Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mad Men: The time machine

Spoilers for the "Mad Men" season finale coming up just as soon as someone tells me how long 20 minutes is...

How freakin' great was Don Draper's sales pitch to the Kodak people? So great that he wowed the Kodak guys into cancelling their other pitches. So great that it made me want to invest in a slide projector even in this age of digital photography. So great that it sold Don himself on illusion of the happy life he appears to share with Betty.

It's just too bad Don bought his own BS at the exact moment that Betty finally learned to see through it.

"The Wheel" had some questionable moments -- I'm still wrestling with how I feel about Peggy giving birth (more below) -- but that mesmerizing sales pitch scene, coming on the heels of Betty turning the tables and sending Don a message through her shrink, reaffirmed how much I love this show and how much I'm going to miss it until it comes back (more below on that as well).

I'll take Don's epiphany before Betty's. Though the matter of The Box was largely settled during last week's magnificent Don/Pete showdown, Don didn't find out until tonight that Adam had killed himself shortly after sending it. When I wrote last week about the horrible realization of Don abandoning his brother, I was referring both to leaving young Adam behind on the train platform but also to paying him off and sending him away in the present. In that moment when he talked to the fleabag hotel manager, Don came to the same realization I did -- that his cowardice and self-interest can have a dire cost on the people around him -- and it played out in maybe my favorite shot of the series, as the camera pulled back from Don, his face buried in his hands, his entire body aglow in the light from the desk lamp. (This was Matthew Weiner's directorial debut, and he did a fantastic job, as well as on the script.) Don may have run away from everything in his life, up to and including his own name, but he can't escape the basic truth of who and what he is and how much damage he does to the people around him.

Faced with the twin gutpunch of losing Adam and then finding out that Rachel Menken had, upon glimpsing the true face of Dick Whitman, gone on a three-month cruise, Don seemed to recognize that it was time to stop running -- or, at least, that he has nowhere left to run to. Harry's latenight, tighty-whitie-enhanced speech about the cavemen handprints reaching out to him from the distant past, gave him the Eureka moment for the Carousel sales pitch, and as he sold the Kodak guys on his vision -- "This device isn't a space ship. It's a time machine." -- he bought into all those Norman Rockwell images of himself, Betty and the kids.

(Interesting how, once again, Don has a chance to do a forward-thinking campaign -- the Kodak people specifically want the ad to include references to R&D and the science of the projector -- and once again chooses to go the nostalgic route. It works brilliantly for him here, but it's been a recurring theme of the series that Sterling Cooper is on the wrong side of a cultural shift, and I wonder if later seasons will deal with Don struggling to seem current.)

Betty, meanwhile, finally is forced to stop acting like a child and confront the reaity of Don's adultery. I love that it's so obvious to the world that Don is screwing around that Betty's friend Francine comes to her for advice on how to deal with news of her own husband's cheating, and yet Betty's oblivious. And even after that scene, she might have choosen to keep playing ostrich if only Don had given the right answer to her question about why Francine's husband would cheat. Something like "Because he's weak and selfish" or "Because he's a jerk and I've never liked him" -- anything but Don's self-incriminatingly vague "Who knows why people do what they do?"

After figuring out that Don and her shrink are regularly chatting about her sessions, Betty tries to seek comfort from, of all people, Helen the divorcee's creepy son Glenn -- another sign of Betty's own arrested development -- before realizing that she can turn this all to her advantage. She may not have the strength to confront Don directly, but she knows that her shrink is telling Don everything about her sessions, so why not send a message through him? (An added bonus: it makes her seem more sympathetic to the shrink, rather than just some spoiled housewife who keeps whining about her dead mother.)

Other cable shows have ended their first season with the anti-hero's wife packing up the kids and leaving (both "The Shield" and "Rescue Me" did it), but the difference here is that Betty's Thanksgiving trip was already planned. All Don did was fail to come home in time to join them. Among the many things I look forward to in season two (barring a time jump; again, see below) is how much, if at all, these epiphanies change the nature of the Draper marriage. After all, Weiner studied at the foot of David Chase, a man who clearly believed human beings to be incapable of real, lasting change. Will Don really dedicate himself to the marriage, or will he latch on to the next sophisticiated brunette he meets? Will Betty find a backbone, or will she go back to letting Don do all the thinking for her after he shows her a little extra affection?

I'm not sure I know what to think about Peggy giving birth. When she first started to gain the weight, it seemed an obvious direction. She had, after all, both gone on the pill and had sex with Pete in the very first episode -- Chekhov's "when you show a gun in the first act" and all that -- and it might have been an interesting direction to see Peggy try to deal with the Mommy Trap at the exact moment her copy writing career was beginning to blossom. But as the weeks went on with no reference to Peggy being with child, I became far more intrigued by the alternate explanations: that she was sublimating her desire for Pete with food, that she was subconsciously packing on the weight so the men of the office would stop looking at her like a conquest and more like a colleague, whatever.

So when Peggy wound up at the hospital and was revealed to be pregnant -- news to her as well as us -- I wasn't exactly thrilled. I can work around Peggy not questioning her lack of menstruation as a sign of both the times and her relative lack of sophistication, but it still doesn't completely sit right with me. Based on her refusal to look at the baby in the recovery room, my guess is she gives it up and shows up for work on Monday like nothing ever happened. That in itself says something interesting (and tragic) about Peggy's character, but it feels a little more predictable and TV-like than some of the other options.

Still, the moment when Don promoted her to junior copywriter was a glorious one. Previous episodes had established that she had real writing chops, and the subplot here with her and Ken trying to cast the radio spot showed that she was starting to learn to play the game. Not only was she willing to cut her losses quickly when it became obvious that she had made the wrong choice, but she fired the actress in such a way that she knew could get Ken laid if he wanted. Peggy's not some kind of feminist symbol, and I like that she has her own agenda that sometimes leads her to sacrifice her ideals about fair play and proper treatment.

