Last week I complained
that Mad Men
was moving too slowly, and there wasn't enough stuff taking place at the office. So what happens? We get the most eventful show they've ever done.
On the homefront, Betty asked for a divorce, Don learned about her guy, Don moved out and Betty moved to Reno. But that was the B-plot.
I should add I don't feel bad about the breakup. This couple has been in trouble from the start, and both have serious emotional problems. The revelation of Don's past could either have brought them together or split them apart. I do feel bad for the kids, though.
Actually, I've always felt the four central relationships in the show have nothing to do with marriage. They're Don and Roger, Roger and Joan, Don and Peggy and Pete and Peggy. For so many episodes this season, Roger or Pete or Peggy or Joan hardly figured in, so seeing all these relationships in play again was something.
In fact, I'm almost surprised at all the wish fulfillment in this plot, creator Matthew Weiner being of the David Chase/Sopranos school that glories in viewer frustration. After so many of these relationships were torn asunder this season, seeing so many put back together was heartwarming--a rare emotion on Mad Men.
And all because of a plot that almost had to happen, yet I didn't think would. The whole season was about the effect of a British firm buying Cooper Sterling, and it didn't make dramatic sense for it to last much longer. It made the main characters pinballs, batted around by flippers they didn't control. Realizing they were about to lose even more autonomy (it almost happened mid-season, too), the partners took action--finally. They decided to buy their own firm. (Didn't the same plot occur on Thirtysomething?)
It took some doing, including not a little chicanery, with time bought by the slow communications in the 60s. They had a weekend to bring it all together, absconding with what they needed and ensuring they had enough money flow to make it work. Lane Pryce, once again screwed over by his company, was in cahoots, firing the guys to let them out of their contracts and, happily, being fired himself. (Lane has become an audience favorite and I think he stole the show with his "Very good. Happy Christmas" to his British superiors and "You're a smart boy" to his lackey. I wonder if this was Weiner's original plot, or did he realize the character was working and he didn't want to leave Pryce behind?)
So, early on, Don made up with Roger. It wasn't just to get him on his side--he realized Roger did something valuable, something he couldn't do (as he learned, among other things, from Conrad Hilton). I think admitting his past has opened up Don. Usually so cool and in command, in this episode he spent so much time with hat in hand you thought his specialty was apologizing. (And I think they were all honest apologies.) Roger later let slip about Betty's guy, but, more important, they were drinking again, like the buddies they'd long been.
Rounding up the underlings wasn't so easy. Both Peggy and Pete showed surprising attitude. Or maybe not so surprising, considering they'd been kicked around a lot lately, and had offers. But Don was able to admit to both he needed them. From the start both have longed for Don's approval, but it was weird (for them, I suppose, but for the audience, too) to see it showered upon them. The most important scene was probably Don going to Peggy's place and getting her back. She's his protege, and for the first two seasons their relationship was probably the most special in the show. Seeing her split from Don would have been much tougher than seeing Betty leave.
Then, late in the show, Roger asked Joan back. Joan needs the job, but the fledgling firm needs her even more. In any case, it was good to see her back, doing what she does better than anyone else.
The only relationshp not explored was Pete and Peggy. They'll still be working together, even closer than before, but we didn't really see them together this episode.
Meanwhile, they brought along Harry Crane. The job he created for himself, media head, would be central to any firm in that era. Left behind, apparently, were Ken and Paul. Also Kurt and Smitty. (Art and copy teams may be the rage, but not for Don.) How these characters figure in the future (of the firm and the show) is unknown. Maybe Duck can use them? Paul discovering Peggy's empty office, as if the Rapture just hit, was a good moment.
Some fans may also want Sal back. It makes sense, especially considering the complete lack of an art department. But their biggest client is the one that wants him out, so I don't see it happening just yet.