The fourth season of Mad Men is in full swing, exploring the aftermath of the creation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and the dissolution of the Draper marriage.Richard Drew, Danielle Robinson, Leigh Davenport, and Catie Cambria—to provide their takes on all the sex, the clothes, and of course, the drama.
They weigh in on this week's episode, which focuses on two of the show's most complex characters.
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The Atlantic Mad Men Panel: 'Mad Men': The Rise and Fall (and Rise?) of Don Draper
Essentially, a two-hander carried by Don and Peggy, last night's electrifying episode once again reinforced just why the 60's set series deserved last week's Best Drama Emmy. This really was TV at its best and yet more proof that we're in a golden age of the medium. No wonder movie attendance is on the downturn.
Last night's show used the famous Cassius Clay/Sonny Liston rematch as a backdrop, but the real battle was between Don and Peggy, as they bonded and battled through the night, ostensibly over a Samsonite account but in reality the discussions were about much, much more.
Neither character left the office for the whole episode and though a few characters came and went, essentially it was just Don and Peggy for a whole hour of TV. Yet the pace never slackened. Sometimes acting like father and daughter, at times brother and sister, and occasionally even squabbling lovers, this was a wonderfully unpredictable episode. A lesser show would have had Don and Peggy indulging in a one-night stand, but Mad Men is smart enough to always keep us on the edge. The drama could have gone in so many different directions.
I love the bond between Don and Peggy, the secrets they share and the jagged mix of frustration and respect they feel for one another. By the end of the episode both had reached a temporary détente—but there's no doubt there'll be further battles ahead. Looks like Mad Men just locked up next year's Best Drama Emmy...
Catie Cambria (fashion publicist at Donna Karan New York): The closing song this week was Simon & Garfunkel's "Bleecker Street," but I think it would have closed with another song of theirs, a rendition of traditional Scottish folk song titled "Peggy-O."
Aptly, the song opens with, "Come a runnin' down the stairs, pretty Peggy-O," and Peggy never looked lovelier. Her dress, a cap sleeve number with brown and marigold flowers, is more sophisticated, more fanciful than her usual matronly, unflattering sartorial choices. The outfit had some particularly enjoyable details—her pale turquoise rain jacket with the gold buttons, pretty berry lip color, and a cream chapeau (which reminds us of a younger Peggy in a pew on church on Sunday.) Peggy looks fresh and inviting, a welcome change.
The song goes on, "What will your mother say, Pretty Peggy-O," when she opts to stay in the office rather than meeting her fiancée and her family for dinner. Mark is furious and ends their relationship.
Later, with Don, Peggy notes, "I know what I'm supposed to want, but it just never feels right, or as important as anything in that office." That is what makes Peggy ultimately such a fascinating character, her drives and desires are so markedly separate from the rest of the women on the show. But there's a sense too that Peggy is also coming into her own as an attractive woman, and that the old boys of the office have noticed her after all—Duck and Don have a drunken duel, seemingly about her, late night in the office.
Peggy has a fierce, scrappy determination and biting wit, and maybe that's what Don means when he tells her she's "cute as hell." That tension between them, whether it be sexual or professional or personal, is what is driving the show right now. Don condescends, Peggy lectures, but in the end they both carry each others' secrets carefully and respectfully. I can't decide what their hand squeeze means at the end of this episode, but I can't wait to find out. .
Past Mad Men panels:
'Mad Men': The Rise and Fall (and Rise?) of Don Draper
'Mad Men': Bad Behavior All Around
'Mad Men': One-Liners, Sex Talk, and Nude Photography
'Mad Men': A Not-So-Happy New Year
'Mad Men': The Beginning of the End for Don Draper?
'Mad Men': 4 Takes on the Season Premiere
To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of insiders from the worlds of television, advertising, and fashion—