Peggy's promotion was also great because it was yet another indignity for the loathsome Pete. After his humiliating defeat in Bert Cooper's office last week, he discovers that he'll continue having to live off of hand-outs from one set of parents or the other. He tries to play landing the Clearasil account as some kind of tremendous achievement, but even though Don (briefly) takes pity on him and pretends that he's impressed, both men know it's just another in a long list of Pete skating by based on family connections. And even that small moment of triumph gets ruined for Pete when Don -- who has finally learned to see Peggy as both a writer and a person worthy of his respect -- decides to assign the Clearasil campaign to Peggy. Pete exiting the season in a huff seems about right.

What a brilliant show.

Some other thoughts on "The Wheel":
  • Though I'm ambivalent about the pregnancy reveal, it did work nicely in parallel with a couple of the men's stories. First, we have Pete's in-laws pressuring him to give them a grandchild at the exact moment that Pete's illegitimate offspring is born. Second, Peggy's baby's a "whore child," not in the literal sense that Dick Whitman was, but in how he'll be treated by society if his true parentage is known. (And if the baby gets adopted, he'll be raised by others the way Dick was.)
  • Duck Phillips has only had the head of accounts job for one episode, but already, he's distinguished himself from Roger in a crucial way: he turned down the offer of a drink in the middle of a work day. Given the gossip we heard last week about his London meltdown, I'm guessing he's a recovering alcoholic.
  • After their amazing party sequence last week, the supporting cast largely takes a backseat to our four main characters in the finale. But I really liked the glimpses of Harry -- who had clearly confessed to his wife at the earliest opportunity -- crashing at the office and roaming around in his unflattering undies. Compare that to secretive Don, who even when he sleeps in his office manages to look dashing.
  • Weiner apparently said in an early interview that he'd like each season to pick up two years after the previous one ended, so that he could cover the entire '60s in a five-season period. I don't know that I love the idea -- too many things happened late this season that I want to see immediate follow-up to (Peggy's promotion and whatever choice she makes about the baby, Betty's newfound awareness of Don's infidelity, Don's ascension to partner and Roger's health problems, etc.) -- but it would appear Weiner's backing away from the idea. At the very least, he doesn't want to commit to it, judging by this great, in-depth interview Maureen Ryan did with him a few days back. In the interview, Weiner also talks about how he wants to go back into production by November so they can be back on the air by June. I really hope there isn't a writer's strike, or "Mad Men" will be one of many, many shows that will get stuck in limbo until the labor dispute is resolved.
What did everybody else think?

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

That Bob Dylan song was an anachronism. It wasn't written until two years later.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I was going to point that out but forgot. I'm okay with it, though, as it wasn't part of the action (i.e., someone listening to it on the radio). Period pieces occasionally use anachronistic music because the song has an effect that a period-appropriate one wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

True. I was just saying. Great song, great episode. At least Zoe Barlett didn't get kidnapped.

Beckylooo said...

Loved the episode but the Dylan definately bugged me. It's from such an iconic record - one that, in retrospect, is a bench mark in terms of the cultural shift this show is dealing with. It ripped me out of an otherwise emotional moment.

Anonymous said...

It was written in 1962. If Weiner is serious about the next season being in 1962, then it makes complete sense. It's a look forward.

Nicole said...

Overall, it was a great episode, but I just can't buy that Peggy wouldn't know she is pregnant. Going on the pill makes you regular, and since she had to go to a doctor to get the prescription, that would have been explained too. This isn't the Victorian era where no one talked about sex, there would be at least minimal knowledge that no period for months on end equals pregnant. And she would have overheard the other secretaries talk about this and other topics too.
Thematically, I can see where the writer is going, but this is definitely a male perspective because women are just not that unaware of their bodies.

stevie said...

It was every bit as good as the rest of this season. Drunken Pete stepping bitterly into his bedroom as his onetime paramour refuses to look at her illegitimate child was nice synchronicity. As far as Peggy goes, I wonder if she was just deeply in denial? Who knows?

What I love about the Harry subplot is that he is clearly the only guy in that office who truly respects and loves his wife, and the one time he gave in to living like everyone around him, it caught right up to him. It's pretty smart and even as a small moment, very well handled.

Beckylooo said...

Anon - That's a good point and a really cool idea. I hope you're right.

Anonymous said...

The doctor treating Peggy at the hospital also asked for the psych ward. I think that Peggy was in delusional denial about the pregnancy.

Two episodes ago, when she threw off the rejuvenator, it might mot have been because of the orgasm, it might have been the baby kicking for teh first time.

--bad dad

BigTed said...

I thought that was the entire point of the Dylan song. This whole season has been about a moment on the cusp of enormous cultural change, and the song was a signal that they're about move forward, probably more quickly than any of the characters can keep up with things.

I agree that Peggy's plot line was a major letdown. Is it really believable that she wouldn't know she was pregnant right up to the point of giving birth? (And what did it mean that her doctor called for a psychiatrist's consult?) The story as it was going, of a woman making a career for herself in what still was a male profession, would have been much more interesting than yet another single-mother story.

But Don's story was, as usual, fantastic, and a great cap to the season.

Anonymous said...

Anyone think that David Chase could come on as either a guest writer in season 2? Here's hopin'.

Applesaucer said...

I love the show, but I find the "Peggy-doesn't-know-she's-pregnant-til-delivery" storyline to be almost unforgivable. Way too stupid -- Desperate Housewife Stupid, in fact.

It really hurts the show's credibility, which is a shame, since it's so great otherwise.

Sorry.

Tommy B said...

Boy was Betty a real crazy person talking to the creepy kid like that! I thought the actress playing Betty had a very strong performance. You guys are nitpicking a little with the Dylan thing but I don't have your perspective since I am in my early 30's. If this were a show about 1990 with a 1993 Nirvana song I suppose I would be equally unnerved. I like that Bert Cooper gave Don a slap for allowing his personal life to impact business. Bert is no dummy but now I guess everyone, including his wife, is catching on to Don.
It seems Don really has to self loathe and tap into his personal misery to simultaneously tap into his creative side. I wonder if he would be successful if he got his personal life in order.
Alan, I don't know if I agree with your point Don falling behind. I think nostalgia is a great advertising strategy that we see today with all of the old songs that get recycled in Coke ads and the like.

Tommy B said...

Oh yeah the Peggy pregnancy is totally ridiculous. If they had the baby born 2 1/2 months premature I could potentially believe it but that was a full term baby for sure. When you are full term there is no mistaking it. So the only logical explanation is the denial theory which explains the psych consult.

cgeye said...

