I’m all caught up with the past few episodes of Mad Men after treating myself to a marathon session this weekend with the episodes I saved on my DVR. After watching them I got the munchies and a hangover – the reason being that the characters on the show have indulged in more drugs in the past couple of weeks than they have in all of the past seasons combined. Sure, Roger Sterling experimented with LSD last year, but that doesn’t hold a candle to what Don, Roger, Jim, Harry, Ginsburgh, Pete – hell, most of the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Cutler Gleason and Chaough have inhaled or injected lately.
When the two firms joined forces, they were trying to come up with an ad campaign that would impress the executives at Chevrolet. Their collective creative juices weren’t flowing, so a doctor was called in to give them Vitamin B-12 injections – code word for amphetamines. Oh, they were creative alright, but nothing they said or did was remotely related to cars. From a viewer’s perspective, it was off the charts, un-Mad Men-like mayhem – and hysterically funny. Watching Don Draper crash, literally, on his face, after working for 48 hours straight without sleep was priceless. It isn’t what we’re used to which is watching Matt Weiner’s scripts played out with metaphors and the historical references that so many of us are familiar with. No, these last few episodes showed us what it really meant to be living during the 1960’s and beyond – experimentation, cracks in glass ceilings and anarchy were becoming the norm. You got high, questioned authority and didn’t settle for the jobs in the classified ads that said only men need apply.
The storyline has focused on the merger of the two ad agencies and their problems with combining employees as well as a name for the new company. Some employees were unceremoniously dumped for being redundant – nothing that doesn’t happen everyday when two companies become one. We wondered how Peggy would react to working for Joan, a partner, when they found themselves in the same office again. We found out by watching Peggy, who’s torn between being supportive and a bit superior, reminding Joan that she didn’t have to sleep with anyone to gain a title and respect.
Even though Joan managed to bring her own business tip to the table, a chance at a contract with Avon cosmetics, Peggy insisted that Pete be a part of the deal. Joan balked, stood her ground and did it her own way by not including Pete in the meeting, but also had the ire of Pete and Peggy to deal with afterwards.
The personal lives of the characters appear to be just as bumpy. Peggy is fed up with her brownstone in a “diverse” part of town and nearly kills her boyfriend, Abe, during a bit of self-defense with a homemade spear. She’s also been having fantasies about a relationship with Ted, her boss, and it’s only gotten worse since they kissed. Don’s no longer having an affair with Sylvia. She broke it off after spending the day in a hotel room, naked, waiting for Don, who was calling the shots and ordering her to submit to him when and if he calls. After a few days of stalking her, smoking cigarette after cigarette outside her apartment door, he manages to move on, by bedding his ex-wife, Betty. By the way, when did Betty go back to being a blonde? I thought Henry liked her that way, or is that why she changed her hair color back?
This week, in an episode titled “A Tale of Two Cities”, Don and Roger, along with Harry Crane, have traveled to Los Angeles to woo the people at Carnation and offer them some new ideas for their instant breakfast drink.
They end up at a party in the Hills with a few B-List Hollywood types, a lot of hippies and even more drugs. Don indulges in a little, maybe a lot, of hashish that is shared with a half dozen people around a hookah. Don then becomes a little unglued and begins to hallucinate that his wife, Megan, in complete flower child garb, is at the party. She tells him that she doesn’t care about his dalliances because, after all, this is L.A. and everything’s allowed there. She then tells him that she’s pregnant. Now, bear in mind, this is all taking place in August, 1968. The Democratic National Convention is in full head cracking swing and Sharon Tate’s murder, at the hands of the Manson family is only a year away. Is Weiner trying to hint at something horrible in Megan’s future? While that’s not entirely clear, just a theory, it’s an unavoidable viewer reaction in my opinion. Don is then dragged out of the pool, where he’s been floating face-down, by Roger. That was a tableau certainly borrowed from “Sunset Boulevard”. Much of what Don saw and felt was just a dream, a near-death experience mixed with some drug induced visions of a pregnant wife and a dead PFC Dinkins, but it’s downright eery, nonetheless.
The partners back at SCDPCGCLMNOP have come to a compromise regarding the firm’s name. With the help of Bert Cooper, it’s decided that the agency will now be called Sterling, Cooper and Partners. I’m not so sure that a name change, compromise or not, is going to fix everything that ails these new partners. Ted may come across as the advertising whisperer but it’s clear, not only from his perspective, but from the point of view of the folks from SCDP that there’s a lot left that can divide them all. They’re still seeing one another as competitors, especially having been forced by the circumstances with Chevrolet into this arranged marriage. No one’s completely comfortable – not Bert Cooper or Teddy Chaough or Jim Cutler, and certainly not Pete Campbell. Then again, who knows what, if anything, will ever make Pete comfortable. If not being a named partner isn’t bad enough, he may just have to keep an eye out for Bob Benson, the likeable, good-looking guy who is quietly making friends and allies while no one is really paying any attention. Bob’s won over Joan and has managed to get Ginsburgh off the floor, literally, and out the door to try to sell ideas to Manischewitz while Pete is left smoking a joint he snatched from Harry and wallowing in his 19th nervous breakdown. Here it comes.
Just an aside, but for those of you who watch Game of Thrones, I imagine you were as shocked by Sunday night’s episode as I was. I haven’t read the books, but I understand that those who have knew what was coming. The rest of us are still picking our jaws up off the floor. I don’t know how they’ll top that for the season finale. Kudos to HBO for bringing us such great television.