'Mad Men' Meets the '60s
This week's episode grapples with major issues from the decade, including race, abortion, and national security
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, 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 a visitor shakes up the Francis household and the agency receives exciting news from one of their clients.
MORE ON Mad Men:
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The Atlantic Mad Men Panel: 'Mad Men': Love and Death at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce
Richard Drew (TV producer and creator of the blog Remote Patrolled): This week's Mad Men was all about secrets—and the complications that ensue when you try to keep the truth under wraps.
Front and center was Don's true identity, jeopardized by a possible contract with the Department of Defense. Faye, Pete, and Betty (in a rare moment of warmth) became embroiled in Don's messy web of secrets, with Pete forced to take the heat for the "lost" contract. I'm not sure the grasping Pete of three years ago would have been so wiling to carry the can—but at least Campbell now has major leverage in his relationship with Don. You can bet he's going to use it.
Then there was Joan, whose recent tryst with Roger resulted in a visit to the abortion clinic and an affecting scene where Joan was mistaken for the mother of a pregnant teen. Once again, in true Mad Men fashion, the scene spoke volumes though few words were exchanged. And just like Don, you can feel Joan's life slowly drifting downward.
Moving on, there was more drama for Roger as greasy Lee Garner, Jr revealed that the "board" was pulling the Lucky Strikes account—a decision that could send Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce into bankruptcy. For now Roger is keeping the secret—but a quick tease of next week's show (which as always reveals nothing!) suggests the repercussions are soon going to be felt.
And finally there was Lane Pryce, who decided the best place to introduce his aging father to the African-American girl he was dating was to bring him to the Playboy club where she worked! Big mistake, as Lane later learned, via a swift clubbing to the head. Still at least we now see where Lane's emotionally uptight nature comes from.
Just three episodes left and you can feel the pacing quicken every week. It feels like we're heading for another explosive Mad Men finale. Here's hoping.
Catie Cambria (fashion publicist at Donna Karan New York):The men of SCDP are falling apart. Don is running from his past, Roger finds out Joan is pregnant and that Lucky Strike is dropping them, and Lane's father casts him down and demands his return to London.
The episode tries to weave together some major issues from the '60s into the dilemmas of our three partners—government surveillance, abortion, and race—and does so with some success. Roger and Joan's pregnancy seems the most organic, because unlike the other two, there is some build-up and development. The NAA account appears seemingly out of nowhere, their questioning of Betty sets Don into a panic, and he seeks refuge in Faye (it is surprising how often he lets his guard down with her). Don's meltdown is far more interesting in how it relates to Pete, who has nurtured the account for years, and takes the fall back when Don tells him to kill it to protect his name. Pete is an unforgiving and a vengeful character, and my guess is this will be wound not easily forgotten.
Lane reveals his love for his "chocolate Bunny," Toni. Toni is gorgeous and her Bunny costume is such a visual pleasure—I wonder if they made her a Bunny just so the costume designer could have a stab at this one. Unfortunately, she is sort of a flat sex object, which is disappointing because we have yet to have a "real" African-American character on the show. Lane capitulates to his father after he literally knocks some sense into him, and announces a leave of absence to head back to London.
So where does that leave SCDP? A kind of uneasy feeling permeates the room as Roger gives the thumbs up when discussing Lucky Strike in a partners' meeting, Joan fresh from her abortion, and Pete covering and protecting Don against his will and better judgment. The secrets and lies that lie beneath never seemed so close to the surface.
Past Mad Men panels:
'Mad Men': Love and Death at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce
'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
To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of insiders from the worlds of television, advertising, and fashion—