The end music has been way anachronistic; I thought that section exists detached, as a comment on the action.

I dunno, about Peggy. I was hopeful that the weight gain was strategic, but nine months of sore breasts, colostrum, morning sickness, bloated feet, quickening? I mean, she lived once with human females, right?

Was Pete such an evil fuck that she MARNIE'd herself into not remembering what sex did? I am somebody called the psych ward, just so girlfriend could take a break. Call it appendicitis, but jeez, sweetie, find that inner child and give it a proper farewell, won't you?

And, as a tribute to the unofficial theme song singer of MAD MEN, it was AMC's pleasure to present the unique song stylings of Mrs. Donald Draper, with her subtle rendition of "Me And Mr Jones (What Kind of Fuckery Is This?)"

Damn, it took a season, but *damn*. Adelante, mujer. And did anyone else think that Don's finally learning how to keep it zipped had more to do with keeping Mr. Cooper's respect, than the holiday, or the sales pitch he sold himself?

Applesaucer said...

"So the only logical explanation is the denial theory which explains the psych consult."

I think it's wishful thinking to try to bail the writers out with some sort of fancy psychological rationalization. It's an absurd plotline, pure and simple.

Are there women out ther who don't know that they're pregnant until delivery? I guess the odds say "yes," but it's an event so freakish that it doesn't belong in a show like Mad Men. But, it was in Mad Men, so I guess it did belong, so it worries me and calls many other story lines into question.

What's next? We find out Peggy is one of the Final Five Cylons?

Anonymous said...

Too bad the season finale didn’t end with Don and other characters simultaneously, mysteriously reciting the Dylan lyrics. But I guess that’s been done…

drake leLane said...

Yes.... fitting that all the more mysterious season enders this year had Bob Dylan factoring in. Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, John From Cincinnati, and now Mad Men.

As mentioned before, since next season starts in 1962, the Dylan choice was perfect. It was a non-diegetic use (not in the character's world,) so there's no reason that it has to be from 1960.

Chip Chandler said...

Peggy being in deep, deep denial makes sense to me. It's not unheard of in real life, after all.

drake leLane said...

Watching Peggy refuse to hold the child was interesting in parallel to the cut of Pete going into his bedroom dejected (and getting another earful about procreating). But it also hit me kind of hard. It makes me think* the child is going to be up for adoption.

I was adopted myself, from a mother in similar circumstances. She was a young secretary who got pregnant with someone who was married that she worked with. Three years ago I was reunited with my birth mother and the hardest part for me, in hearing her tell the tale, was that she refused to hold me after I was born. She knew she was giving me up for adoption and didn't want to bond in anyway, for fear she'd change her mind.

She told me this story about the time my wife and I brought our first child into the world, and the two are intertwined in my memory now. It makes it even more sad, with the juxtaposition of having held my child for the first time.

Jesus... reading this back, it sounds like I'm writing a dedication letter to Casey Casum.

*with bias, obviously

LA said...

I know it's inconceivable to us, but to this day there are still women who don't know they are pregnant. I offer this insight from experience. I work in health care for a large hospital in LA County. I can off hand think of at least three cases in the last eleven years where women have come in to our ER, in labor, at term, completely unaware of their condition. It's sad, but it still happens, in the 21st century, in a completely urban environment.

As for Peggy, it's 1960 - almost 50 years ago - and women actually knew very little about their own reproduction at that time. She believed she was covered because she was on this new miracle drug, the Pill, but she had sex with Pete the same day she went on the Pill and was therefore not protected.

Remember that Peggy's very young and very naive. If she had any questions about her lack of periods, she probably chalked it up to being on The Pill; although the fact is, being pregnant on the Pill could have resulted in some episodic bleeding.

I honestly don't think women analyzed their cycles in 1960 like we do today.

As for the Dylan song, it didn't bug me at all. After all, there was a Cardigans song earlier this season. I actually took the Dylan song as a cue to where the story will pick up when season 2 begins.

LA said...

p.s. drake - thank you for sharing your personal story.

Anonymous said...

I still love this show but I HATED the Peggy pregnancy plotline. Four, five months, fine, I guess, but nine? It's not just the period, it's everything... I know it happens *once in a while* in the real world, but unless Peggy is a complete and utter moron, I just don't buy it at all. Sure things were different in 1960 but women still knew, before the baby came, when they were pregnant! Hell, women were able to figure it out in biblical times. And if they want to retroactively claim some sort of pathological denial (ugh) they needed to set that up somewhere along the way. I thought it was a really huge misstep on an otherwise excellent show.

That said, almost everything else -- Don and Harry's talk, Peggy's promotion (and anyone else think Don did that in large part just to get Pete's goat?), Betty and the shrink -- was great. I guess I'm just going to have to go into Peggy-like denial about the pregnancy plot.

Nicole said...

My mother was 9 years old in 1960 and came from a small town raised Catholic. Even at that time she would have guessed that having sex plus no period equals pregnant. There is naive and then there is soap opera foolishness. This crossed that line.

Artemisia said...

And did anyone else think that Don's finally learning how to keep it zipped had more to do with keeping Mr. Cooper's respect, than the holiday, or the sales pitch he sold himself?

I think Don's change of heart was a result of a confluence of things - Midge is gone, Rachel left him, his boss is onto him, his wife is horribly upset about a neighbor's infidelity, and then the gut punch of his brother's suicide gave him a come-to-Jesus moment. The carousel presentation finished him off.

This made me love Matthew Weiner even more - most of sharp turns we take in life aren't a result of one simple thing, even if we tend to tell the story that way. Look back at any radical course correction you take, and you are likely to find that you reached a point where other avenues were cut off or became increasingly unattractive AND you saw someone in a similar situation and learned from it AND you lost something important or found something important you wanted that you couldn't have on your current trajectory.

The plotline was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Which makes the Peggy giving birth thing even more jarring. Okay, I know, it happens, I read the newspaper, I worked with a women who swears she had light periods throughout her pregnancy. But really, WTF? I'm agreeing with everything upthread about this one - it was a jolt into Desperate Housewives territory.

