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Mad Men Watch: Season 6, Episode 5 - The Flood

The death of MLK Jr. brings out a lot of interesting emotions this week in our cast of characters and none of them are really what we would have expected.

While everyone gets dolled up for the Ad Club of New York awards, with a special speech by Paul Newman, news of Martin Luther King’s death begins to spread across the city creating emotions at every turn. It doesn’t hit anyone nearly as hard as one might have expected, except maybe Peggy’s secretary, but we get to learn a lot about a lot of different people.

For instance, Don doesn’t love his children. Actually, he didn’t love them from the moment they were born and it has all been an act until that moment when his heart explodes where he actually feels the feelings he has been faking. That moment came tonight for Bobby Draper whose astonishment at the twist ending of Planet of the Ape mixed with his compassion for the black usher at the theater lets Don, and us, see him in a whole new light. Poor Gene, when will he be loved?

Peggy on the other hand gets some unexpected news with her and Abe as her potential move to an Upper East Side apartment causes some strife, followed by revelation between the two lovers. Peggy has been content with his progressive outlook on the world and his laid back approach to life, but at his mention of, “raising our kids in a place with more different kinds of people,” we see the first ever glimpse of Peggy being ready to get married and having a child on her terms. A very sweet moment for the two, even if Abe is oblivious, and some unexpected positive karma after Peggy tried to use the tragedy, at her realtor’s suggestion, to lowball her seller in a time of crisis.

Mr. Campbell also receives an unexpected reaction from the audience this week as he proves, as he usually does after being a terrible person, he’s not always such a terrible guy. He still cares about Trudy and her feelings and I don’t feel in any way his attempts to come and console her in the suburbs was in anyway an attempt to weasel his way back into the home. Our compassion grows even stronger when we see Pete lay into Harry for being insensitive, racist and the usual terrible Harry for complaining about all of the work and money that might be lost over this tragedy. Pete is often one of the more progressive people at SCDP and understands the times often more than just about anyone. Sure he can be a slimy weasel often, but I love that Pete continues to be a complicated individual who gets Chinese food delivered by a creepy guy just like anyone else.

Betty and Henry also make quite the leap this week as all the chaos and struggle in the streets following Mayor Lindsay in the wake of the riots across NYC have caused Henry to reassess his goals in life. Getting a call for a Senate seat makes the married couple happy as Henry can step out of the shadows, but the news that he plans to pull Betty into his spotlight gives her pause. Fat Betty has slowly been shrinking this season, but that dress she holds up to the mirror shows she is no where near her comfortable fighting weight. Will this stress drive her to fall back towards obesity, finally shed all that weight she has gained or will something darker spring up surrounding the steps she attempts to take to reach her goals? Weight loss has never been so potentially compelling.

It was also really nice to peer into Ginsberg’s home life again and gives us a deeper look at the relationship between him and his father. We got a peek of this last season, but here we get to see that Ginsberg’s strengths in the office are nowhere to be found outside it. Insecure and awkward at an arranged dinner by his father, I’d like to think he might have turned a corner over dinner as his date gives him a shot of confidence that he has almost never received. Ben Feldman is really great here as Ginsberg though as his declarations of virginity and heterosexuality were two of the finer moments of the episode.

Some Random Thoughts:

-Some longing looks between Don and Sylvia there in the beginning and she was ever on his mind every time Don was turned on to the news. His compassion and attraction to Sylvia is in no way waning and I think the “Previously on…,” promos might be hinting that they might have a lot further to go in their relationship; poor Dr. Rosen.

-What was going on with Randal the insurance guy? William Mapother is a fantastic creep, Ethan on Lost, but I really couldn’t put a finger on where they were going with him. It did give them a number of great opportunities for some comedy out of Roger; I just have to imagine that we might not have seen the last of him or his attempts at telepathy.

-The appearance of Paul Newman supporting Gene McCarthy at the ANDY’s was a bit random, but it was probably worth it for all of the moments of levity as the tables for SCDP and CGC were complaining about their views. Speaking of CGC, I keep liking Ted more and more with each week as his support for Peggy is very uplifting for both us and her. Still, his wife Nan didn’t want to have anything to do with Miss Olson and Ted did give Peggy a really odd look as that ceremony started.

-Not a whole lot panned out with Dawn this week as we didn’t really see her being affected in any way besides being late. I am sure the racial strife will find its way into one of our two ad agencies this season, but I was expecting something a bit more after the character background set up last week for Dawn.

-Nice to see Don and Betty getting along so well these days! But Don getting payback on Betty with that brilliant smash cut to Don and Bobby in the movie theater was the laugh of the night. Hey, they weren’t watching TV.

A very good episode of Mad Men this week, I think they couldn’t have handled the MLK assassination much better. Weiner and his team used the event to shine some excellent light on a number of lesser seen characters this week while firmly setting how much MLK’s death affected the time period. The show has so many ways it can go with so many of its characters after these last two episodes, Mad Men couldn’t be in much better shape going forward this season.

Short Bits:

-New apartment for Peggy! Love the opening shot.

-"Her trusted advisor."

-"He's like Roger with bad breath."

-"Go get back in your cage."

-"Nan, you wanted to see Paul Newman, here he is."

-"I need binoculars."

-"We are all so sorry."

-"Randy, it never works."

-"I'd forgotten that."

-"He talked me off a roof once, I kind of owed him."

-"I guarantee you'd go to Canada on your knees for your girlfriend."

-"You, you're going to get in the arc with your father?"

-"Tell me exactly what your mother said."

-"Henry's not that important,” Don’s never really liked that guy.