Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mad Men: Election night is party night!

Spoilers for "Nixon vs. Kennedy," the penultimate episode of "Mad Men" season one, coming up just as soon as I direct a one-act play...

"Mr. Campbell, who cares?"

Hah! Hah! Hah! Yes! Hah!

If that wasn't my exact reaction to Bert Cooper's reaction to the Dick Whitman news, it's only because I'm not sure where the "Yes!" went.

It's not that I was surprised by that response. After Pete walked off with The Box at the end of last week's episode, I talked it over with a bunch of "Mad Men"-worshipping critics, and we came up with several scenarios for how this might play out: 1)Pete resists the urge to use this knowledge, either out of fear or one final attempt to get Don to like him; 2)Pete simply doesn't understand the contents of The Box; 3)Pete successfully blackmails Don into getting his support for the head of Accounts job; or 4)Pete takes the info to Cooper, and Cooper -- Ayn Rand-loving, every man for himself, up by your bootstraps Bert Cooper -- says, well, "Who cares?" (Or something like it.)

So it wasn't shock that made me so overjoyed by the response, but rather Matt Weiner staying true to the spirit and themes of the show, not only with Cooper's response, but how both Don and Pete behaved throughout the story. Cooper believes in Rand's theories of rational self-interest, but also in the power of advertising, of creating the reality your customer wants to be sold. Who cares who Don Draper used to be if he can sell cigarettes and make Cooper money? If anything, Don's reinvention, if Cooper knew all the details of it (which we finally do; more below), would only raise his opinion of his creative director.

When Pete tries to play bully -- the only trick he knows -- with the info contained in The Box, Don resorts to the most important trick he knows, the one the hobo taught him. He wants out, wants to grab Rachel Menken and go anywhere but where he's about to be revealed for the fraud he's always been. But lucky for him (and those of us who get to witness the glorious smackdown), Rachel wants no part of that. She finally sees Don for who he is and the image she's sold herself on, calls him a coward and tells him to leave. In a series in which characters are too often willing to be prisoners in their own lives, Rachel takes control of hers and kicks Don to the curb. That, coupled with Peggy's speech about how following the rules gets you nowhere in a world where bad people have all the advantages -- culminating in the same "It's not fair" line that Don used when discussing the election results with Cooper -- leads Don to finally, however briefly, make a stand for something other than himself. He knows that he's probably going to lose in a scenario where Pete rats him out to Cooper, but he also knows that Pete's going to lose, too -- Cooper's not the type to value rats -- and if he has to sacrifice himself to prevent Pete's advancement, so be it.

And Pete, who is as clueless about self-sacrifice as he is about his own limitations (I loved Don's non-answer to the question about what Duck could offer that Pete couldn't; it reminded me of the old Louis Armstrong line, "If you gotta ask, you'll never know"), isn't smart enough to avoid the mutually-assured destruction scenario. Don keeps his job, and he doesn't even need to take up Cooper on the offer to fire Pete, because he knows how much power he now holds over the little weasel -- and how little respect Cooper now has for Pete.

And yet, as I was noting in this morning's column, Don's really only an admirable soul when you hold him next to someone like Pete (or Paul, or Ken). Though the flashback to how Dick Whitman wound up assuming Don Draper's identity (after accidentally starting the fire that killed Draper) didn't make him look too much the heel, the final flashback to Dick-turned-Don on the train, watching his family and ignoring the cries from young Adam, showed just how destructive Don's selfish impulses can be. Sure, he's out of that place, but he strands Adam there, knowing he's been abandoned by his brother. It's a scene made many times more affecting by our knowledge of how Don would treat Adam years later, and what that would lead Adam to do. You see that little boy, and all he wants is to see his big brother again, and it's devastating. In that moment, I had only one thought in my head: Goddamn you, Don Draper. I know your childhood sucked, but think about someone else just once, okay?

