Previously on Mad Men, ‘The Forecast’
Just as I was coming to terms with the idea that Mad Men may not have the satisfying ending I was anticipating, episode 11 gave me some hope. After wasting precious time on introducing new characters, the show feels as though it’s now back to basics thanks to a renewed emphasis on the main cast. If it manages to continue on this trajectory, we may actually get some substantial closure. “Time & Life” focuses on the theme of identity, presented not only through the characters but in the agency as well.
What’s in a Name?
McCann-Erickson has given notice on SC&P’s lease and by the end of the month, Don, the partners, and the rest of the staff will be moving in with McCann. SC&P is being absorbed, their autonomy is gone. There’s not much the partners can do about it considering they each have four-year contracts and non-compete clauses. But when Don gets a call from Lou Avery informing him that he’ll be leaving the agency to move to Tokyo – his comic book got the green light from a big studio over there – Don gets an idea.
Part of the reasoning behind McCann’s decision is the cost of the SC&P office itself; the building is too expensive for the amount of accounts they handle. The offices in California are much smaller and cheaper, and will soon be empty thanks to Lou’s resignation, so why not relocate? Several SC&P accounts will be left behind due to conflicts with McCann’s clientele, so Don proses that they take those accounts to Sterling Cooper West. It seems like a win-win. McCann can keep the accounts with a smaller overhead and SC&P can retain their independence, albeit in California. The partners, minus Ted – he just doesn’t want to go back to California – are on board. Now they just need to secure a few accounts before their meeting with McCann exec Jim Hobart the following day. It shouldn’t be too hard to pull off; this is essentially how Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce came to be.
They have no problems convincing Burger Chef, Sunkist, and Secor Laxatives to make the move, but Ken Cosgrove, on behalf of DOW, won’t sign on. He obviously dislikes McCann and won’t be taking his business there, but when he was finally given the opportunity to disrupt the lives of Pete and Roger, he takes it happily. Despite this minor setback, the partners feel confident going into their meeting with Jim but when Don is only seconds into the pitch, Jim cuts him off. The decision is final and nothing can change it. In his mind, they’ve died and gone to advertising heaven. He entices each of the male partners by assigning them with huge international accounts like Coca Cola and Buick. Joan is noticeably left out and while the partners all share in a rather somber toast to their inevitable future, Joan knows that she won’t be taken seriously or given the respect she deserves at McCann.
Playing on the theme of identity, Roger mourns his family name over drinks with Don. Margaret was his only child and now with the agency dissolving, he is the last Sterling. He does have something to look forward to however: Marie. Don takes the news of this relationship rather well, even after hearing that Megan knew about it before him. Don tries to find some happiness of his own when he goes to Diana’s apartment. Thankfully, for us, she’s moved away. Hopefully that’s the end of the Diana chapter.
When the partners announce their forthcoming move, the office erupts in nervous chatter. Harry tries to yell over them, declaring that this is good news. But not even Don with his uncanny gift of persuasion can get their attention. Each episode has ended with Don having less than he did at the beginning. His wife, his furniture, his apartment, and now his agency are all gone. The show is stripping him down to bare bones and maybe we’ll finally catch a glimpse of the man he is at his very core. Perhaps this is his chance to break free from advertising and focus on his kids. I can dream, right?
A Campbell Family Tradition
Pete is irate to find out that Tammy was not accepted to Greenwich Country Day School. The Campbell family has been attending the school for decades and Pete believes that his name alone should have been enough to secure his daughter’s entry. Believing that their divorce may have been a factor in the decision, Trudy and Pete agree to meet with the headmaster together.
It turns out that Tammy scored poorly on the “draw a man” admission test –perhaps a subtle nod at Pete’s absence in his daughter’s life? On top of that, the headmaster says that this is actually Trudy’s fault for only applying to one school, which makes her extremely arrogant. Pete is further irritated by this comment and demands an apology, but the headmaster is only getting started. In fact, the biggest factor in this decision stems from a 300 year-old feud between the Campbell family and the MacDonald family. While Pete holds his family name in high standings, this man sees the name as a disgrace. In the best Pete Campbell moment since he fell down the stairs, he punches the headmaster square on the nose.
Trudy and Pete share a few nice moments in this episode. They’ll certainly never be together – Trudy really deserves better, even if Pete is willing to punch every man that gets fresh with her. It does seem as though they’ve reached a level of maturity within their relationship where they can be amicable with one another, for Tammy’s sake. If that’s the last we see of Trudy, I’ll count it as a pleasing conclusion.
Just Like a Man Does
After Pete tips Peggy off to the McCann takeover, she’s left to contemplate her next move. She hires a headhunter to find out what agencies would be interested in her but the best deal by far comes from McCann. Peggy stands to gain a great deal of experience working with an agency that has such an impressive international presence. If she stays with the company for at least four years she could quadruple the asking price for her salary. While considering the future, her present work is for an ad involving children. Peggy’s history with kids makes this storyline the most interesting take on identity by far.
After casting, Peggy and Stan find that a young girl has been left behind at the agency. Left to entertain herself in Peggy’s office, the child staples her thumb just as her mother arrives. The mother is infuriated that they let this happen, but Peggy points out that she shouldn’t have left her child alone, downtown. Things are heated between the two women and Peggy gets to drop the second “fuck” of this half season.
Peggy is distracted by this interaction to the point where she can’t work. She complains to Stan about the way the mother spoke to her. Thinking that he is simply agreeing with her, he remarks that the woman shouldn’t be allowed to have children. While Peggy resents the mother, she argues that it’s nobody’s choice but her own whether she should have children.
It is moments like this that I long for in Mad Men; a truly feminist moment that breaks through the deluge of daily misogyny that is the reality of that era. Though Peggy disagrees with the mother’s actions, she feels a connection to her because they both had to make a choice about motherhood. She also understands that the choice is solely for the woman to make. When Stan tells Peggy it’s ok that she never had children because she wouldn’t have had such a successful career if she did, Peggy is forced to explain why that shit ain’t right. Even today, women are often forced to choose between a career and a family. They don’t have the same options as men when it comes to having kids. Peggy wishes that women could have the opportunity to make a decision and move on with their lives in the same way that men do. I’ve no doubt that she echoes the wishes of many, many women both then and now.
Stan eventually pieces it together that Peggy once had to make that decision between career and family, and his entire demeanor changes. When he asks what happened, Peggy admits that she doesn’t know too much but it’s not because she doesn’t care. It’s because if she knew more about where her child went, she wouldn’t have been able to move on. This scene just carved itself a place in my favorite Mad Men moments of all time.