Previously on Mad Men, ‘New Business’
McCann Erickson has requested a statement on the future of SC&P, which Roger hands over to Don. It’s the first work-related task in quite a while that Don seems to struggle with. He spent so long worrying about the agency surviving year to year, that the future of possibilities seem limitless. Similarly, while trying to sell his apartment, Don sees his empty home as a selling point. A potential buyer could imagine anything in that space, but Don can’t seem to translate that optimism to his work. He seeks help from Ted, but the goal of landing a big pharmaceutical company feels too small for Don’s vision.
Part of the statement for McCann includes performance reviews. Ted tells Peggy that she can write her own, but she feels she deserves better and asks Don to do the review. He agrees, but uses the time for his own gain; what does Peggy see in the future? She has several goals, including becoming the first female head of creative at the agency. Peggy wants to create something with a lasting effect, a catchphrase perhaps. Don is impressed with her focus, but scoffs at the idea of something being long-lasting in the world of advertising.
After Mathis screws up in a meeting with Peter Pan Cookies – he argued with a co-worker and dropped an f-bomb in front of the client – he seeks Don’s advice on how to get back in PPC’s good graces. Don suggests that he tell a joke, something about brining soap in case he needs to wash his mouth out. Feeling overly confident, Mathis uses one of Don’s old lines from a meeting with Lucky Strike instead, and it only makes matters worse. Mathis is furious with Don, he had wanted to just apologize, but Don convinced him that it would look weak. He accuses Don of getting by on his looks.
“You don’t have any character. You’re just handsome. Stop kidding yourself!”
Mathis isn’t surprised when Don fires him.
Mathis wasn’t the only one to drop an f-bomb this week and though we don’t witness his, the one we do get to see was far more rewarding. Sally – yes, Sally is finally back and she totally owns this episode – was preparing for a trip where she’ll visit 12 states in 12 days when Glen pays her a visit. Betty, who doesn’t recognize Glen at first, is stunned to see how much he’s grown. That weird chemistry between the two of them hasn’t dissipated one bit and now that he’s 18, Betty doesn’t even try to hide it. Sally tries to hurry Glen and herself out the door to escape the awkwardness, but Glen wants to say a “proper goodbye.” He’s enlisted in the army and he’ll be off to war next week. Sally is shocked
“Are you fucking stupid?”
Betty, on the other hand, admires Glen’s bravery. Sally tries to get in touch with Glen to apologize and say goodbye, but she’s unable to reach him. Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally, had me tearing up so easily during that scene.
Knowing that Sally won’t be home, Glen goes back to the Francis residence to speak with Betty. It’s revealed that, though he claimed to have moral reasons for enlisting, it was a decision he made after flunking out of college. While everyone else is angry with him for leaving, Betty was proud and he takes that as a sign. He makes a move on her and to my surprise she actually stops him. She places his hand on her cheek, reminiscent of the time so long ago when he did the same in an attempt to console her. Betty stays positive in front of Glen, saying he’ll make it through just fine. She’s clearly troubled by it though, and later when Bobby and Gene are playing with toy guns she takes them away and throws them out.
Before leaving for their trip, Don takes Sally and her friends out to dinner in the city. Still trying to finish that statement for McCann, he asks the young girls what they see in their own futures. One of Sally’s friends is very blatantly hitting on Don. He’s kind to her without being overly creepy, but Sally is obviously disgusted by it.
Sally is so disillusioned with her parents. She echoes Mathis’ feeling in telling her father that he gets by on his appearance. That it doesn’t matter how old the person is who’s giving Don or Betty the attention, they both thrive on it. She wants more than anything to be her own person and nothing like them. Don tells Sally what all children grow to realize, that in some sense or another we are all like our parents. But, he does see more in her.
“You’re a very beautiful girl, except you can be more than that.”
Despite the fact that his real estate agent was having a great deal of trouble selling an empty apartment – it feels like a sad person must live there – Don arrives home to find that the place has sold. For a moment, it looked as though he was going to protest, suddenly realizing that he wasn’t ready for this. For whatever reason, he stops himself from interfering. The final shot of the episode is Don looking, utterly desolate, down the hallway of his building. It felt very similar to last weeks’ ending, of him alone in the empty apartment. If there’s one thing this show is trying to convey, it’s that Don is truly lonely and completely lost.
Joan spent some time in the west coast office this week. She was there to hold interviews alongside Lou Avery – yeah, that’s apparently where he’s been hiding. A man named Richard, who Joan mistakes for one of their interviewees, is instantly enamored with her and the two end up going to dinner and spending the night together. They seem to really hit it off, but when he asks if she has children she says no. With the understanding that this probably wouldn’t amount to anything more than a one-night-stand, Joan is surprised to hear that Richard has come to New York a few days later.
The two have dinner again, but this time Joan is honest about her son. At first, Richard seems fine with this fact; he loves kids and has a few of his own, though much older than Kevin. Ultimately however, he calls it off. He wants to be free to do anything, at any time. He’s raised his kids and he doesn’t want to do it all over again. As Joan herself questions, isn’t it a bit presumptuous to think that he’d be involved in Kevin’s life after just two dates? She tells his ass what a disappointment he is and goes home.
The next morning, Joan takes out some frustration on her nanny.
“You’re ruining my life!”
While this may have been addressed to the nanny, it felt as though it was meant for her son. Kevin calls out to her as she leaves for work and Joan must pause to collect herself, already feeling horrible for yelling like that. Richard shows up at the office with flowers, trying to make amends. He wants to be a part of her life. So much so that he’s going to buy a place in New York, near a park where they can take Kevin. I guess if Joan is happy then that’s cool, but this relationship went from casual to serious at a rapid pace. I’m not sure I found it completely believable.
After a shaky start, Mad Men is back on track. The improvement of which can largely be attributed to Sally’s presence. The parallel stories of Don and Betty worked perfectly to create a central focus on their daughter. On top of that, the major theme of forecasting the future feels like a perfect fit for this final season.