While the Don/Dick/Pete situation was the heart of the episode, a surprising -- and rewarding -- amount of time was spent on the junior staff's election night debauchery. I clocked that segment -- from when Don leaves the office on Tuesday to when Peggy arrives on Wednesday -- as close to 15 minutes, which is an eternity in TV time, even with the brief interludes at the Draper and Campbell households. Yet it didn't feel long. Like the other "Mad Men" episodes that focus on after-hours (say, "Marriage of Figaro" or "The Hobo Code"), there was a hypnotic, voyeuristic quality to these scenes, as if any plot developments (Harry sleeping with Pete's secretary Hildy) or character revelations (Paul once scored with Joan, but she spurned him because he bragged about it to the other chipmunks) are less important than the simple act of being with these people. It's like Weiner says: when this show is really working, it's less a drama than some kind of time machine. That sounds pretentious as hell until you get a look at that water cooler full of creme de menthe or see everyone sitting politely to watch Salvatore and Joan perform Paul's stupid play.

God, I love this show.

Some other thoughts on "Nixon Vs. Kennedy":
  • Lead director Alan Taylor was in charge of the series' most cinematic episode to date. The fluid camerawork throughout the office party was a wonder to behold and the push-in on Don after Pete made his initial threat (pictured above) showed just how right Taylor was when he insisted to Weiner that the dominant image of the opening credits should be the back of Jon Hamm's head. (As Weiner put it, Taylor said to him, "Have you seen the back of this man's head? Have you seen what that is, what presence that is? Who is this person, this mystery?")
  • The flashback with young Adam solved the chronology confusion from "5G" -- this was the moment he talked about when he said he was 8 years old when he saw Don in his uniform -- but that also means that someone in charge of casting thought Jay Paulson could pass for 18, which he couldn't. Win some, lose some.
  • A cliche of black and white romantic movies was the moment where the plain Jane heroine would take off her dowdy spectacles and get the "Why, without your glasses on, you're beautiful!" reaction from the hero. I'm not saying Rich Sommer, who plays Harry, is a matinee idol without his glasses, but it was stunning how different he looked (or how different Sommer carried himself) in the morning-after sequence with Hildy. Harry's gotten the least screen time of the chipmunks, previously established as the nerdy married guy who lives vicariously through the adventures of guys like Paul and Ken. Now he's gone and bedded Hildy -- whose rejection of every one of Pete's clumsy advances fuels Pete's hatred of her -- and you can see what an awful mistake he realizes it was.
  • Getting back to Paul's roman a clef, "Death Is My Client" (in which he couldn't even be bothered to come up for another name for the off-stage Ken Cosgrove character, so much does he resent Ken's literary success), did you catch that whopper of a kiss Salvatore laid on Joan, not to mention Salvatore's beaming expression after? Sadly, it looks like he's decided to give heterosexuality a go (or at least to continue with his self-denial). Which interpretation of Joan's reaction do you favor: that she finally realized he's gay, that she always suspected and was surprised he kissed her so well, or that she was simply turned on by it?
  • I spent a lot of time in today's column praising Jon Hamm, but I feel like I can't leave unmentioned the stunned look on Don's face as he walks out of Cooper's office after getting off scot-free. What a performance by this guy.
  • Great work by the make-up (or prop) team on the real Draper's corpse. And yet crispy-fried Don Draper grossed me out less than Pete warning Peggy to be nice to him.
  • Did anyone else catch that the black elevator operator and janitor who got fired after Peggy complained about her stolen blouse and cash (which were no doubt swiped by a white S/C employee) were likely the same two who were there the morning of Peggy and Pete's assignation on his office couch?
What did everyone else think?

48 comments:

Dan Coyle said...

Jon Hamm is amazing. He says so much with so little, it's the kind of thing that makes you appreciate acting as a craft.

It's a minor thing, but I loved in the episode how they simply held on the reborn as Dick Don is given his purple heart, then in the frame the military officers moved to the next guy, and recited the purple heart speech. I don't know why, but that struck me as moving and sad.

I agree that Dick is a good guy, but he's so cowardly- yet, his vulnerability makes one want to root for him. If he let his guard down, maybe things would get better. But letting his guard down after all these years is an alien concept.

Cooper stole the show in the climax. I almost feel sorry for Pete. Almost.

holly said...

I am inexplicably, rabidly obsessed with this show. Great review.

