Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mad Men's "Mystery Date"

Joan, Mom, and baby
So....Joan's single. To me, that is the major takeaway from this week's Mad Men ("Mystery Date"). That, and when Don Draper murders an old fling in his apartment and drags her body under his bed. Unless that was a dream. Hmmm...

The Joan thing is interesting. She has now kicked her shady husband, the rapist and doctor, to the curb because he voluntarily extended his tour in Vietnam. I guess it was an understandable reaction considering the couple has a new baby and have barely spent any time together since getting married a season or two ago. I would assume the whole deal with Roger Sterling being the baby's real father is less of a problem now (for Joan). Besides, I can see a future episode being written where Joan's husband is killed in Vietnam.

Speaking of being killed...what the hell was with Don strangling that woman?! As we all know, Don has a loose interpretation of wedding vows. Part of the appeal of the show, frankly, is seeing all the different women Draper hooks up with. But now, with a young new wife, Don is trying as hard as he can to remain faithful. When he bumps into a past hook-up in the presence of his wife, his new resolve is tested.

Mädchen Amick on Twin Peaks
And as beautiful as new wife Megan (Jessica Pare) is, I gotta admit the show went all out in choosing a temptress for Don in this episode. Mädchen Amick, who I have crushed on since the early 90s when she was on Twin Peaks, openly flirts with Don in front of the wife, and later shows up at their house when she knows Don is alone.

Not sure if this was a real fantasy Don harbored or if it was just some heavy-handed writing, but when Amick returns to his home after he had kicked her out, the two have sex and then...he strangles her to death. But, yeah, it is just a dream. Don was tempted in the dream and succumbed to the temptation; but then, in a figurative attempt to kill that part of himself, he kills the woman.

So, does that mean he will be faithful forever?

The last thing I felt was significant about this episode was its further exploration of race issues. Race has been touched upon in the past, but now that Don has a black secretary (hilariously named Dawn), and race relations nationally are straining (1966), the issue has come back. When Peggy finds Dawn sleeping in Don's office late on a Friday night, she offers to let her stay at her apartment. Dawn reluctantly accepts.

After some drinking and girl talk, Peggy does a nice job empathizing with Dawn about being an "other" in the office (Dawn is the only person of color in the firm). Peggy is, after all, the only female employed there who is not a secretary. But that nice moment is blown when Peggy shows a hint of latent racism as the two retire for the night. As Peggy goes to her bedroom leaving Dawn on the couch, she glances at her purse on the coffee table, and for a second wonders if she should grab it and take it with her. That quick questioning of whether or not it was safe to leave your valuables in the presence of a black person was not lost on Dawn. She was gone (without stealing a thing) well before Peggy woke up the next morning.

This was a good episode that shed a little more light into the show's three most compelling characters: Don, Peggy, and Joan.

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