Mad Men Season 7 Episode 4 recap

There are very, very few things about this show that I find incongruous. That is, most of the time, even when there’s a pointed remark about time, and how different things are – or a plot about a computer taking over a whole room – they do their best to make us feel like the problems then are the problems now, and nothing changes, and offices are ridiculous, and there was a time when you could fat-shame Don Draper.

But I have to admit I don’t get the space thing. Yes, it was a moment in time, that the moon and the stars above seemed suddenly, somehow, reachable …but they’ve always been so far away, and always will be so far away, and it seemed a bit false for Roger to start speculating on them. The weed, the sex – I totally buy him pointing out that he’s completely down with those (why do you think he hadn’t slept, at the beginning of the episode?), but his embracing of the cosmic has always seemed to begin and end at the foot of his bed.

Still, Margaret – pardon me, “Marigold” – as a hippie is kind of long overdue. I feel like the “commune” set has been used for a million such storylines, and I love how there’s never anything bad going on at any of them. Just once, can we have a cult that’s really cultlike? Martha May Mary Marlene styles? Nonetheless, you can’t take the Margaret out of the hippie and how quickly she turns to Manhattan-style passive-aggression against her mother. Also, can we please just have a moment for Talia Balsam’s face?

I have to give Roger credit because he is so consistently himself, with no apologies.   If he wants to try something he will, and if he wants to back away from being a tuned-in liberal dad because he has realized someone – or many someones – are having sex with this daughter, well, he can do that too. It’s his prerogative. Roger would have loved that song.  

Still, there was some sting to the proceedings. Margaret has been a long-lost cause as far as I can remember, pouting and sulking even in the old Sterling Cooper offices.    But when Roger appeals to her, neither of them are talking about the situation with her son.  

“How could you just leave him? He’s your baby.” I know Margaret replied by making it all about herself, and told Roger it was his fault she turned out like this, but to me, it was about Joan’s son. You know you wondered if that was him in the first part of the episode, didn’t you? (How many of us even remembered Ellery’s name until they said it sixteen times in this episode?) “How could you just leave your baby?” It makes me wonder how much of baby Kevin he’s seeing of late.

Not that Joan is particularly worried. She’s rocking around the office and very proud to refer to herself as one of the partners and even prouder to spill insider info to Peggy, who’s always been her counterbalancing point, if not her ally. “To cowardice.” “Mine or theirs?” Yes, Peggy and Joan, so many times Peggy and Joan. Only part of this conversation passes the Bechdel test, since they do talk about Don, but I could watch them drink in a sun-drenched office for hours. One of the best things about their …ally-ship …is that neither of them is really right. When they talk, they’re always missing part of the story, so there’s no hugging, and no learning. It’s refreshing to have them be so single–minded about office politics and not moaning about romances or etc. But there are mistakes. For the millionth time, for example, Peggy focuses on the respect she is isn’t getting and doesn’t focus on the work (or the fact that Lou bought her for $100 a week, but I guess that was more money back then). 

Don does come dangerously close to hugging and learning this episode, but since he does it from the bottom of a stealth coke can, we can almost forgive it. Honestly, the ghost of Lane Pryce went fairly easy on him, all things considered. Don is not used to not having enough to do, and definitely not used to taking orders from Peggy but it’s not the adjusted hierarchy that gets to him (although please, show, hurry up and get Don and Lou in a room together for my amusement). It’s that everything can and will go on without him, and changes are gonna come, including but not limited to a computer that will take up the lounge Don would wholeheartedly have endorsed, if not sometimes used himself.

In fact, he’s so close to being a dinosaur he’s going childlike to prevent it. Coke and chocolate. Ball games. Sneaking booze like a child. Schoolyard fights with randoms who don’t deserve it and only have the audacity to be young and on the pulse of things that have already passed Don by. 

It is fascinating to me that Freddie Rumsen is the one to pull Don out of this, at least temporarily. He must really mean something to Weiner or the writers – this idea of a dried-out alcoholic who maybe should just fade away into obscurity but won’t, who’s good enough at what they do to warrant a second go-round, even if he’ll never ascend to his former glory. Freddie sees the pitfalls, of course. He sees how Don could go down the path he himself did but … could he have been Don? If booze and self-doubt hadn’t taken over, could Freddie have ascended to those heights? Could Lane Pryce? Will Peggy?

Lots of ghosts in that office.