P.S. Great music taste, too :).

Anthony Foglia said...

Excellent episode. From the moment Don left his office to force Pete's hand till Don picked up his hat and got off the train was mesmerizing. As predicted and expected Cooper didn't care who Don used to be, just who he is, but the how made it fascinating.

I'm glad to know how Dick became Don, but it didn't make me like Dick anymore. I don't like that this clumsy coward killed Don and then took his name. But Weiner still makes you root for 1960 Don over all the other worse people in the office, especially Pete.

Wasn't Harry they one who showed Peggy around in the second episode, who told her that some writers are women? I assumed he was flirting with her. (Some was being friendly, unlike Paul and Ken, who don't have a sympathetic bone in their bodies, would have done.) But here Harry was happily married. Am I remembering wrong and it was someone else who had sandwiches with Peggy.

As for Joan's reaction to Salvatore's kiss, I think she enjoyed it. Sal's still in self-denial, but if Joan decided to try flirting with him, it might work. They're both two of the oldest unmarried people in the office, and since Roger doesn't seem to be coming back, Joan might decide Sal deserves a spot in her rotation. (PS: I didn't catch that Paul once scored with Joan, but that she knew him well enough to know he'd blabber if they did. Maybe I missed a line.)

Anonymous said...

I finally appreciated JH's acting when I saw his typical portrayal of arrogant Don Draper contrasted with that of the meek Dick Whitman - couldn't believe it was the same man.

And count me in the "Joan twigs on that Sal doesn't kiss 'like the other boys'" camp...

Roxanne said...

On the play within the play:

I think you missed the Rand references.

R.A. Porter said...

My favorite Don moment was in Rachel's office. In fact, I thought the writers should have trusted Jon Hamm's singular ability more and not had Rachel utter the line asking if he was 12-years old. His demeanor, the anxious look in his eyes, and the way he raised his voice and let it waver conveyed all the fear of little Dick Whitman living at the core of Don Draper.

Alan, I'm surprised you let slip the reference to the character named "Galt" in Paul's play. I especially liked that he *wasn't* the thinking character.

Eires32 said...

Anthony,
It was Paul who showed Peggy around the office and made the comment about female copywriters...then made the unsucessful pass (or unsucessful attack really). Joan also made a comment to Peggy in the pilot..something about not "making mistakes..like that one" (indicating Paul).
Too bad the two characters I love the most won't get together and take over Manhattan!

drake leLane said...

'who is John Galt?'

apparently he's a brute!

I realize it's the wrong era (and thus probably not intended,) but Tollefson (who Sal plays) is a character name from Lake Wobegon Days and Lake Wobegon Boy... the small town kid who makes a new life for himself in Upstate New York.

I heard that and thought what a strange and beautiful marriage of idealogy, Rand and Keillor make.

LA said...

Best comedic moment was Sal telling Peggy, "I stole your blouse."

And who the hell would ask Pete Campbell to recommend a urologist?

Did anyone else notice Alison (the girl wearing the blue panties) sneaking out of the next office right after Hildy left Harry's?

drake leLane said...

Also, how appropriate that one smarmy Desperate Housewives Husband (Mark Moses as 'Duck') is replacing another (John Slattery) as Director of Account Services.

cms said...

Call me crazy, but I was disappointed by the scene with Rachel. I really thought she was the person who could allow Don/Dick to be real. I know the school of thought is that his pitiful display WAS the real Don (i.e., cowardly), but his character is way too multi-dimensional for an easy read. I thought that Rachel had connected with that complexity, but it seems she was only projecting her "ideal man" onto him. And Don/Dick will never live up to anyone's ideal. He's too real for that, ironically.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think you missed the Rand references.

Would you believe I've never actually read any Rand? She was never on any of my English class reading lists, and the basic philosophy -- explained to me several times in college by obnoxious Rand devotees -- was such a turn-off that I never considered reading one on my own time.

R.A. Porter said...

Count yourself as lucky, Alan. I read "Anthem" when I was in college and it was a derivative piece of tripe. From what I know about Rand's philosophy (best summed up by shrunken Daffy Duck with the treasure shouting "Mine! Mine! ALL MINE!") this shorter work says about all she's got to say as a thinker.

