Knock ‘Em Dead, Birdie
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Mad Men Season 7 Episode 12 recap
You know, last week Matthew Weiner gave an interview about the endless analysis (hi Matthew!) of the show, and dealing with people who don’t like where he’s taken the last seven episodes, and basically saying people who want to complain should get their own show and see what decisions they make.
While I basically support him in his rant, it is endlessly clear to me that episodes like these are the reasons why people get frustrated with digressions into Diana and Don’s real estate. The juice of being in the office is just so good that why would you go away from it?
Before we get to said juice, may I hope that the last we saw of Harry Crane was him being summarily insulted and dismissed by Roger? A girl can dream, right? Mostly the Roger plot was predictable and silly, which did not make it one iota less enjoyable. Peggy held it together remarkably well – in her position, I probably would have cried tears of frustration and ranted at someone who couldn’t do anything about it. Instead Peggy gets to do what Peggy does best – pretend she’s not paying attention to the things going on around her and focusing diligently on the work.
And then throwing it all to the wind while she drinks vermouth with Roger. Vermouth! I love that Roger enjoys Peggy ‘in doses’, as friends of mine would say, but that he first and foremost enjoys someone who will engage in the whimsy with him. This is the difference between him and Joan, for example. She is always practical, and it means she runs his life and business and relationship with her the way it needs to be run. But the fact that Peggy can indulge in a little vermouth-inspired roller-skating is what keeps her from being a drone, what allows her a little whimsy and the ability to enjoy Roger instead of shaking her head at his silliness, and the hangover, combined with the resentment that McCann didn’t have her office ready and that she thought she was a secretary, begets us this:
Last night, this shot launched a thousand career goals. Television is fantasy, and some of the greatest fantasy Mad Men has sold us is the ability not to give a f*ck, even if it’s only for selected minutes at a time. Peggy Olsen promised us that for the two more episodes we have, she’s going to be a badass. May she never again make men feel at ease.
Why should she, given that she’s not going to have her job for much longer?
If you care too much about work, we’ve learned, well, then, you’re Joan. Initially, though I will never ever complain about a Joan central plot, I felt that she was being too naïve. Not that she should have accepted John Sears’s disgusting advances or allowed the other guy to ruin her business, but Joan’s strength has always been diplomacy, and swallowing her rage when it can’t do anything useful for her.
But then I realized, with joy in my heart, that Joan has been spoiling for a fight. She knew since the ‘moving you into our offices’ deal was on the table that there were no actual accounts for her. Therefore, deciding not to go along to get along with gross weekends away and striding into Hobart’s office with a list of demands was just so much foreplay. She’s dying to have a throwdown with someone. I only wish it had been outside open doors – that she’d had an opportunity to band up with the Friendly Female Office Copywriters Association, Local Joan’s Floor, who have to stick together. I would have loved to see some Norma Rae up in this place. I can only assume that’s next episode, when Joan tries to start up a startup and hires Don and Peggy to live the dream. She’s wealthy now – up to $4 million of buying power today – so maybe she’ll stop struggling. Maybe the sting of being forced out of everything she has worked for will be balmed by the money and taking care of Kevin and her mother and the new magical love that walked into her life.
I hope not.
I hope she stays angry and starts a school for young women showing them the pitfalls to avoid and gets them to see all the ways they’re able to wield power even when it looks like they don’t have any.
The reverse, of course, is looking like you have power even when you don’t. Imagine Don Draper, for the first time since we’ve known him, with a …boss. Not a benevolent supervisor who agrees he needs creative latitude, not a fellow partner who disagrees with the way Don votes on behalf of the company but knows they still believe in it. A boss. A show-up-when-I-say-be-a-cog boss, whose most important requirement is that Don be where he says he’s going to be. What a pedestrian request. What an insult, to require Don Draper to be one of many, to have him be unremarkably present.
Don’s whole ethos has been to make a difference – when the magic of making a difference to his family, and to his work, and to his customers wore off, he began rescuing women wholesale, from Megan through Anna’s niece Stephanie to, of course, Diana. If he can just feel like he’s doing something, then he doesn’t have to feel like his world is useless. If he can have an effect on someone, then he matters. It’s one of the reasons things like driving his daughter back to Miss Porter’s in Farmington feels so significant for him and why he’s so bereft when he can’t do it. She doesn’t need him. Hell, even Bobby and Gene don’t need him, not right now. Don is useless when he’s not needed. He’s nobody. He’s Dick Whitman.
You know who understood this? Betty. Because she is glorious and remains in my top 5 all-time characters on this show, she wasn’t always able to give it to him. Betty had many, many needs but didn’t always deign to let Don be the one to provide for them. As far back as horseback riding and shooting, Betty had other things and other interests. She let Don be a part of some, not all. Like the great Kitchen Throwback Massage of 1970.
Two episodes left. Don is increasingly irrelevant. There are no coups left to throw. So I am not joking and I am not being cute when I say what will become of Meredith? She’s gotten more screen time in the back seven than almost all of our regulars – Pete has blissfully been stating “I’m Pete Campbell of McCann Erickson” for years, by comparison. So who is Meredith? What non-mythical woman in the 2015 advertising landscape does she become?
Attached: January Jones on the beach in Hawaii on May 3, 2015.