I have a hard time when television shows throw in a death to serve as the episode’s conflict. On a show like Lost — before it got horrible — death served to keep the show honest: you couldn’t be terrified of the island as a viewer without the consequences feeling real for the characters. (That, incidentally, is one of the reasons the show became terrible. They removed the high-stakes feel.)
But in this week’s Mad Men, the death of
Mrs. LaRusso Ida Blakenship, felt dropped in just to make the wacky goings on at SterlingCooperDraperPrice seem even wackier. That makes Blakenship’s whole tenure seemed dropped in solely for the purpose of whipping Don into shape and letting go great one-liners. The post-death contemplations on how to memorialize her felt trite, even though it meant we got to see more of Bert Cooper.
The sex scene between Joan and Roger felt contrived, as well (Really, they’ve had this much sexual tension for so long and it takes a mugging to get them to cave?) Drinks alone probably would have done it. I’m not really for Roger and Joan getting together. Whatever “real” feelings he has for her now are certainly convenient, given that they’re both unavailable and her husband’s gone (we got a roundabout news delivery this episode that he’s being sent to Vietnam). And the fact that Roger seems to be slowly falling apart as much as Don is — even though the focus has been much more on Don — doesn’t bode well for his future.
Meanwhile, Abe, the writer Peggy smooched in a closet a few episodes ago, pisses her off by being progressive, Peggy starts playing an early version of Oppression Olympics, and later raises a half-hearted attempt at protest racism while working on the account for a company that refuses to hire African Americans. Peggy’s lesbian friend, who arranged for Abe to accidentally run into Peggy, then serves us this horrible soup metaphor about how women are the bowls, the containers that keep men together. That’s not a particularly feminist message, nor one that really seems to fit well with what we’ve seen in the show. For an episode that was meant to be an ode to beautiful women, none of the women were framed in a good light, and none of them really get to shine.
But Sally was really the focus. I watched the show with Nicole and G.D., who both noted that Sally’s behavior in Don’s apartment was especially unnerving, even more so than the temper tantrum she threw at the end. As they said, she has clearly noticed that Don spends more time paying attention to adult women than he does to anything else, and she was practicing being an adult to try to get more attention from him. What’s going on with Sally is particularly horrible and of-the-time. After a bunch of life-changing events in quick succession, none of the adults consider actually having a talk with Sally and, instead, foist her off on a psychiatrist when she becomes a problem. This also was, incidentally, a good episode for Kiernan Shipka, who was a much better actress than she has been in seasons past.
But enough about what I took away from the episode. Thoughts?