She broke about as much ground in terms of genre fiction and philosophy in that novel as the writers do week in and week out on Heroes: "Ooh, look! Superheroes without costumes!" The difference, of course, is that Rand *thought* she was new and original and deep, whereas the writers on Heroes are just trying to have fun.

drake leLane said...

Yeah, Rand's philosophy is a tad repulsive... I've only read enough to know I can't (or, more honestly, shouldn't) really identify. Mad Men is great at making very subtle criticism of her 'objectivism'. Subtle enough that fans of her philosophy would probably find the show's mention of her to be only complimentary.

LA said...

Re: Ayn Rand and Objectivism... devotees include Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan. Ahem. Enough said.

BigTed said...

From what I know about Ayn Rand, she would have approved of Don's selfish self-reinvention even more than Cooper did.

The talk of election fraud, and of whether Nixon should have conceded in such a close race, certainly had a contemporary ring. They literally could have been discussing Bush-Gore. It was yet more fine work on the part of the writers.

When Pete was examining Don's, um, package, he seemed to be doing it with more loving care than was necessary to study up for blackmail -- and apparently had been over the course of several nights. Maybe he was happy to be the only one who knows what makes the big guy tick... or maybe it was something more?

I missed something in the explosion flashback. How did there happen to be a trail of fuel from the foxhole to an ammunition shed for Dick's lighter to ignite? (One thing's for sure: This show never lets up on the dangers of smoking.)

Anonymous said...

Re: explosion flashback, I had the impression that Dick didn't piss himself (ahem), the lighter had been leaking. I know it's a stretch...

Niffer said...

Hmm... I need to watch Mad Men when I'm fully awake. I thought it was Don (the original) who dropped the lighter. Oh well.

Also, as evidence of how much I've been sucked into Don's (2.0) point of view, I wasn't as bothered by the scene on the train as everyone else. Or maybe it's because Adam annoyed the daylights out of me earlier.

I also thought the situation in Korea had a certain feel about it... One officer and one enlisted man diggin a ditch, when there should obviously be more. It had a wonderful f*cked-upedness about it that said something about war, and gaev some insight into Don's view of the world.

brian said...

I was also confused about how the trail of fuel was on the ground.

I thought the new guy's name was Doc and that Pete was making an insulting joke when he said "What's his name...Duck?".

I sympathize with Don 2.0 on the train. Leaving was obviously such a difficult choice that he couldn't even make it until he was right at the station. What was he to do? His fraud would have been revealed to the other officer as soon as he stepped off the train. I felt for him as much as I did for the brother.

Pete's very creepy. I was not a fan of Vincent Cartheiser (sp?) on Angel, but he's great here. Whether he's pondering Don's childhood, intimidating Peggy, or being bullied by his wife, he's riveting.

I took Joan's expression to mean "something's off with that kiss". I don't think she'd jump to the conclusion that he's gay from it; just that there's something "different".

arrabbiata said...

Another excellent episode. Looking forward to next week, even though it means the end for a while.

John Hamm once again delivers a knock-out performance. I was impressed by the way he handled his two characters (Don and Dick) in this one.

I agree that his abandoning of Adam at the train station was despicable, but I think it was less about escaping his family (at that point he was old enough to walk away on his own) and more about avoiding the consequence of his desertion and identity theft. Even if the other officer didn't figure it out, I wouldn't be surprised if his mother turned him in.

Taking on the identity of Don Draper not only got him out of Korea (another running away), but it was an excuse to be a new person, a better person than Dick could ever be. While some aspects of his original character remain in Don, the first time (that I can recall) we see the full emergence of his old self is in Rachel's apartment, and it's not pretty. She was right to throw this loser out.

I'm curious to see how all this affects Don. People are gradually learning far more about him, past and present, than he wanted.

Oh, and the election night party- hard to believe that businesses could ever get away with that, even after hours. Loved watching it though.

Anonymous said...

