Last week’s episode, Severance, was a good reminder on what the human brain does to resist closure. Ken Cosgrove, the one-eyed sunny optimist that show’s viewers grew to appreciate, had the perfect chance to live his dream life where he could live away from the city and write to his heart’s content.
Then he decided to choose revenge.
This week’s episode of Mad Men was full of twist and turns which makes for a decent contrast to the rather slow (though I did love it) season opener. We get a Megan storyline! We get Casting Couch Crane (Harry) in full sleaze! Pete Campbell golfing!?! And look Betty and Bobby (still no Sally though)!
But let’s build upon this “closure” idea. Let’s look at the big parts of tonight’s story line.
Arguably the most telling is that between the waitress (Di) and Don. Don finds her and offers her his number. She calls after work and they sleep together because Don I guess. However, Di continues to be either an interesting or rather infuriating character throughout the episode. Like Don, she has a past she feels (very understandably for the record) about and that’s the passing of her daughter from influenza. Don, who hates his past and is always looking for a new reason to enter the future while not changing himself, starts to fall for her.
After a back alley rendezvous and an overnight visit, suddenly they seem to be a couple. They don’t tell each other much but there is an implication of mutual understanding between the two, even if Di is ridiculously vague about her life. She’s hurting but with Don, she feels “a twinge in my chest”. Don keeps coming back and its still worth mentioning that he revisits her after the death of Rachel Katz. Little weird.
Megan Draper makes her return with her lovely family who are just the worst. Megan is desperate to make a change and this time she looks to Harry Crane, the not-partner of SCDP, to help kickstart her career. She doesn’t really know what she wants, but there is one thing we know she doesn’t want and that’s Harry Crane who tries to sleep with her in exchange for essentially being her agent. For a show that routinely showcases the misogyny, sexism, racism, and business practices of the time; it still is one of the most cringeworthy and sleazy moments in the show’s history.
Jiminy Christmas is Harry the worst.
But Harry, who gets a few minutes of screen time but nothing more, is noteworthy in the sense of what he is trying to be. Harry’s intentions are really no worse than Don’s throughout the show. He has a pretty sweet gig at an advertising firm that needs him. He has always shown to be a bit of a forward thinker in the sense of media and was introduced as the “nice guy/nerd” who cried during Don’s “nostalgia” pitch.
Now he is either corrupted by his position or thinks that’s what he should do. For a guy who used to introduce himself as being married, he’s really fallen by the wayside but with none the charisma of Roger or Don. Instead of the nice guy, he’s the odious slime of SCDP.
The other story line of the day involves Peggy, Stan and Pima, a photographer played by Mimi Rogers. Pima is powerful and immediately Stan feels threatened by her. Stan looks and speaks with her with such disdain that it seems inevitable that they are going to hookup and they do in the dark room.
Then Pima tries to do the same with Peggy who pauses confusedly. Nothing happens but the implication is pretty clear that Pima knew exactly what she was doing. Mimi Rogers killed it by the way in this role.
Back to Megan. A moving company that she hired to take her furniture back from Don’s apartment has literally taken all the furniture from the damn apartment. Megan’s mother gets Roger to pay the movers via sex with Roger (classic), and of course Megan walks in right after the deed is done.
Megan and Don get a small scene together as Megan just launches into a mini-tirade about how Don ruined her, and of course Don writes her a check for a million dollars to basically get the hell out of his life. Megan takes it and gives Don his ring back before walking out of what we can imagine, is Don’s life. The conflict Megan feels internally is worth exploring a bit more in future episodes because her hatred of Don (while partly justified, we should remember) is also part displacement of the way her family treats her and her blaming Don for such.
But Don is Don. So he returns to Di, and I think we are expecting a proposal. Then Di drops the boomstick that she had two children in fact and the other is with her father. Di essentially breaks up with Don while telling him that the pain she feels from her daughter being away is gone when she’s with Don. Di might actually be right for Don, as toxic as their relationship could be, but she knows she can’t be with him.
Then in selling it a bit too strong, Don walks home to an empty apartment. The pain of the past, the Greek definition of nostalgia, and the twinge of reality is seen. He’s alone. He’s empty and while his professional life seems to be about as good as it’s ever been….he still has nothing.