Mad Men Season 7 Episode 9 recap

You know that thing parents say? “I love you, I just don’t like you right now”? That’s how I feel about this episode of Mad Men. I get everything that went on, in a logical manner – or at least, I get why they thought they needed to do this episode. But they really, really didn’t.

First of all, I think there’s a misunderstanding of how our connection to the Calvet family is tied to our understanding of Don’s story and what’s happening in his life.  I remember those dark days, circa season 5 or so, when Megan’s oppressive family would come to turn the whole show into a Sartre festival, but I do not miss them, and didn’t need to spend any more time with them. For what purpose? Who am I supposed to feel sad for if Marie actually leaves her husband for Roger? Because the current answer is ‘Roger’. 

It’s not that I don’t think we could tie off Megan’s story – it’s just that this doesn’t feel like it was the way to do it. I may be the only Mad Men viewer on earth who doesn’t hate Megan, but what did we learn in this episode that we didn’t know already? Megan’s mom is irritating; Harry Crane is disgusting enough to make you want to enact pain on other people. Both those things are things we knew, and when we have so little precious time to say goodbye to our characters, why do we need to digress into Megan’s annoying sister? I think we all know we didn’t (Also: NO PARENTS would name one daughter Marie-France and the other Megan. I get that the character was named before you cast a Quebecois actress, but for the love of God, some lip service to the fact that she changed it and is legally Sophie-Pierre would have gone a long way for me).  Instead, we get that all the promises and ‘you-don’t-owe-me-anything’ whispers that said this might not go the most bitter way went the most bitter way.

But it’s not as though we got a lot else in the rest of the episode. Stan and Peggy have always been an interesting dynamic, and I was on board for what the previews misleadingly indicated was a story about her being the boss. But…okay, so there’s a female photographer who’s good at her job and likes to come on to everyone she works with? I do love that Peggy’s takeaway from this situation is ‘noooope, we don’t play that way here’ but I feel like we knew that about her already. Either that, or it would have been more interesting to see her lean into a similar situation that was actually tempting, for her.

Is it because we’re about to watch Peggy become a baller and we can’t be rushing it?  That is, we know that probably, of all the people who are going to be the most likely riding off into the sunset, Peggy is the one. We know that all of the things that happened to her are maybe happening in other isolated incidents around New York and will become the stories she tells when people wonder how she became such a badass. But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t rather spend time with her. Whither Brian Krakow? Or hell, at least Peggy’s oppressive family has some impact on something ongoing with our show.

There are a lot of oppressive families on this show, come to think of it.

As for Don – what do you say? There are all of the reasons why he shouldn’t go tumbling into a terrible situation with terrible, dour Diana – a woman who now literally as well as figuratively is linked with death – and he doesn’t care to hear any of them. I’m not sure what he thinks is the best part of him that he can put into rescuing her, since unlike other women in this situation, he doesn’t even muster any beautiful words to calm her out of her fog. What’s the attraction, given that he’s never going to get a ‘beautiful smile’ or anything else out of her?

It’s time for controversial opinion number two – but one I think the show actually backs me up on. I don’t think Don and Betty were the worst match. That is, they were miserable, of course, but I always thought Betty was his equal. Sharp-tongued, just as smart. She was a lot of things, but she wasn’t a babe in the woods. Maybe she even was, when they met, but that’s not the Betty Draper we met. In fact, the admiration in Don’s eyes as he looks at Mrs. Francis and how nicely her life suits her is one not just for her beauty, but for how blithely she understood how to get along in the world – even if she was miserable. (Also allow us a moment to celebrate the never-proposed but much-appreciated spin-off that never was, ‘Betty Francis, Therapist’.)

None of Don’s brunettes have had that. They need him to fill something in them, and he feels needed and then deeply resentful. Maybe – hopefully – this Diana thing was supposed to be one of those relationships on fast-forward, and he can now see – now that his home is as empty as his insides – that there’s nothing there, that he has to go back to the OFFICE, because the work is what fills him up, along with us.  Because for the last five episodes, I want more Roger, more Pete being awful, I even inexplicably want more Meredith. The walls of the office gave Don his shape and I want to see them around him, closing in or opening up, as we go out.