Re: The explosion in Korea. During the attack that preceedes the explosion, you see a fuel canister get knicked by some bullets. It probably leaked into the foxhole. The fuel from a lighter wouldn't be enough to create that giant fireball.

Toby said...

With Pete trying to blackmail Don, and Don's dark suggestion that such an act could have two different outcomes, my mind kept going back to that rifle Pete is keeping in his office (and how easy it seems to be to take things from others in those offices).

BigTed said...

Niffer: I thought the "feel" of the army scene was more a way for the producers to save money. Just two characters, and barely a set, on what looked very much like a Southern California hillside. The whole thing was a little disappointing.... I thought Don's big secret would have a little more "bang" to it, if you'll pardont he expression.

R.A. Porter said...

If Weiner did the right thing, he filmed the trenching for a future Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Malibu Creek State Park.

dez said...

Did anyone else notice Alison (the girl wearing the blue panties) sneaking out of the next office right after Hildy left Harry's?

Yep, and it cracked me up. But not as much as Cooper's "Mr. Campbell, who cares?" I laughed so hard that I missed some of the ensuing dialogue (as if I needed such an excuse to watch this excellent episode again). Take that, Pete, you weasel supreme!

Another thing about Rand: she created her philosophy, in part, to get laid (which she did plenty of). I bet a lot of her acolytes on this show would *love* that aspect of "objectivism."

Not surprised to find out Dick was a coward. What I liked is that Don had enough balls to let Pete tell his secret to Bert and take whatever consequences came from that. Now if only he would be man enough to confront his part in the problems of his marriage. Not yet, of course (don't want the show to burn out too much plot too soon), but eventually.

Jon Hamm is the man.

Nancy said...

Please, please, please, please give John Hamm an Emmy. He is perfectly cast in this show.

@r.a. porter: you hit it spot on!

Did you guys ever watch "The Patty Duke Show" where she played cousins Patty and Cathy? The best scenes on that show were when Patty Duke was playing Patty pretending to be Cathy (or vice versa). It was fascinating watching her play two different characters at the same time! Well, this episode showed John Hamm showing off his versatility doing the same thing. In that scene with Rachel you could tell it was Dick trying hard to be Don, but revealing hints of his true coward self. Loved it!

Tom said...

r.a. porter:

It sure looked like the park you suggest. Which sparked a memory as I watched:

"Suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes..."

Whadda show this is!

drake leLane said...

Just another interesting cultural note... they used Yma Sumac's "Gopher Mambo" during the chase around the steno-pool, which I just realized is a pretty interesting choice.

Rumors spread about Yma Sumac (around 1951 or so) that she was actually a Jewish secretary at Capital Records named Amy Camus (names spelled backwards.) This challenge (a hoax) to her exotic identity was a serious blow to her career at the time. She bounced back, though, since fans ultimately (metaphorically) asked "who cares?" How does her being Jewish affect how I much I like to mambo to her freakish octave-like singing?

Sumac, for her part, insisted to her dying days that she was the descendant of an Incan princess.

scott hollifield said...

Awesome episode! Just wanted to insert my interpretation of the Sal/Joan kiss: Sal's very slightly awkward smile was half flushed self-consciousness over the unnaturalness of kissing a woman, and half relief at the impromptu opportunity to further build on his closeted facade. Not entirely sure about Joan. I would have sort of thought she'd maybe be the one person in the Sal who actually had secretly figured him out, but that did seem to be a look of genuine suprise on her face, though I can't tell if it's in reaction to the intensity of the kiss (which was ample) or if she sensed that something was different about the way he kissed.

Just one of those many complicated Mad Men moments that make you love this show for its textured characterizations.

Alan Sepinwall said...

So much going on in this episode that there's been virtually no discussion of the election itself, and whether Weiner and company were using Kennedy and Nixon as a parallel for Pete and Don (or vice versa). And since I'm too swamped writing my Friday Night Lights post, I'm just going to link to a couple of very insightful TWoP posts on the subject. Feel free to discuss if you want.

Anonymous said...

This episode pushed the series from good to great in my opinion. After viewing the episode I thought back to the Sopranos College episode, or the conclusion of The Wire's 1st Season, and it gave me that same feeling of this show is just on another level. I can't wait for the finale and hopefully a anouncement for the 2nd season.

jeanne said...