And Alan, I'm with you on the desire to see the immediate consequences of everything that happened tonight. I'd prefer season 2 picks up on Friday of Thanksgiving week.

Oh - and Alan, any inside information about plans for a DVD? Think of how amazing the extras could be.

cassandra said...

Any thoughts on why Harry left the room abruptly as soon as Don's presentation to the Kodak guys was done? I'd assumed it was because his emotions over his broken family overwhelmed him. But Sepinwall's notes, which in retrospect I agree with, that the genesis of his idea was rooted in the hands of the caves reaching forward to us 17,000 years...well, I am wondering if Harry saw his pivotal role in that and that's what propelled him out of the room.

Nah - I'm pretty sure he was just torn up about his own broken family. But wanted to put the question out there...thoughts?

cassandra said...

ps THANK YOU for the link to the Weiner interview with Maureen Ryan. It was terrific fun to read.

Anonymous said...

The supporting cast is much more interesting than Don Draper. I really enjoy the show, but I just can't summon any feelings for Draper. I keep thinking that Tony Soprano was a warmer and more caring husband and father! Draper is just a cold fish.

So Peggy was promoted to junior copywriter and now she's also an unwed mother? Really disappointing.

Anonymous said...

Let's have Pete and his wife unknowingly adopt Peggy's baby, then we'll be halfway to "Mighty Aphrodite" territory.

-- bad dad

Anonymous said...

Even with no commercial interruptions, this show just went TOO fast. Great finale, but now we have to wait months to see these riveting characters again.

Weiner waited to write/direct the final episode and lets hope he does more directing next season. Little things he showed us: Cooper closing his "Coop's secret book" as he doesn't even look up as he chastises Don. Betty's side glances to the DR each time she drops her bombshells about Don's infidelity. The looks between Pete and his father- in- law, each knowing without saying it that Pete gets the account only if he produces a grandchild. Betty's look when the DR reveals himself on the phone. The pullback of camera when Don realizes he is the cause of Adam's death. All wonderful. Of course, the acting is great, but the direction for those subtle additives is so on mark.

I'm so glad that Betty finally got to show more of herself as a woman and not only as Don's wife. We learned slowly through the season that she is frustrated and unhappy and confused. But, when she asked 12 yr old Glen to tell her she would be alright, now we see how on the edge she really has been all this while. Poor Glen, all he is thinking is that his mom will be out in 20 mins and she will be mad, yet he is oddly sympathetic to Betty. Glen is creepy for sure, but this young actor makes him so believable.

Everyone commenting on the main characters, no one mentioned Joan. She is the mentor of the secretarial pool, she has a superior attitude towards the women and is used to that role. This episode showed us how even though a woman could have been promoted in the 60's, she still had to be reminded to be good to the women she is leaving behind, since they can make or break her. Joan's jealousy came out very subtley as she walked Peggy to her new office "with a door".

As to the Peggy pregnancy thing, I'm not sure how to read that. The redeeming factor in her side is that she had been taking the pill, which was brand new and unrefined with many side effects. . I'm sure the DR told her she could experience intermittent bleeding and weight gain and perhaps those "sightings" were enough to make her think she was fine, but dealing with side effects of the pill. OR, she was in deep denial for the reason of weight gain! I don't know!!

As everyone else has said, I hope Weiner changes his mind about the 2 yr jump, we need followups to events that just happened. I want to see Betty & Don immediately after their revelations. I want to see Pete and Peggy have to work together awkwardly on the Clearasil acct.

We are assuming that Peggy gives her child for adoption. Wouldn't it be just-desserts if Pete and wife have no luck conceiving and have to face adopting a child, while Pete finds out that he has a biological child somewhere out there?

MAD Men is the best new show in ages, I hope it goes on for a long time. Thank you, AMC, for taking the plunge!

Cagey said...

Hmmm, I just made a human from scratch and gave birth to it this past July. The experience is, shall we say, still "fresh" in my mind? So, yeah - I was very disappointed in the Peggy storyline. Bah.

However, I have known a few women who gave birth "unknowingly" and have read/heard about it before. For sure, there is a serious case of denial going on, but it is not unheard of for women to do that. I would argue that it appeared to be farfetched for Peggy's character, though.

Overall, this was an excellent episode. And I do agree with the commenter who wondered whether Don's lesson on "keeping it zipped" had more to do with Sterling than anything else.

Pirate Alice said...

I liked the Peggy pregnancy. She's naive and new to the pill and all it's effects. I'm not so sure a doctor in the 60's would fully explain the side effects of the pill to her. The way he treated her when she got the pill lead me to believe that doctors didn't think women were smart enough to understand it all. And even the way Betty's shrink treats her, is evidence of how women were not treated as intelligent adults, but as second class citizens who could never understand the complicated world of medicine. Not everyone's body reacts the same to drugs. Sure the pill makes some women regular, but when I was on it, it didn't help me become all that regular. I still had missed periods.

Then the way Pete treated her and how she started to separate herself from everyone in the office, she was completley under stress. I think she did hide her pain with food, and in her naiveté about pregnancy and the pill she just attributed all of he symptoms to eating too much (which is why at the hospital she thought she had a bad sandwich.) Her depression over the way Pete reacted around her and how she was being treated by everyone at work added to everything. I can totally believe she was not consciously aware she was pregnant. Once the doctor in the hospital mentioned it, she realized he was telling the truth, and then slipped into a deep state of denial.
I really hope they don't skip 2 years into the future. I really want to see what happens with this story line.

Angie said...

Even though going in I didn't want Peggy to be pregnant, I buy it. I buy that Peggy was in deep denial and probably came up with every excuse to explain away her symptoms. Let's be honest, this does happen, even now. I think it has less to do with being a moron and not knowing where babies come from as it has to do with being a single woman in 1960 who's career is just taking off, who's pregnant by a married asshat; a baby just doesn't fit in. So I think Peggy ignored it and pretended it wasn't happening.

arrabbiata said...

I'll admit I was a bit disturbed by the Peggy secret pregnancy thing- seems like a storyline that belongs in a different show. But I'm going to give Weiner and the writing staff the benefit of the doubt for now. In my opinion, they've earned it, based on so many moments in this series where the thing that a lifetime of television watching had me expecting, turned into something unexpected and perfect. This plot point sure doesn't look perfect, but maybe they have something in mind that will redeem it.

