Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8 recap
That was the weirdest, most uncomfortable part for me. The weird, up-and-down in-and-out audio as the hallucinations began. I never feel like there’s any way to “ignore” a symptom like that and so that’s when it began to go bad for me.
Of course, it’s not like there was really ever any “good”. The episode pretty effortlessly points out how stupid things were from the very beginning – not just the non-sequitur with Kenny in the car (“Look, it’s L.A. Noir!”) but the fact that, as in a dream, things just show up and are happening. Vitamin shots just happen to be being administered in a random office and nobody thinks to question. Especially Don, who, at this point, really should know better. After all, Ted was out of commission, Peggy probably wasn’t offered at all, and, in one of the more amusing consistencies on Mad Men, Pete Campbell is actually kind of a square . The point here is that, with the exception of Aaron Echolls, everyone who took it was young. It’s the kind of 72-hour-experiment only the young can afford – perhaps because they don’t have traumatic lives to flash back on.
We’ve spent more and more time on Don’s increasing physical frailty these days. Far gone are the days when he lay on the ground, muscular and smoking, in the sunshine of his backyard. He went to the pool a few years ago, but he now regularly sweats, swoons, and faints. We’ve seen him smoking less these days, whether or not it’s intentional. His heart attack – the one he promised Sally he wasn’t having – is all but written on the wall he falls past in the credits.
But the other part about Don falling is the part that’s more interesting to me. He is losing his creative edge so fast he can’t course-correct, and that’s what’s causing the physical trauma. When’s the last time we saw Don hit it out of the park in a meeting – on any campaign? It’s been months, and I think it’s telling that we didn’t actually see the campaign that sold Chevy. Could it be that they were more charmed by the novelty of two heavy-hitters banding together than they were about the actual idea? Peggy is a copy-chief, but in true female fashion, her creative process isn’t odd or off-putting to anyone. She hasn’t yet had to get into the “ugly” of the idea game, and I wonder how fast she’ll deteriorate when it’s her turn? Faster, I bet, and with less leeway. Don takes 2.5 hour naps, and that’s never going to be OK for Peggy. I feel both glad that she doesn’t fall into these traps, and sad that she doesn’t get to experience them. What would have happened between her and Stan if they’d both been feeling that fantastic buzz in their brains? And why must I wait? The two of them together are weirdly hot, and it’s been far, far too long since Peggy made a mistake. Fine, her weirdly antiseptic boyfriend is a mistake, I guess, but I haven’t seen her face really fall the way it used to.
The show’s also hinted at it with her and Ted Chaough, though, and I couldn’t help but notice that the sight of them sent Don back into flashbacks. It’s probably a stretch to say that watching Peggy sends him back into a memory of mothering-slash-sexual-awakening, but I’m not so far off in thinking that’s what he craves. Peggy is smart, capable, somewhat attractive – though, to Don’s credit, he’s never actually accused her of being so; he needs her more than ever, and she’s not there for him. While it’s entertaining to watch her lecture him, I do miss the work dynamic between them. The show has been about these two and their relationship from day one – so let whomever else fall away, but let their interactions be more meaningful than just so much hectoring.
It’s hard to find a foothold in such a weird episode. Everyone will cling to something different – to me, it was Ken as beat-poet tap-dancer, whose lines, I’m pretty sure, will become iconic, but equally as f*cked up was the woman in Don’s apartment.
One of the hardest things to remember when watching this sixties-set show is that New York was still “dangerous”. Growing more so, actually, at this time. And though I have no idea whether it’s reasonable that a thief would be able to enter a doorman building with what seems like relative ease, what rang so true to me is how calm and cool citified Sally Draper was. It’s not that she wasn’t worried, or didn’t realize the potential for the situation to be really bad, it’s just that none of those are reasons to freak out or raise your voice over now, are they? The sophistication of Sally Draper is just about complete. I can’t quite get over how Kiernan Shipka has grown into this role – even her voice sounds like she’s been smoking for years to get the world-weary rasp just right. She is utterly incapable, it seems, of having hysterics – isn’t that the most unusual part? Isn’t that what she’ll be telling her therapist in six years? Betty and Megan could at least manage raised voices. Sally just…won’t. It’s too much. It’s kind of amazing.
Meanwhile, Don does the worst job possible of being there – for his daughter, or coworkers, or for his lover whom he can’t let go of …though…why? Because she rejected him? The question isn’t whether he’ll fail, ultimately, but how he’s going to fail next, and who’ll fall victim to the crash-and-burn that is him the next.