Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Mad Men Night to Remember

MANHATTAN, New York September 15, 2008 >> mad men virtuality ©ML Duby

Revelations abound of what is known but concealed in fears. Certain truths are openly expressed on the Mad Men episode ‘A Night to Remember.’ Don, Betty, Peggy and Joan must answer their impulse to openly put the truth on the table and examine what they recognize. Self scrutiny is almost always forced on us in real life (as opposed to TV dramatic series) as well. Confessions and truth await our characters but, even at the episode’s conclusion, we do not know whether or how each will answer going forward.

The recap below contains plot spoilers about Episode 8: "A Night to Remember." If you haven't seen episode 8, check out the Mad Men Schedule to see when we're airing encore presentations or download it on iTunes.

There are numerous instances of someone convincing another to perform as they need or want. The “other” is recruited by the manipulator. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) uses a dinner party prepared by Betty Draper (January Jones) to create an impression for a client. Betty expressed outrage at being embarrassed at the dinner party about Don knowing the beer she would buy but the underlying boil of anger is from knowing that Don has been cheating on her with Bobbie Barrett (Melinda McGraw). Betty really needs space and sincerely does not want to see him. His façade has been cracked and Betty does not like what she sees about Don’s interior and also despises herself for what it shows her to be – perfect hostess, perfect wife, perfect fool to Don’s infidelity. The other affairs weigh as well on the scale of her outrage and need to separate.

Don remains in denial and cannot speak the truth to his wife. That’s the bottom line. He has reinvented himself so many times and in the present ‘Mad Men’ circumstance, he “does not want to lose all this,” i.e., Betty and the kids. There were many mirrors in the most recent episodes; now the slice of events concludes with him alone in the Sterling Cooper office kitchen nursing a Heineken.

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss ["shout out to Atlantic Theater Company"]) learns from Father Gill (Colin Hanks) that he knows about her child born out of wedlock. The hoo-hoo about the CYO dance committee is a brilliant dramatic device to carry the essential message of Peggy needing to accept some overdue spiritual truths about her process. Peggy openly admonishes Father Gill that his job is to tell the committee to trust her with her promotional ideas and execution.

When he picks up the final materials at her office, Father Gill reverses that into a message communicated as a leading question to Peggy: “Do you have something you need to talk about? I notice you don’t take communion.” Peggy naturally doesn’t want to talk about it as there are painful truths in her psych even deeper than the out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Father Gill asks, “Why are you pushing everyone away? Do you feel you don’t deserve His love?” Peggy ignores him directly and formally puts his promo materials in a box. Peggy commiserating and pondering in the bathtub at the close is a classic visual of character reflecting their impending fate.

By the way, I totally caught hell when I refused communion as a protest against the hypocrisy of the Vietnam War. Parents and authority functionaries lamented and went ballistic but… Nobody asked me anything! (When is it reality reflecting art and when is it the reverse?)

As for the highly sympathetic Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), she contains and hides her disappointment at losing the broadcast operations script reader position. We all see how clueless the Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) character is as he smims around his fishbowl life. This woman represents so many millions who were about to burn their bras, drop acid and get downright feminista on some deserving asshole “good-ole-boys”! Excuse me, but 46 years on, we still have significant portions of this society resistant to women deserving Equal Pay for Equal Work. There is an extremely well constructed pathos in the scene of Joan promptly and subserviently sashaying to get her doctor his glass of water.

On Madison Avenue of 1962, you can’t just “whack” somebody like they do on The Sopranos. Yet death and pain come in a thousand cuts. The cracks in the glass ceiling and walls are hammered a thousand times. The reality of sexism’s deeper psychological costs on woman’s physical and mental health is being dramatically revealed as well as ever done on television. We end the episode with a looming and foreboding sense of the knowing and the unknown mixed in a mist of dread and doubt. They just don’t write Medieval Morality Plays like that anymore –except for the brain trust at Mad Men, of course. //


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Juanita's Journal said...

"We all see how clueless the Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) character is as he smims around his fishbowl life. This woman represents so many millions who were about to burn their bras, drop acid and get downright feminista on some deserving asshole “good-ole-boys”!"

Actually, Harry did suggest to Roger that Joan was capable of filling the position. It was Roger who naysayed the idea and ordered Harry to hire someone else.

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