The other thing that gave me pause was Don's fantasy of his happy reunion with his wife and kids in time for the Thanksgiving trip. True, there were a number of events that put him in this state of mind, but it was very recent in the timeline that he was willing to abandon them on a moment's notice and flee across country.

But all that said, another outstanding episode. Great performances from everybody. Loved seing Betty get jolted by reality and react to it, Peggy growing confident in her job and being rewarded for it, Don's killer pitch to the Kodak people, and weasel Pete get his little triumph crushed by Don, Peggy, and family. Also great moments with Harry and Glen. I'll join those on this blog who hope that the next season picks up right where this left off, not in 1962.

On a side note, the whole Kodak plot line was another moment when i wished I knew more about the actual advertising history of the product. As an artist/educator who has used Kodak Carousel projectors for many years I had no doubt what name would result, but the idea that there might be this kind of psychology behind the name was interesting. Kind of ironic, too, as in the 21st century Kodak has been rapidly cutting away most of their film related business in favor of digital formats. The slide projector itself will soon be an object of nostalgia.

Mo Ryan said...

I'm with Angie -- I think on some level Peggy knew she was pregnant, but just repressed that knowledge. Something along the lines of -- ignore it and maybe it'll go away?

My guess -- I bet that baby was meant to be premature. She certainly didn't look 9 months pregnant - maybe 7. But there are all sorts of rules about what babies you can use when you are shooting a TV show -- you can't use really tiny ones, I think.

I actually thought she'd end up losing Pete's baby -- that it would be dead, too premature, etc. That to me, seemed pretty believable. She didn't want to think she was pregnant, thought the eating was coming from stress, was naive and also just didn't want to deal.

So, I didn't hate the Peggy storyline. My thought is -- so many of these characters are in really deep denial about something. Betty about Don's infidelity, Pete about his abilities, Don about everything, etc. Everybody is lying to themselves.

And part of the finale was showing how those lies can't be avoided forever.

I watched it twice, and loved it even more the second time. That's the great thing about this show -- you can watch it again and pick up on even more interesting stuff the second time around.

And I liked the Dylan. Don is the fifth Cylon. And the walrus is Paul.

dez said...

I can totally believe she was not consciously aware she was pregnant.

Same here and for all the reasons you listed.

My favorite part of the ep was Betty using her therapist and then casting those sidelong glances at him as she dropped all her bombs. I echo everyone who hopes Weiner abandons the forward-jump and picks up where he left off instead.

Is it 2008 yet? :-)

Nancy said...

I can't believe so many people didn't like the "Peggy delivers" bombshell. It was sooooo perfect. Everyone on this blog (and others) first assumed she was pregnant when she first starting gaining wait and then slowly everyone started changing their tune and saying "well, I guess she isn't pregnant" and then BAM she gives birth! I loved it!

That scene with Birdie sharing her emotional breakdown with Glenn was excellent also. She completely believes that little boy is her peer - i.e. the only one she can relate to. How sad is that?

And did anyone else think that Don was gonna use Harry's "I was here" line when he presented to the Kodak people?

Anonymous said...

It certainly is possible for a woman to be in denial about her pregnancy but I cannot believe JOAN would not have suggested it!

WCArnold said...

I have also known women that were pregnant and didn’t know it. They are, however, generally, um how do I put this nicely, woman of a more rotund nature. Peggy was not. This was just a matter of extreme denial hoping that it would just go away. Yes, this is a somewhat unusual situation and out of character for this show. However, if she had found out she was pregnant in episode 3, the show is a soap opera. Instead, they made all the viewers think that she was pregnant, made us think we were wrong, and then turned around and had her give birth out of the blue. They did that the only way they could. The total shock of the whole situation, and the great scene where she wouldn’t hold the baby was worth the dalliance into the slightly unusual.

Betty’s scene with Glen was fantastic and tense as you are just sure that his mom is going to come out and yell at her again. I am less worried about Glen growing up to be a serial killer, but I won’t rule it out. Is it possible that Betty was just trying to mess with her husband’s head by saying all those things to the therapist? There were no phone calls from the house to any mystery woman (the smoking gun for the hysterical neighbor). Her big breakdown with Glen was over how she had no one to talk to, not her husband’s infidelity. So, she tells the therapist that her husband is cheating, believes that this information will get transmitted to Don, and then waits for her husband to squirm. He can’t say, “Why do you think I am cheating?” because that would reveal his connection to the therapist. Maybe, it gets transmitted in time to convince Don to go with them on Thanksgiving. In fact, based on the first ending, I thought that was exactly what had happened and that Betty was going to think that Don was cheating because he was being nice and attentive, not knowing about his epiphany from work. But then we see the real ending, with Don all alone, which perfectly describes our protagonist.

Also, everyone seems to think that Don recognizes what great work Peggy does and that is why he promotes her. Isn’t it possible that he gives her the job because he a) wants the pitch to fail and for Pete to lose the account, b) knows that Pete and Peggy have an uncomfortable history, c) knows that Pete is even more sexist than him and will flip over a woman being assigned this job, or d) all of the above? The reason he didn’t fire Pete was so that he could mess with him for the rest of his tenure at the firm. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

There's a pretty big difference between fat and pregnant. For starters, wouldn't you be concerned about something kicking in your stomach? For Peggy to be SO psychologically messed up as to be in denial that deep doesn't really fit with what we know of the character (or what I thought we knew, anyway) -- fling with Pete aside, she's been shown as largely self-aware, intelligent, not afraid to meet a situation head on.

Don't get me wrong, this is one of the best shows on TV and Peggy's storyline certainly doesn't change that, but it was, to me, a completely baffling way to go.

I did love the Dylan. Nobody conveys changing times, and general melancholy, better...

cgeye said...

I'm gonna say it again, even though Mo said it, because in the universe of TeeVee, it should sink in:

Don Draper is the Fifth Cylon.

Before we knew Dick Whitman, what else could we feel about Draper than what we felt about Number Six? Did we see a sexy, impregnable mofo who could destroy the human race, if its survival were threatened? That seems so long ago.


