The second installment in Mad Men's Season Five aired Sunday night, and while it was only an hour compared to the premiere's two (and, alas, there was no Zou Bisou Bisou), many of the themes set up in the first episode carried through, including a focus on female-driven plots. But there were some surprises too!
As we mentioned last week, Matthew Weiner seemed to be setting us up for the season of women, women who've become empowered at a greater level than previously in both the era and the seasons of the show. This is to some extent true in this episode, though it's complicated—for as much empowerment there's an equal taking away of that power—and one wonders at times whether Weiner might sort of despise January Jones. Because Jones, aka Betty Francis, is the standout of the episode, but not in the way you'd imagine she'd hope.
The episode starts with Betty, who we didn't get to see in the first episode at all, dressing for a gala affair she's to attend with her husband Henry. She's attempting to zip up her dress—the kids are helping her—she's sucking in—and suddenly we realize that something is off. The once physically perfect specimen of Betty Draper, now Francis, is fat. And not just plump, she's fat-suit-wearing FAT (even though Jones was pregnant during filming, we're doubting this is all natural). Despite what Henry says (later in the episode he tells her she's beautiful and that he "doesn't see it"; she responds, "Your mother is obese!"), Betty is now a caricature, a housedress-wearing, Bugles-eating, couch-sitting, hiding-at-home-and-eating-sundaes depressed middle-aged married lady.This may be her penance, or perhaps her penance is something more. After a visit from Henry's mother, who tips Betty off to the idea of diet pills, Betty visits the doctor who notices a lump on her thyroid. Might Betty have cancer?