Mad Men – S4, Episode 8

28 Oct

The Summer Man, as this episode was titled, was all about changes. Changes in the season, changes in Don and the lack of change everywhere else – Betty’s relationships, the SCDP office and sexual politics.

After the tumultuous events of  last week, this episode was bound to feel a bit flat. Of course, compared to any other episode of any other show, it’s still superb, but the voiceover probably didn’t help. It just didn’t fit with the tone – although it was nice to hear some of Don’s inner workings as he struggles to turn the page and become the new and improved Don Draper.

The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction‘ sets the theme nicely: Betty isn’t satisfied with her new life, Peggy isn’t satisfied with her power at work, Don isn’t giving any one any of that kind of satisfaction and of course, Joan is wholly unsatisfied with the awful Joey.

“What do you do around here beside walking around like you’re trying to get raped?”

As shocking as this outburst was, it just proved how little has really changed since the 1960s and now. Female victims of rape are still accused of dressing or behaving provocatively – how often have you heard someone say ‘she was asking for it’? Joan’s damning portrayal of herself and Peggy also hit a nerve:

“All you’ve done is prove to them that I’m a meaningless secretary and you’re another humourless bitch.”

Unfortunately, those caricatures are still widely used by men and women to strip an individual of respect and power. I thought Joan was needlessly harsh to Peggy here – although I can see her side of the argument too. It seems a shame that these two can’t get along. I don’t expect – or want – them to be friends, but it would be nice to see a bit of girl power at SCDP.

Also lacking in power was Betty. Deciding to get drunk after seeing Don with Bethany might not have been the most sensible idea, but it was the most realistic. Her sullen behaviour in the car with Henry made her come off pretty badly though. January Jones was particularly wide-eyed here; an intentional mirroring of Sally (who I want to see more of desperately) or a more general hint towards her immaturity, enforced by her assertion that she had only even ‘been’ with Don before?

Don, on the other hand, is becoming more mature as he decides not to sleep with two blonde beauties in a row. One (Bethany), because he already knew how the story would end. The other (Faye), because he didn’t want to ruin what they had like he has done so many times before. This, and the fact he’s trying to quit drinking and in general, be a better man, shows the effect last week had on him. Plus, he’s now funny. Calling Mrs Blankenship Ray Charles made me literally laugh out loud, and I don’t think Mad Men has ever had that effect on me before.

The episode ended with Betty reminding herself that she and Henry “have everything”, opposed to Don who has nothing (well done Francine). By my judgement, that looks set to change. But then MM has never played by the rules. It would be nice to let Don be happy for just a while though.

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