It is MAD MEN's cast and crew triumph that they built such a perfect statue, and spent a season chipping away at it, until we see it as hollow and rotten inside. And, we still cherish that statue, unlike what Moore/Eick have done with the Cylons -- both races seem too frakked up to survive, and yet they do.

maureen m said...

I seem to have more sympathy for Don/Dick than most. I think we are all the products of our upbringings. It’s as if seeds are embedded almost at birth, and they can burst into bloom when we least expect it, the explosions most often precipitated by strong emotions. Don had a hell of a childhood. He was forced to focus on survival skills, and he had almost no soft spots in which to rest. Children reared in that kind of environment have to sacrifice emotional accessibility to survival. Dick Whitman had to shut down some very major systems to make it through. And he has been scared to death since he was very young. Many people seemed totally turned off by his scenes with Rachel after Pete’s revelation. It broke my heart. The pressure reactivated his childhood state of terror, and Hamm did an absolutely brilliant job of revealing what Don has worked so hard to keep buried. The fact that he couldn’t keep his feelings about Adam buried I think is incredibly telling. Although he desperately wants to turn his back on anything reminiscent of his woeful childhood, he cannot. And there are some who can and do. Don is a very complex fellow upon whom many powerful forces are at work. I actually think there may be characters who change in this series. Change is difficult at the best of times. It requires a commitment to be successful.
Now Peggy and her bun. I went to college in Virginia from September 1959 to June 1963. During my years there, I knew three, yes, three, women who did not know they were pregnant until they went into labor. It is not an unheard of phenomenon. Some women have their periods throughout their pregnancies and deliver perfectly healthy children. Many women never experience morning sickness. Some babies are more lethargic than others while in utero. Heavy women don’t notice a weight gain, and some women gain very little weight during pregnancy. And I have been convinced for many years that you cannot tell someone something they do not want to hear. You can tell to your heart’s content, but they will not accept what you are pitching. I believe that can definitely include messages sent by your body. Peggy is single-minded, she has a plan, and she is by God sticking to it. That mindset would make ignoring any physical oddities surprisingly easy. I like the pregnancy story much better than just an emotional weight gain. It makes better sense, it keeps bloody Pete involved with Peggy in ways that are not known to him, and it puts Peggy smack in the middle of the a feminist major theme. Good prep for Season Two.
I am already mourning the end of this show. I have been bowled over by the excellence in every area, and I, for one, don’t give a damn about a month or two here or there. There is just so much else in which to glory!
Thanks, as always, Alan, for the wonderful work . We all know that we can depend on you!

drake leLane said...

Ok, I finally got pass my hangups and have forgiven the pregnancy issues. It explains so much with regards to Pete and Betty.

Clearasil is Pete's baby, and after he finds out it's also going to be Peggy's baby as well, he's disgusted by it... can't even look his father-in-law in the eye on his way to lying down.

Cut to Peggy refusing to hold her baby, because, mostly, it's also Pete's.

Meanwhile, count me on board with Peggy knowing she was pregnant, but in denial the whole time. It explains why she continued to try and make things work with Pete (and her urge to eat, following encounters with him). Couple Pete's cruelty to her and her career ascension, and the baby becomes an impossibility. The pill provides deniability, along with her growing the metaphorical testicles to compete with the boys at work.

Also, it's the perfect parallel to Betty's long denial. Both Betty and Peggy have lived with this growing feeling, kicking inside them, yet refused to recognize the beast for what it was until that final painful kick (the call to the therapist, the hospital).

flem snopes said...

Alright, all you pregnancy conspiracy experts, enough already.

I graduated from high school in 1961.

In 1963 my HS geometry teacher, an intelligent woman and a college graduate, gave birth to a full term baby and hadn't been aware she was pregnant until she went to a hospital and delivered.

She wasn't morbidly obese, just a little heavy, and carried the baby high.

It can, and did, happen.

flem snopes said...

Oh, by the way, Donald may have been stylish sleeping in his office but his curling into a fetal position on the couch didn't radiate savoir faire.

Mark Netter said...

I think everyone is missing the point about the Peggy plot. What's going on here is that she's revealed to be just as ruthless about her planned ascent as anyone else in the office. Her turning her back on the baby was devastating because she's essentially creating another Dick Whitman/Don Draper, their characters running full circle.

While she doesn't have the advantages (or stupidities) of a Pete, she's making her step-by-step moves and won't let anything get in the way. Not camaraderie with the "office girls", not a truck driver/owner set up by her mom, not a baby fathered by Pete.

This is what makes her emerge as so compelling in the final episode: she's got a plan to break through in this pre-feminist stifling world and it is actually working. Heartbreaking for the baby. Exciting to see where Peggy will be when the series picks up, as I hope it does 2 years hence. Maybe in later seasons/a decade down the line she'll end up reconnecting with the child, voluntarily or not.

As for Don all alone at the end, was anybody else reminded of a similar moment for Daniel Baldwin's character way back when on "Homicide"?

Great stuff.

drake leLane said...

We have to assume that Peggy's at worst (and at best, really) giving the baby up for adoption (in Manhattan, no less,) and this option is certainly not the vehicle for the creation of Dick Whitmans that's implied here. It's also not entirely a selfish thing for her to do, either, given society's expectations in 1960.

Mo Ryan said...

Her turning her back on the baby was devastating because she's essentially creating another Dick Whitman/Don Draper, their characters running full circle.

wow. Yes. Just one of the many parallels in this show that don't truly dawn on me until you guys or Andrew Johnston point them out. I love that! I love that there are whole layers of meaning that are there for the finding. That's why I love reading people's comments here after each episode, and Alan's and Andrew's takes. I just feel all these light bulbs going on, like, "Geez, I didn't even see that but it's so true!"

Can we all just talk about this show for the next 8 months? Because really, Bionic Woman discussions are just not going to do it for me.

The biggest reason to hope there's *not* a writers strike -- so that Season 2 of this show can get made on time.

One thing I really look forward to in the second season -- getting to know Ken and Harry and Paul better. That scene between Ken and Peggy was so relentless good. More please.

