What a rich-filled episode that at times droned on and at other times enlightened us to the sad lives of our beloved characters in Mad Men.
As the show has progressed through its tenure, we see hope rising and falling, and the premere of this season sets the tone as morbid and sad. This episode starts out with Don reading Dante’s Inferno with a dark foreshadowing trailing every character this episode.
Juxtaposed with the rich colors of the 1967-1968 holiday season, death and loss of self is the motif of this 93 minute episode.
- We see Dr. Rosen avoiding the thought of death as he attends to the needs of his patients, calling it an ‘honor and a privilege’
- We see the doorman, Jonesy joke about his heart failure earlier
- Roger’s mother dies and he is silent emotionally
- Roger’s shoeshine dies and finally the burden of his [sad] life crashes down on him and he sobs uncontrollably
- We see Megan, happy with her success in TV but ignorant of Don’s infidelity. The episode starts and ends with the [happy] couple.
- We see the solider talking about his marriage and his uncertain future in Vietnam
- We see Don, fighting his own demons? Or rather succumbing to his life, insomniac and alcoholic, adulterous and tormented.
The original draw of the show had focused on the advertising side of the ’60s, today the only character that showed progress forward was Peggy’s, however we do not know if she is struggling with self-identity as she is following in Don’s footsteps, working through the holiday and is cruel to her subordinates.
I also want to mention Don’s description of his Hawaiian experience was an interesting take. His watch stopped so time stopped. The temperature, the water…everything being in the same temperature marks a pause in time, but no relief.
The episode was personally disappointing to me in regards to the plot. I still have no sympathy for Betty. For Don, irregardless of the positive or negative influence of Betty/Megan, he still is his ambiguous, selfish self. Roger, albeit his humor, is becoming more of a liability than an asset. In regards to writing and cinematography, I am still in awe of the amount of research and historical accuracy this show follows.