In the most purely enjoyable episode of this “Mad Men” season so far, we finally spent some time with Joan in her new role as SCDP partner, with Megan on the soap set, with Dawn outside of the office, and with Peggy in a Draper-style pitch meeting.
And we were reminded that Don is a hypocritical jerk (apparently some people are still shocked by this?) with serious control issues, but also a deeply wounded soul. That’s classic “Mad Men.” And while “To Have and to Hold” wasn’t on the level of the series’ very best episodes, it was pretty darn close.
[Note: In the spirit of showrunner Matthew Weiner declaring
that this season is about Dr. Arnold Rosen telling Don, “People will do
anything to alleviate their anxiety,” we’re tracking the happiness of key
characters week by week.]
The “Mad Men” happiness index, week three:
1) Roger (last week, #1): Roger’s ennui is sure to resurface at some point, but he’s still on top of the world this week — trying to pay off Harry Crane to keep him happy while cracking jokes at his expense.
2) Peggy (last week, #5): Those minor irritations Peggy was facing at the office last week are a distant memory once she gets in the room to make her presentation to Heinz. Stealing one of Don’s classic lines — “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation” — Peggy rocks Tim Jablonski’s socks off. But it’s the sight of Don eavesdropping at the door (like Peggy did so many times before) that makes this role reversal especially delicious. The moment had to come sooner or later. How long before Don begs her to come back?
3) Stan (unranked last week): Stan is a simple man. Just give him some weed and a secret room, and he’ll do the rest. He didn’t even seem all that upset about Peggy turning up for the Heinz presentation (which she only found out about because Stan unintentionally tipped her off).
4) Joan (last week, #6): Joan faced her share of embarrassing moments this week — especially with Harry Crane’s tantrum during the partner’s meeting (“I’ve actually earned it!”) — but a visit from her beauty product saleswoman friend Katie (Marley Shelton) helped put everything in perspective. It doesn’t really matter how Joan landed her partnership, what matters is that she’s a partner (even her mother is unusually proud to say that) and what she does with that power position. Katie may be older, but she’s looking up to Joanie now — and Joan likes that. Even Katie’s clumsy attempt at a one night stand wound up reasserting Joan as a woman in control of her sexuality, suggesting there’s little interest in diving right into any potential negative repercussions from what happened last season.
5) Dawn (unranked last week): After impressive work in a handful of scenes last season, Teyonah Parris stepped up to the plate for her biggest showcase so far. Now we know Dawn’s commitment to her job, what she thinks of her colleagues (“Everybody’s scared there. Women crying in the ladies room, men crying in the elevator. It sounds like New Year’s Eve when they empty the garbage, there’s so many bottles.”) and a bit more about her life outside of work. We’ll have to wait and see if this is the show’s way of laying the groundwork for exploring more of black life during the Civil Rights era, but Dawn’s instinct to make sure she’s on Joan’s good side seems like a smart one. (And special mention is deserved for Parris’ frightened jump when Joan calls out her name after reprimanding Scarlett.)
6) Cosgrove (last week, #2): It was a rough week for golden boy Cosgrove, and the neuroses that stem from having a Dow Chemical executive for a father-in-law (“If he wants people to stop hating him, he should stop dropping napalm on children!”) aren’t even the worst of it. He’s blindsided by the loss of the Heinz baked beans account when word leaks out about Don and Pete’s secret plan to woo Heinz ketchup. He feels betrayed by Don, who Ken thought understand the value of loyalty. Big mistake.
7) Harry (unranked last week): Harry is still the Rodney Dangerfield of SCDP — even Pete gets more respect — but he’s starting to realize the grass may be greener somewhere else. Attacking Joan in the partners meeting was a dumb play, but Harry has never been savvy about climbing the corporate ladder. He simply brings money into the company and expects to be rewarded accordingly. No more sitting on the sidelines when everyone else gets their picture taken.
8) Pete (last week, #10): Still living in the city. Still miserable. Pete pushes for the Heinz ketchup meeting, which backfires badly. And he tries to offer his de facto bachelor pad to Don if he ever needs to “spend a night in the city.” “I live here, Pete,” Don snaps, unamused.
9) Megan (last week, #8): Everything’s going from bad to worse for Mrs. Draper. Philandering Don can’t stomach the idea of his wife acting out a love scene with another man and makes his first ever stop by her set to register his disgust (“You kiss people for money, you know who does that?” — is a clear sign of his own personal demons), leaving Megan in tears in her dressing room. Meanwhile, the bond she thought she was building with her co-star (Joanna Going) and the show’s producer (Ted McGinley) comes with a price: they’re swingers looking to swap spouses with the Drapers, who are both mortified by the offer.
10) Don (last week, #9):
His hypocritical cruelty may have left Megan in tears, but Don’s the one with the Catholic mistress praying for him to find peace. He’s the one eavesdropping outside the door during Peggy’s presentation. And he’s the one still burdened with Joan’s decision to sleep with the Jaguar executive. Is there anything left for him to cling to?
Falling off the index: Sylvia Rosen and Bob Benson were both present but only minimally involved in the episode, while Trudy wasn’t on screen this week (even though Alison Brie was oddly still credited as a guest star).