Mad Men Season 5, Episodes 4/5: Recap and Review
(Missed last week but it is somebody else’s fault, I swear! Don’t solder me to the radiator again, mom! Anyway I’ve been numbering the episodes wrong; the first week was two hours and thus episodes 1 and 2. The sitch is rectified now.)
“When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him.”
Don Draper wrote that last season when and I’ve been working it into conversations ever since, making people think I’m deeper and smarter than I really am. The statement’s basic sentiment—that we are the sum of our past and thus can’t escape it—has prevailed in the last two episodes.
We start, as always, with Don. His philandering past literally haunted him (and Megan) in last week’s episode, taking the form of a past mistress at first then a fever-dream hallucination of her. For all the kinkiness and healthy compromise that is Don and Megan’s marriage, Megan knows that Don’s “appetite” reflects more on him than Betty and understandably, she’s unsettled by that. Don spends the rest of the day being tormented by his demons, giving in before denying them emphatically with the murder of a figment. Don, despite the nicely worded thought above in bold, has made a living out of escaping his past; he is a seasoned pro when it comes to reinvention. Pulling it off again, becoming the devoted husband, can only happen if he is certain Megan is who he wants.
Perhaps revisiting the Thankometer can elucidate Don’s level of contentment.
After three weeks since I last published this titan of TV-watching tools, Don’s “thank you” count remains at one. Is it because, beneath all the posturing, Don is unsatisfied with his seemingly perfect life? Perhaps there haven’t been any scenes where a “thank you” would be appropriate. That’s not exactly true. Megan found aspirin for him and nursed him during his sickness; Trudy Campbell threw a dinner party just for him. There haven’t been many opportunities, but in the few we’ve seen Don has kept whatever gratitude he may feel silent.
Of course, maybe I just don’t want the Thankometer to be a dud. You were thinking it, I might as well say it.
Meanwhile, Peggy, another member of the Past-Ignoring All-Star Team, found something buried inside herself when she hosted Dawn. Her best efforts to be the forward-thinking 60s woman we all love were negated by a lingering glance at her pregnant purse. Dawn recognized the lack of trust behind Peggy’s kind words, leaving Peggy embarrassed for acting like Lane Pryce with a wallet. Though Peggy rejects prejudice because it is an ever-present obstacle to her, her momentary lapse revealed how deeply ingrained, and thus difficult to overcome, it can be. It is impossible not to feel for Dawn in that scene.
Kenny Cosgrove (my favorite!): another character who faces repressing his past. His story of the robot who does the opposite of what it is supposed to do mirrors his experience in the most recent episode. Kenny’s dream since high school was to be a writer, he married someone who encouraged his talents, he wrote in his free time not for fame but for the love of it—he’s not going to let his boss stand in his way. Kenny is easy-going and fulfilled, and thankfully he avoids Roger’s attempt to make him as incomplete as he (i.e. Roger) is. Which is what stopping Kenny from writing would have done.
Pete thought his tenure as king of the world entitled him to certain things: dalliances with sexy high schoolers, free jabs at the sexual preferences of Lane, what have you. What he actually got was a night with a prostitute, in which he had to pay to be her king, and a real jab from Lane.
Turns out that no one is willing to forget that Pete is insufferable for the tremendous business he brings to the firm. Pete’s aura of invincibility didn’t need to be beaten by Lane’s army-trained fists, the defined muscles of Handsome Hanson already made him feel small. But in getting beat at the office, which he had smugly lorded over for the past few weeks, Pete’s humbling was complete. Seeing Handsome finger that girl in a driver’s ed classroom at the end was just the bitter post script of a letter from Earth.