[REWIND] Julia Yost on Mad Men’s MeganPosted: May 4, 2014
One of the more involved and insightful deep-dish Mad Men pieces I’ve seen this season, from an unlikely source, it’s a pleasure to read TV show analysis this dedicated. If you’re a Don Draper fan like me, read the whole thing.
Are Don and Megan Draper finally over? In the major arc before the first commercial break, Don speaks long-distance to Megan’s agent and learns that Megan has been exhibiting desperate (stalker-like) behavior toward industry types in L.A. Don flies out unannounced in the middle of the week. Megan’s libidinal delight upon his arrival turns to melancholy as she reflects on her rejections (“It’s sunny here for everyone but me”) and then to outrage when she learns the reason for Don’s visit (“You came out here to, what, pull me out of a bathtub where I slit my wrists?”) and then to suspicion and accusation (“You’re never [in the office] when I call. … Who’s your new girl, Don?”—by which she means mistress, not secretary). Don confesses, not to having an affair, but to having been on leave from SC&P since Thanksgiving (it is now early spring). Megan is furious over the secrecy, and furious that all this time he could have been with her in L.A. but chose not to. She throws him out, with “This is the way it ends.”
I indulge in bald plot-summary here because I have waited so long in patience for these two to split up. As Megan ca. 1968-69, Jessica Paré is a tedious screen presence in hideous clothes. Their crackup has always seemed a foregone conclusion, given how impulsively Don proposed (at Disneyland!) in Season Four and how incapable he is of husband-like qualities (sustained honesty, loyalty, sobriety). The writers have been flirting with it since the midpoint of Season Five. Get on with it! A long-distance phone call later in the episode may or may not herald a rapprochement; let us hope not.
Is Don back? In the second major arc, Don visits Roger Sterling’s rooms at the Algonquin, armed with an offer of (under)employment from a rival agency. Following a brief exchange of hostilities, in which Don reminds Roger of his betrayal (“I got the message: ‘Merry Christmas, Love Judas’”) and Roger reminds Don of who plucked whom out of obscurity (“I found you at the bottom of a fur box”), Roger invites Don back to SC&P, with characteristic insouciance: “You want to come back? Come back. I miss you.”
Don returns on Monday morning, in a sequence so surreally awkward that we think at first it may be a nightmare scenario in a fever-dream. Roger is nowhere in sight, nor has anyone been told to expect Don. Our hero is just slinking back to the elevator when copywriter Michael Ginsberg spots him and pulls him into the Creative Lounge to spitball some ad copy. Unfortunately, the Creative Lounge is set up like a fishbowl: It is in the center of the office floor, and its walls have openings on all sides. Peggy & Co. gather to gawk, and the whisper goes round: “What’s hedoing here?” The Creative Lounge is furnished and decorated like a kindergarten classroom, with low tables and chairs and colorful artwork tacked on the walls. Working among the young copywriters (who are all petite, one notes for the first time), Don looks like Dad coloring with the kids. Where once he was lord, now he is freakish and extraneous.
Roger arrives late to work and drunk from lunch, but his pocket square is gorgeous. He calls a partners’ meeting, and there ensues a battle for the soul of SC&P—as the question of whether to take Don back becomes a flashpoint for all the questions about the agency’s identity and future. Managerial Joan Harris and Machiavellian Jim Cutler reveal themselves to be friends of mediocrity and enemies of the Creative Department. Both are in Accounts, so they value relationships and reputations. A time bomb like Don, however gifted, creates problems for them. Within the agency, Joan has long been tasked with smoothing over relations between personnel, and Jim’s aspiration is to manipulate everybody—so both like their colleagues tame.
Both want Don frozen out…(read more)
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