Does Don even know that Adam killed himself? I thought Adam put a note in the box, but when Don opened the box, I don't recall seeing a note there. If Adam did put a note in there, what did Pete do with it?

Ezra said...

I'd assumed that Don was in Korea longer but it seems like he was only there for a few weeks. And here I thought Don was some kind of war hero.

Also, where was that guy on the train who recognized Dick Whitman? Maybe some of you can refresh my memory: did he say he knew Dick from basic training?

Meridith said...

Alan, I'm so glad you mentioned Harry's post-glasses transformation. I've always marveled on this show about how well-cast the men are. As they used to say on Mystery Science Theater, they're "doughy guys."

But when Harry took off his specs, I was amazed and impressed. I also felt bad when he broke his glasses. There weren't any about-an-hour Lens Crafters back then.

I was also pretty fascinated with the actual election night coverage. Loved those hand-written results on the huge blackboard.

zodin2008 said...

I have to agree with the earlier comment about Vincent Kartheiser as an actor.

On "Angel", I found him annoying and most fans were happy when Connor stopped being a regular. (his return in the final season of "Angel" was better).

But the character of Pete really works here as a weasel. He's the perfect foil to Don/Dick - and really a character that's a sign of the times, maybe more than anyone.

But Jon Hamm and this show HAVE to be nominated for an Emmy.

Rand said...

I think Rand would probably hate Don (by the way, my username is from the random number function in C++, not from Ayn Rand (although a friend of mine did suggest that), while I've read some of her books and respect some of her ideas, ultimately I decided against that philosophy), because he purposefully carves out an appearance for the outside world. Rand's heroes largely don't give a damn about what other people think of them. Instead he reminds me of Gail Wynard in the Fountainhead, the self-made millionaire who's papers are devoted to the absolutely featureless masses. He thinks he can assert his individuality after creating his own empire, but the empire he has created subverts his independence. Don thinks he can become independent through creating a false face, but the need to maintain the false face consumes his independence. I'm not saying this is the intention of Mad Men or anything of that like, I'm just saying that's my read on Don.

Tommy B said...

I am really late to commenting on this past week's show, I will try harder to get on for the finale. First all no wonder they were all so hung over, Creme de Menthe is deadly (I know from breaking into the parents liquor cabinet as a teenager). As for the kiss between Salvatore and Joan I took Joan's expression to be that of realization that he doesn't prefer women. Joan has been the object of many men's affection and she can tell when a man is not into it. I posted last week that I thought the show would have a twist and that Pete wouldn't blackmail Don because it was too obvious. Well I was wrong but kinda right since the twist was in Cooper's reaction. I was very pleased with how the writers solved that issue and I am interested in how the dynamic will play out between Don and that little weasel.

Excellent acting from Jon Hamm again. I found myself disliking Dick Whitman because he was such a wuss and nothing like the cool Don Draper. We see Don return to acting like Dick with his mistress and she rightly gives him the boot.

A lot of people on here are critical of Don for choosing Don Draper's life instead of Dick Whitman's. Imagine if your life was so bad that you would choose to enlist for war over your current every day life. The real Don Draper asked Dick if he regretted enlisting but I don't think Dick was so sure it wasn't the right idea. I know blowing off his brother was horrible but once he committed to the lie he had to follow it through. I certainly can't judge people who make difficult decisions when they are in horrible situations. Perhaps the writers offered this view as a parallel to many of the underclass that are fighting "our" war in Irag? Those with no hope that enlist as a way out.

Anonymous said...

What's so cool about Don Draper? He is a serial adulterer who spends almost no time at home. Even Tony Soprano showed more love for his family than this guy.

By the way, today's New York Post has a three-page spread featuring January Jones in a tribute to Grace Kelly. Ms. Jones is wearing Kelly-inspired clothing, jewelry, and make-up. Her resemblance to the late princess is amazing.

PamelaJaye said...

>Imagine if your life was so bad that you would choose to enlist for war over your current every day life.

