt herself. Whether she wasn’t completely sold on the campaign or not, she has always had to battle intense self-doubt when it comes to Don, and he’s been notoriously stingy when it comes to handing out recognition of her talent. And it’s not just Don who’s instilled doubt, but his esteem is the one she seeks the most now that Ted’s is tainted.

I love seeing Peggy and Don making their way back to becoming a team again. Together they can accomplish so much, and I’m hoping we can see that storyline as the series ends. I’ve always been most fascinated by what’s going on at the office, and Don and Peggy’s relationship has been the lightning rod for me.

“You love this.” – Peggy

“Not really.” -Don

I loved that short exchange because, that quickly, Don diffused what could have easily and typically escalated, and I think that was the tipping point for the scene. Instead of devolving into a session of finger-pointing and the further destruction of their relationship, they began the work of mending their relationship. It happened that quickly, and yet completely realistically, because of the way Don chose to respond to Peggy. And Don continued to remain, atypically, calm and measured in his responses giving Peggy the chance to actually listen and understand that he does trust her skills, and while he might go a different route, he doesn’t believe that his route is necessarily better. It’s just different.

This is a callback to that scene when Peggy, Pete and Ted are in the restaurant celebrating Ocean Spray in Season 6 and Peggy and Ted are crushing on each other. The Peggy and Ted relationship was not built on a solid foundation, and their love was tainted, but I wonder if the callback is intentional to tell us that something is coming for Peggy and Don? There’s no doubt that Peggy and Don have deep feelings for each other. Forgive me for this, but they really do complete each other. I think they understand each other much better than any other person has understood either of them. That’s sloppily worded, but I think you know what I’m trying to say. I don’t know what a relationship between the two of them would look like, but I was initially horrified by that dance scene. And now I think it’s because Hamm and Moss play so well off of each other that the true emotions of those two characters was just a lot to process. Watching Don’s face register that “coming home” emotion was a big moment there. This is what I tweeted.

And now I feel almost entirely opposite about the whole thing. I trust you, Weiner. Do with it what you will.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, The Finale

There was so much to process about this episode. It makes me already anxious for next season to see what will become of so many of these characters that are facing some very big changes:

  • Peggy is sitting in Don’s chair and looks like she’s ready to take NY by storm.
  • Pete is unencumbered and looks cheerful (rare for him) and ready for a new challenge.
  • Ted and family are relocating to L.A. to start fresh as far away from temptation as possible.
  • Dick/Don, by all appearances, looks like he’s ready to stop living the lie and face the consequences. I hope that’s what actually happens because that’s what I’m ready to see.
  • And Sally is in her teens which means she’s in for all kinds of changes. So much depends on her dad and what he chooses to do. But she’s going to be fascinating to watch next season in her own right. That much is certain.

It’s so odd that the purpose of the mandatory partners’ meeting at 9:00 a.m. was a shock to me. It was beyond time for them to sideline Don after all that he’s put his partners and team through over the years. And now that his mojo has abandoned him, it’s hard to justify putting up with all of that. And with Don/Dick essentially forcing their hand in the Hershey pitch, he asked for it.

Bob Benson is Don Draper as we learned in the last episode. A complete fake. And as Bob Benson’s star has been rising this season, it makes sense that Don’s must fall. What I’m happy to see is that Dick Whitman is starting to take the wheel — albeit awkwardly timing it during the Hershey pitch. The ending where Dick/Don takes the kids to the whorehouse is uplifting because he can finally remove the mask. It marks what I hope will be a new beginning next season for Dick Whitman as Don Draper is put to rest at last. Dick/Don can start fresh with his kids and in doing so hopefully repair his relationship with Sally. That was a nice look they exchanged at the end with that gorgeously subtle eyebrow raise by Kiernan. I think Sally understands that he is hoping to reverse course. I seriously hope that Dick/Don has the strength of character to follow through and that Sally will be able to handle the reveal without suffering further damage.

Speaking of Bob Benson, I predict that he will gain even more focus next season which makes me unhappy since I’m not a big fan. But he’s smooth. That’s for sure. He’s definitely following in Don’s footsteps, and his ascent is meteoric. His handling of Pete was masterful (and Pete’s no slouch), and he booted him and grabbed Chevy for himself in record time.

On a closing note, my least favorite moment of the episode was Duck bringing in Don’s replacement and giving him the opportunity to get his “Going down?” dig in. Hit a man when he’s down. Classy.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Nine

Happy Memorial Day!!

A few brief thoughts since today is a holiday and I’m ready to get outside and enjoy the beautiful day:

Unless I misheard, Peggy had the line of the episode talking about Ted vs. Don and the navigating she and the rest of the agency are doing to accommodate the two giant egos. “The difference is that he’s interested in the idea, and you’re interested in your idea.” That is the truth nougat right there. And it’s the reason I’m far more interested in watching Ted in action than Don these days.

Don’s not a sociopath, right? His biggest issue with the Jaguar account (aside from Herb’s general asshattery) was the nastiness with Herb and Joan which suggests a moral code. But for some reason when I watched that scene with Don, Betty and Bobby at lunch, what kept running through my mind was, Is he a sociopath? I’m not shocked that Don and Betty slept together. I think it did Betty no harm provided Henry remains in the dark, so, for once, Betty got the better end of the deal. I really enjoyed watching her out-Don Don.

Bob Benson. Bob, Bob, Bob. I’m intrigued to see what happens when he shows his true colors. I don’t think that story arc is going to have a happy ending.

Peggy and Ted. Peggy and Stan. Well, we knew it wasn’t going to be Peggy and Abe for the long haul. Awkward break-up there. Peggy couldn’t really let him have it while he’s sitting there all stab-wounded by her. I don’t know whether to root for a Peggy and Ted or a Peggy and Stan result. I think I’m leaning towards Peggy and Stan. Poor Ted. I’m gratified to see that he’s fighting his feelings. It makes me think I had him pegged correctly when I said he was a good guy. UPDATE: Except that I just watched the episode I recorded and realized that I missed a lot in the final scene. Looks like Ted had me fooled after all since it appears he’s only interested in an unobtainable Peggy. Well, I’ve been rooting for Stan for multiple seasons now. Treat her right, Stan. She deserves it.