As someone said, the real theme here was not really advertising, but family. And as someone else said elsewhere I think -- if some of these things happened between men on the Sopranos (ie Roger making a pass at Don's wife), there would have been a whacking. But this show is set in a world that's more like ours -- ie you can't just kill someone over that -- so it's, in some ways, more relatable.

anyway. June can't come soon enough.

Ginny said...

My biggest problem with Peggy's demon spawn, was that I didn't think that much time had passed since she slept with Pete (1st time)--as Mo states earlier, it would be easier to believe a preemie birth. Have 9 months really gone by? And no water breaking? No mucus plug? Carrying high? Wow! Peggy really got off easy!(And I'm not talking about the Relax-a-cizor!) And I agree that Joan or some other woman in that office would have suspected something about Peggy's physique and gossiped about it. Can't wait to find out what happens next...

Anonymous said...

In the first episode when Peggy is at the doctor's office, the calendar in the exam room is turned to March 1960. The season finale occurs during Thanksgiving week (late November). So if we assume the first episode took place during the first week of March then there are 38 weeks (the typical gestation period) between then and the last week of November.

drake leLane said...

The baby was definitely premature... pay no attention to how young the baby looks. If they're on TV, they're already more then a month old.

I'm guessing Peggy's first day (first episode) was around the first week of April,

Anonymous said...

drake: In the very first episode, on Peggy's first day when she went to the doctor's office and subsequently later slept with Pete, they showed the calendar on the wall. It was March 1960, not April. The baby wasn't that premature, if at all.

louielouie said...

As to Don's motivation for keeping Pete and promoting Peggy, it's pure vengeance. In one of his first confrontations with Pete, Don tells him that if he continues in this manner, he'll end up alone in a corner office, because nobody will like him. Now he is fulfilling that prophesy. It's so much better that firing him as Cooper gave him the option to do. And it serves to demonstrate the cold, calculating side of Draper's multi-dimensional character.

Artemisia said...

Her turning her back on the baby was devastating because she's essentially creating another Dick Whitman/Don Draper, their characters running full circle.

I also want to take issue with this. Healthy white adoptable infants were placed with couples who wanted to be parents but couldn't - not pawned off on resentful, unwilling relatives.

Even in the thirties and forties, there was a demand for healthy infants that slightly exceeded supply. My mom has two cousins who were adopted in the early forties - it wasn't a difficult as it is now, but her aunt and uncle had hoops to jump through and waiting to do before each child was placed. Read "The Family That Nobody Wanted" for an interesting look at adoption in the thirties and forties.

Dick Whitman would have been born about 1925 in some poor backwater. I assume he wasn't born in a hospital and there weren't any social workers worrying about his future, for him to be placed as he was.

PamelaJayw said...

>Is it really believable that she wouldn't know she was pregnant right up to the point of giving birth?

yup, as has been mentioned, it is.

back in the 80's, when I was in my 20's, I had a co-worker around my age who stayed home from work one day with a "backache" and gave birth to a son. although it happened before I got there,
(the baby was about a year old by the time I knew her) neither she, her family, nor apparently anyone else in our office was aware she was pregnant. she got her period (whether it was regular or not, i don't know) and the baby never kicked (?) she just thought she was getting fat.
and this was in the 80's.

then there was the girl who was a size 2 and "couldn't get rid of her tummy"... (a lot of girls in our office got pregnant in the 80's)

Anthony Foglia said...

I'm so annoyed I couldn't find the time to comment to now...

mark netter wrote, "Her turning her back on the baby was devastating because she's essentially creating another Dick Whitman/Don Draper, their characters running full circle."

artemsia responded, "I also want to take issue with this. Healthy white adoptable infants were placed with couples who wanted to be parents but couldn't - not pawned off on resentful, unwilling relatives."

Exactly. If anything Don turned out the way he did because he wasn't given up for adoption. If his birth-mother gave him to a family that wanted a child, rather than his birth-father forcing him upon his mother as living proof of his infidelity, he wouldn't be so emotionally withdrawn.

Add me to the ranks of the unhappy with the pregnancy storyline. The problem is not that she was pregnant, but that she didn't realize it at all.

She doesn't not want the baby because she/he reminds her of Pete, but because she's focused on her work. Unlike many, I don't think she's driven to be a copywriter; I think she's driven to do something productive and not supress her identity for a guy, like Betty has done, nor survive on shallow, fleeting relationships like Joan. In other words, she's lucked into copywriting, but it's a job, not a passion.

And I don't think Joan is jealous of Peggy at all. Joan thinks Peggy's being foolish thinking she can succeed and doesn't want to deal with a bunch of other secretaries begging to be promoted to creative positions.

Now as for Betty, I was a little surprised she was shaken by learning Don has been calling her therapist. I half-expected her to take this as a sign of love, in one of the few ways a man such as Don could show it. He might be cold and distant, but at least he shows enough interest to care about her therapy.

Not that it's anywhere near the right idea, but I can see someone like Betty, so emotionally immature, and at a pre-feminist time, before psychiatry was mainstream, interpreting it that way.

Don, though, might rededicate to himself to his marriage, but not for long. He won't stray at first, but eventually. It won't be with the first person who catches his eye, but by next summer, he'll have a new mistress.

Finally, I was one of those who was not enamored with the show in the first weeks, but that's changed. Perhaps it just took time to grow on me. I hope to find out by watching the season when AMC reruns it. Hopefully I won't find the party in "Marriage of Figaro" so boring this time. :-)

PS: I'm only 30, and I don't think I've ever heard that Dylan song, but even I knew it was not from 1960. It sounded too 60's, which means it's from the late 60's. (Decades always seemed defined more by their second half than their first.)

cgeye said...

Funny. I thought Peggy turning her back on the baby was the most humane thing she's done in months.

Knowing what we know about Peggy -- in denial, prone to substance abuse (yeah, food counts, too), bad choices in who to trust/date/have sex with -- would we want her to babysit our kids, let alone raise one alone?

Nah. Part of feminism was to free women from being baby machines, and to allow kids to be wanted by those who did want to be mothers. Adoption for a white baby of good stock was easier, than for most newborns, as said above. Our shock over Peggy wasn't the fact that she got pregnant, but that she chose not to plan for a child, for good or for bad, when she was responsible in so much of her life, at least on the surface.