My father did that when was *15.* I'm guessing it was really bad. But he never talked about it. He barely talked to me, period. Except to yell, of course. I'm guessing it was like *that*, only maybe worse. Hence, I have no children....

drake leLane said...

Back to Harry's glasses... I saw them as a metaphor for his marriage. When he took them off, he put his marriage aside for a moment. That's why he's overly frantic to find them afterwards, and when they turn up broken, it's his marriage he fears is broken.

If there's still doubt, watch the look on Hildy's face when she tries to figure out what to say, finally saying "I hope I didn't step on them." She says one thing, but looks like she's talking about his marriage.

It's done so well... so subtle, with so much care. What a great show.

drake leLane said...

And once again, The Chicago Sun-Times gives Mad Men terrible review from the business section.

Kalman said...

Alan Sepinwall wrote:

"Goddamn you, Don Draper. I know your childhood sucked, but think about someone else just once, okay?


Let's go easy on ol' Dick here. If I understand the situation correctly—and I'm pretty sure I do—Adam had a much easier situation than Don/Dick did. Dick was the "whore's child" unloved by either parent—who ended up stuck with him, after his dad took him in, up and died, and then left him with his widow and her new fella—and probably actively resented by Adam's mother. "She wasn't MY mother," Don snaps at Adam many years later in the coffee shop meeting. I try not to read into things too much (though, with this show it's hard not to), but I always saw the birth of "Adam" as a real punch in the gut for Dick. It was all there in that birth scene several episodes back. The name implying "first man," to insinuate that Dick virtually did not exist in that family. Adam was the favorite.


Ok, so the man who raised Don was obviously an irredeemable jerk, as we saw in his treatment of the hobo. But Adam's life could have, and probably did, look very different from Don's. His birth mother probably genuinely loved him. His dad, while a creep, probably did not beat and neglect him nearly as much as the unwelcome child he's been stuck raising.

Sure, my heart bled a little for that boy on the platform who just wanted to see his big brother, but at least that glimpse of Dick gave Adam more hope than he had when he thought his big brother was in the coffin. Besides, let's face it, Don/Dick was an independent man by then. Even without the old identity switcheroo, it's not like he'd be moving back in with the family to help raise young Adam. After all he went through, he would have left and never looked back one way or another. The only thing he, unfortunately, deprived Adam of was an opportunity to say goodbye.

drake leLane said...

Adam (and Dick's) dad died shortly after (or was it shortly before?) Adam was born. The only father figure he had was gruff Uncle Mac, who, more then likely, took on the family as an obligation.

Dark Tyler said...

So, would we conclude that this show stands critical against Ayn Rand's philosophy, or that it embraces it? It's the question that troubles me the most, when thinking back to the complete season.

(Well, not complete, but thematically at least it's come full circle.)

Tommy B said...

I don't think that the show advocates Rand's theories as much as it simply presents them. It leaves it up to you to decide whether or not you agree with them. But much like Tony Soprano we have a tendency to root for the protagonist because we sympathize with his situation because we see life through his eyes.

Dark Tyler said...

That's what I've concluded, too. Still, it would be interesting to find out what Weiner thinks, if only because the main character in Mad Men isn't someone as easily categorized as Tony Soprano. It's easier to find a good side to his ascend than in Tony's.

Tommy B said...

I agree Dark Tyler. Don Draper has a much better chance for redemption than Tony Soprano. I had to chuckle when someone in an earlier post said that Tony was a better family man than Don. I tend to believe that your actions in the world and your actions within your family are not mutually exclusive. What I am saying is that once you commit multiple murders you cease to be a good Daddy no matter what. I don't want to paint a rosey picture of Don since he is emotionally and physically absent from his family but he is no Tony Soprano.

Dark Tyler said...

I agree 100%. Tony, for example, may have wanted the best possible future for his children, but in the end all he did was drive them to become part of his larger "family". If anything, The Sopranos said that you are who you are, no matter if you're around your wife or your capo.

Countless parallels can be drawn between Don and Tony, but in the very end, one's a sociopath killer, the other one's merely an empty man.

God, right now I'm so in love with Matthew Weiner.