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.
To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of insiders from the worlds of television, advertising, and fashion—Richard Drew, Danielle Robinson, 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, in which Don introduces Faye to his personal drama, and Peggy receives a gift that threatens her career.
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We had drama in the form of poor Sally Draper running away from Betty, one of the worst moms in the world, and literally having to be dragged screaming from the building. The tone turned slapstick with the death of Don's scene stealing secretary, Ida (an unfortunate move in my opinion—the character still had a lot of comedic juice left), whose body was literally wheeled away behind the scenes during a client meeting.
Then there was Joan and Roger, one moment threatened by a gun-wielding robber, the next making love in a side street. Even Peggy found herself adrift, forced to question her conscience by a potential new partner and veering between indignation, anger and a desire to try and do the right thing.
As usual Mad Men juggled these contrasting tones effortlessly. In lesser hands Ida would have become an easy punch line, but the character never overshadowed the show's drama—and Bert's "she's an astronaut" send-off—was as touching as it was absurd.
Similarly Sally's dramatic fall on the office floor took what could have been a predictable storyline and made it touching—the visual of the Sterling women, watching (and judging) the ice-cold Betty spoke volumes.
Just like last season's shocking "lawnmower scene," you never know what will happen next. The only constant is quality. This is shaping up to be Mad Men's best season to date.
Catie Cambria (fashion publicist at Donna Karan New York): We ended last night with Joan, Peggy, and Faye getting into the elevator after a whirlwind few days at SDCP. Their composed, polished exteriors belie the inner turmoil and insecurity we saw in each of these women this week. Peggy's friend Joyce describes men and women as "the soup" and "the pot," and then asks Peggy, "Who wants to be a pot?" It is an apt metaphor for the strictures placed upon these women, and their inability to break free from them.
Faye, the newest to the SDCP gang, has seemed unshakeable thus far. She shifts almost effortlessly from having mind-blowing sex with Don in his apartment to helping him run a meeting with a client. It's only when Sally arrives on the scene that Faye seems less sure, and more at the beck and call of Don's orders. The breaking point is Sally's meltdown at the office, when Faye is forced to try to soothe her. Sally basically tells Faye to shut it before going careening down the hallway. In the aftermath, Faye tells Don that she feels like "she failed a test." She is not and will not be a mother, and I think she very deeply fears that Don won't accept or appreciate that.
Meanwhile, Joan is still holding on to her "good wife" image. Her husband will be shipped to Vietnam after basic, and as another secretary mentions to Roger, "everyone has been walking on eggshells." Joan is still wearing that electric hot pink from last week, not blinking an eye at Roger's clear affection or concern for her.
That is until Mrs. Blankenship drops dead at her desk. Her death I think shakes Joan the most deeply; when she writes "executive secretary" in Ida's obit, you have to wonder if she is thinking more about herself than the deceased. Roger and Joan finally end up back in each other's arms, and I am certainly rooting for them—Roger is the only person who Joan actually trusts, and the only person that gets her. When Roger apologizes for what happened the morning after, Joan simply says, "I'm not sorry, but I'm married. And so are you."
Sally's fall at the end of the episode is kind of a coda, as it brings all the women in the office together as she crumples in Megan's arms. Megan tells her that it's going to be ok, and Sally softly states, "No, it's not." As Joan, Peggy, and Faye end up in the elevator, you have to wonder if they are thinking the same thing.
Danielle Robinson (account director at New York advertising company Footsteps Group): From Sally to Mrs. Blankenship (RIP), the women of Mad Men took center stage in this week's episode.
Sally takes matters into her own hands when she runs away from home to get the attention she longs for from Don. Interestingly, Joan (finally) falls into the arms of Roger only after she loses her wedding ring to an armed robber. Fay, who agrees to take Sally to Don's apartment and sit with her after she unexpectedly showed up at the agency with a stranger who found her on the train, feels like a failure for not being able to connect with Sally and ultimately feels compelled to defend the choice she made to not have kids. Peggy tries to understand the importance of civil rights but through the lens of her own struggle for women's rights ("I'm sure they could fight their way in like I did").
And finally, Mrs. Blankenship clocked out for the last time—at her desk. In a well-written, well-played light hearted scene, Joan and Pete rolled her blanket-covered body away in a chair while Don watched nervously from a nearby meeting hoping the client doesn't turn around and see the commotion. I literally LOL'd! But it was Roger's comment afterward that struck a chord with me. He tells Joan "she died like she lived, surrounded by the people she answered phones for." What an assumption that her life in totality was spent answering phones at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Past Mad Men panels:
'Mad Men': Times Change, but Sadness Remains the Same
'Mad Men': The Don and Peggy Show
'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
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