Nathalie said...

I absolutely love Mad Men and think it's the best show on TV right now. I was (and still am) also a huge fan of The Sopranos, and I noticed something while watching the MM finale. In the scene with Betty in her psychiatrist's office there is a statue on the table in the background. I've watched every Sopranos episode numerous times and for some reason I always noticed the statues Dr. Melfi had on the window sills in her office. The statue in Betty's doctors' office looked so similar to one of Dr. Melfi's statues that I can't help but wonder if it's actually a prop from the set of Sopranos. I think it would be sort of a wink to the Sopranos audience, using one of the same statues for both psychiatrists offices. Did anyone else pick up on this?

Niffer said...

I also wasn't bothered by the pregnancy plotline. If you read _The Girls Who Went Away_, a collection of oral histories from women whose children were adopted in teh 1950's and 1960's, you will see that girls and women were kept in the dark about their own bodies and repoduction.

I'm also not so sure that Peggy's refusal to see her child was a sign of her being ruthless. I think it is hard for us to know, unless we've been through, the shock Peggy was in. Even those who know they are pregnant and still plan to place their child for adoption still find the moment emotional. Peggy was probably in shock, and going through major emotional trauma. I will be interested to see how the writers handle the after effects. Peggy will end up like Betty - having no one to talk to. She will probably be discharged from the hospital and told by some well-meaning social worker that her life will go on as if nothing had happneed, even though it won't.

judylong said...

As someone who works in the field of reproductive health, I have absolutely no problem with Peggy being in such deep denial over her pregnancy. It DOES happen - think of the Prom Night Baby or other teen moms giving birth at home stories you've read. Peggy isn't that much older than those girls and pretty darned naive, even for those times. I find it amusing actually that so many people have such difficulty with the pregnancy subplot but had no problem accepting how Don abandoned his old life by switching dog tags. How many times do you think THAT happened?

Dani in NC said...

I did a post on my own blog a few days ago with my reflections on the Mad Men finale, then I come here to find that we both feel the same about several of the plot points! As usual, however, you expressed what I thought more eloquently than I did.

I wanted to throw a shoe at the TV when it turned out that Peggy was pregnant. It is not because I felt it was unrealistic. I am just more interested in Peggy's career than a single mom storyline. There was a brief moment where I hoped it would be a miscarriage (how awful! but she is only a TV character). Now I'm hoping that she gives the kid up. I don't care how predictable it is -- I want Pete's spawn to disappear. However, I wouldn't mind if the baby is mentioned, especially if it would be in a way that would torture Pete.

I wondered if Betty told her therapist about Don's cheating to make sure it got back to him, but then I decided that Betty doesn't have it in her to be that calculating. Maybe it is another case of a woman in denial; she needed someone to talk to, so she is choosing to ignore that her therapist is reporting back to Don.

I am impressed by all of you commenters who notice things like the Dylan song being from a different year. I get so caught up in the mood of a show that I never notice mistakes like that.

said...

kWHOnh Please write anything else!

HeatherNC said...

I agree with others about the implausibility of Peggy's full-term pregnancy and birth. Throughout the season I was noticing the references to her weight gain and was wondering if they were leading up to her discovering that she was pregnant. Still, I was disturbed by the lack of distinction between 'getting fat' and 'being pregnant' (distribution of the weight, etc.). Also, the ability to deny (and hide) a pregnancy up until delivery is primarily associated with young teenagers. If nothing else, JOAN would have recognized the situation for what it was, and said something to her. I wouldn't have minded her finding out that she was 4-5 months pregnant, but full term? As others have said, it really undermined the show's integrity for me.

Juanita's Journal said...

I thought that Don's promotion of Peggy was one of his most shittiest acts ever. He didn't promote Peggy because of her talent. After the Belle Jour account, he should have promoted her back then. Instead, he promoted Peggy and handed her the Clearsil account to piss off Pete.

Everyone is so busy gloating over Pete's embarrassment that they failed to see that Don could be just as big of an asshole as Pete. Perhaps even bigger.

Sometimes, the man disgusts me.

Jaynee said...

I'm another one commenting on the thread two years after the fact, but I'm coming late to the Mad Men party. I've been renting MM on NEtflix and just finished Season One. LOVE THIS SHOW.

I just want to pipe in on Peggy's baby. I had a friend who didn't find out until she was almost 6 months along that she was pregnant. She just thought she had the flu - she was still having regular periods. She had gained a few pounds, but not that many. She finally went to see a doctor about the flu, and that's when he confirmed she was not sick, but pregnant. This woman is a smart, articulate, savvy woman - and she had no clue. Once the doctor told her, her weight ballooned within a couple weeks - as though by now KNOWING she was pregnant, her body "allowed" itself (for lack of a better word) to gain the baby weight (she gained something like 20 pounds in two weeks after finding out she was preggers). She then gave birth a couple months later to a healthy bouncing baby boy, after a shotgun wedding to her boyfriend. They are still married to this day, and that was 12 years ago.

So it CAN happen - I think if my friend hadn't gone to the doctor about the "flu," she NEVER would have known, and probably would have given birth in a very similar situation to Peggy's.

Great show. On to Season 2!

pornetry said...

Hey man, great blog and great reviews of the show but don't you think you're spoiling "Rescue Me" and "The Shield" here a bit? I know I haven't seen them and it was a letdown that you hadn't thought of it.

SaneN85 said...

Ok, I realize that I'm commenting almost 2 1/2 years later, but I'm okay with that. I just finished Season 1 and am halfway through Season 2.

Anywhooo, I am surprised that so many people couldn't buy that Peggy didn't realize she was pregnant. That stuff happens all the time even in the 21st century. Heck, there's an entire show dedicated to nothing but women in that situation, they tend to be larger, but still.

Okay, it may be an unpopular opinion, but I just don't get the obsession over this show. I am still watching because I am intrigued by the Peggy storyline (and now the Salvatore storyline), but other than that, I am bored to tears. I appreciate the acting, directing, etc. However, the storylines are just boring.

Alan, you and I have seen eye to eye on a lot of shows (The Wire, Community, Parks & Rec, etc.), but this is one bandwagon I just can't jump on as heartily.