Monday, October 18, 2010

"No one is on your side, Betty."

She had style, she had flair...she was there!  That's how she became the nanny Mrs. Draper!*

Ohh, Don.  Don, Don, Don.  Well, let's get back to him in a moment.

All week I had been thinking that previous seasons of Mad Men all ramped up towards a dizzying climax, and that while this season had opened up a lot of loose ends, there didn't seem to be anything monumental to expect from the season finale, except perhaps Bert Cooper leaving SCDP and the new company folding, sending all our beloved coworkers into the ether, to be welcomed by the ghost of Sal Romano.  So we're treated to a couple of brief scenes in which we learn that Joan is picking up the slack after the massive layoffs, Don has gotten SCDP (SDP?) closer to getting Cancer, and Peggy and Ken Cosgrove have gotten the first new account since the fallout.  It was great to see Peggy on her game, and to see Ken get a win after Pete misguidedly trying to make him feel like a failure for not being like him.  But who would want to do anything to jeopardize the happiness of Alex Mack?  Not me.

At the Francis home, Betty's black hole of sadness is all-consuming.  She has decided to move the family twenty miles away simply to escape Sally's creepy friend Glenn, and when Carla decides to allow the children to say a quick goodbye, Betty fires her.  This has to be the worst thing Betty has ever done, and really makes me wonder where the writers want her awful character to go.  Personally, I suspect Henry will leave her, and she'll run off to Rome or kill herself or something.

On the Joan front, it seems she did take Roger's advice to keep the child and pass it off as her rapist husband's.  This was not a surprise, but now I am just curious if they'll kill off Dr. Harris while Joan's pregnant, forcing her to seek help from Roger, or if they'll carry on the charade with him thinking that the silver-haired baby who keeps vomiting up oysters and vermouth is his own.

Okay, so back to Don.  He super-inappropriately asks his secretary Meghan to accompany him to California as a babysitter, and while there, he sleeps with her twice and then proposes to her using the ring he inherited from Anna Draper.  My brain reacted with something between a record scratch and a facepalm.  I mean, it's not like Don has ever shown himself to be a responsible adult when it comes to his personal life (remember when he wanted to run off with Rachel Menken?), but this was just another frustrating moment of his bad behavior being rewarded.  I always think of how Roger described Don and Betty as looking like a wedding cake topper, and it seems a perfect symbol for how they are both such petulant children.

When he breaks the news to his coworkers, even Roger is incredulous.  Roger Sterling.  The most enigmatic reaction was easily Peggy's.  She's the Mona Lisa smile (not the Mona Lisa Smile) of this show, and there are a million reasons why she could have been so glassy-eyed.  Was she jealous, a little hurt to be shut out of Don's future love life?  Offended because of Don's pat acknowledgment of how much respect he and Meghan have for her?  Jealous because once again, Don gets everything - a career and a marriage?  Or is she just disappointed?  I think it's that last one, that she does not respect Don's decision, and she wants so badly for him to just be better, be a better man, but he always comes up short.

I wish I could have spent a whole day commiserating with Joan and Peggy.  Their shared acknowledgment that Don is just as ridiculous as every other manchild they know was great.  And to have Peggy acknowledge that she knows Joan is just as much of a workaholic as she is, was a nice coda to what they've been through together over the years.  Just think of the parallels in their unplanned pregnancies, too.
(Gif borrowed from a Videogum commenter)

Oh, Betty.  As terrible as she is, I definitely felt for her when she was touching up her lipstick in anticipation of sneaking up on Don at their old house.  Thinking about when they were young, and starting life together.  And then learning that he is moving on, with tears in her eyes.  It was believable, and human in a way unlike her typical terrible self.  I think it is hard as audience members to deal with really unlikeable characters because they are too real, and remind us too much of our own flaws, but January Jones does sadness better than any other emotion (see The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada), so it was a great scene for her.

And oh, Dr. Faye.  I really did expect Don to marry her, much like how his real-life inspiration Draper Daniels married a business associate who was more of an equal to him, but I guess she was just not enough of a poolside diversion for him now that they could have their relationship out in the open.

So what was this season about?  The first episode opened with the question, "Who is Don Draper?"  Surely a lot has changed.  Don is curbing his alcoholism and his womanizing, but not quitting either.  He is swimming, and trying to enjoy life outside of work a little bit more.  He is opening up a bit about his secret past, but not enough to be able to own up to a possible background check.  He went from being unable to talk candidly to a journalist about himself, to buying full-page ad space in The New York Times for his essays, and bringing his children to Anna Draper's California home.  But what does it all mean?

*Actually the more I think of it, the lyrics of The Nanny's theme song are really chillingly appropriate to this Don/Meghan situation.  "Now the father finds her beguiling (watch out C. C. Dr. Faye!), and the kids are actually smiling (such joie de vivre!)..."  Get it?  Because they have a terrible birth mother, and Meghan is French Canadian?

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