Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 12: The Mountain King

Peggy was radiant. Anna looked an awful lot like Betty. Joan’s turbulent inner life is breaking my heart, and I never ever thought about her inner life before. The mystery of the poetry package has been solved. Betty has broken the cycle and talked honestly to her daughter about problems in a way that her parents and family never bothered to talk to her (although I think she was overly defensive with Mary Beth). I was glad the piano player was not Don Draper’s (either #1 or #2) biological child. I hope Betty was just having her period and not some kind of dramatic miscarriage. I was pleased by the mutual directness and familiarity and professional respect during the conversation between Peggy and Pete. (See? He does know what social niceties are and how to use them!) Boo hoo hoo hoo to Ken Cosgrove for not getting Rumsen’s office, and thank you Roger for listening to Peggy despite being in a hurry and granting her perfectly reasonable and, yes, ballsy request. Most of all, zing! to Sister Cooper (Alice Cooper? Really?) for commenting about all of Roger’s children. I think she was referring to the lovely Jane herself.

I guess I’ll start with Peggy. I don’t know what other business there is to bringing in new clients, because all we saw was her presentation to Popsicle, and I’m not sure what else she did besides think up the idea to say that she brought them in herself.  Surely there are other points of negotiation that she has conduct with the client. Maybe it’s assumed that she spearheaded the operation, which is not something I’d think of a copywriter doing now. (Of course, I come out of editing and not advertising, so job descriptions could be different). I guess my lack of understanding about the industry in general impedes my ability to analyze, but I am assuming that while Don’s away Peggy and the other copywriters are doing his work. He was overseeing their department and, well, now he isn’t. We are obviously watching Peggy’s rise at Sterling Cooper, and Don’s reassessment of his role there, so it seems logical to me to assume that she’s going to end up in his job eventually, or its equivalent, or some parallel position of responsibility. She’s definitely management track. Her joke about sleeping with Don was really funny and really meaningful. It does sort of establish her as the second half of a ruling pair. (Plus it revealed that she knows what people think and how comfortable she is with Pete, and how they both know how she ended up with Rumsen’s office.)
I wonder if merging with a British company is going to be advantageous to her or not. Like, are they used to women advancing professionally? Is it so novel to them that they don’t know what to make of it? Or is her plausible rise going to cause more friction because they are defensive? I wish we’d seen some of Duck.

Peggy’s artwork was pretty funny, and I liked how she did work the Christ imagery in; I thought the comments about whether or not it looked familiar were a little gratuitous, but of course not everyone watching will be familiar with the Benefactor pose. I do have a Catholic background, so I saw it, but perhaps that is precisely the kind of idolatration that all the Protestants abhor and thus remove from their churches. To skip ahead to Don, the repeat of the scene with the arms was a little much, especially with the Christian-themed folk song playing over it. I get that he’s been baptized and is choosing a new life for himself, but for a minute there I really, really wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to swim out to sea a la Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Well, no. I was sure that he wouldn’d drown himself, but I wondered if he’d dabble in it… swim a ways out, let himself go under before emerging… that kind of thing. I wondered, too, how likely it is that Don would know how to swim. Like confident strokes in the ocean swim, if at all. Was this an act of primal bravery? Was he really in actual danger? I’ve been knocked over in waves like that and I know how to swim and I still get a little frightened beneath the turbulence. It looked scary to me watching it. I suppose in either case, Don being unaware of the risk or Don ignoring the risk is heavily symbolic of Don facing his life despite the consequences.

Yeah, yeah. I know the sea wasn’t that stormy. I’m just sayin’. It’s a dangerous place and it’s a welcoming place and the Pacific Ocean is the largest keeper of secrets on our planet. And maybe it’s just me, but seeing Don on the beach reminded me of the last scene in The Shawshank Redemption. Or Robinson Crusoe. It’s a sneaky little trope!

I enjoyed watching Don with Anna, and looked for wistful longings in her face regarding their relationship but I really do think it has been mostly platonic. I mean, she was married to someone else and is probably a significant number of years older than him. I really didn’t see any “if only” in their interactions, although the thought of just staying together probably did cross their minds. I definitely can see why he was attracted to being around her. Forgeting the fact that he needed a mother, she is remarkably open-minded and non-judgmental, and he was a person who needed to be heard and not judged for a while. The joy of living a normal life was so bright in his face it almost brought tears to my eyes. And seeing Anna made me understand what he saw in Betty. She looks just like her, but whole. It is of course no accident that Don befriends a woman who is damaged on the outside; it helps him externalize the damage he personally has on the inside and because it’s Anna’s problem he can ignore his own. So although she has found ways to live with and defy her damage, his is an untreated hindrance. That’s what the previous two seasons of the show have been about.
Where I think things went bad for Don was the ease with which he was able to assume Don Draper’s identity, and the tolerance and welcome Mrs. Anna Draper gave to him. Clearly Betty is from a different social world, and I don’t get the impression that it’s an easy world to bust into. It requires a complete overhaul of Don’s history. What worked once, right? But this time he has to hide everything forever, because he can’t admit the deception later. It’s too risky. So he does manage to build the family he wants but he’s so busy protecting his part in it from scrutiny that he can’t take time to sit in it. It’s only just now hitting me what the detour into the hot rod conversation was really about. Yes, Don, that’s a 1934 sedan but the wheels attach in a totally different way. Yes, Don, that is a beautiful color. Gives a man ideas. And it is a shame that he can’t stay to work on cars because the job market for hot rod building isn’t there yet. Makes me wonder if he partly got into advertising because it was a way to create markets for things he really wanted to do instead. Hell, if it worked for the space program…

Don wasn’t born in 1934, was he? I don’t think so, but it’s close enough.

Now I’ve written too much to be able to muse upon Pete and Trudy and Trudy’s dad, or Hildy, but I can say that I found the scenes between Bertram Cooper and his sister remarkable. Their relationship, their conversation, the fact that she’s their partner, their relationship to Roger (who probably has contributed his share to the business even if he’s also the resident playboy), their views about life, work, the end of life, and the end of work… the passing of the torch. It really is traumatic, especially for men. I’m not surprised that men die so soon after retirement (or used to). Alice seems quite settled into her life, and ready to let go of work (although one doubts that she’ll really have any less involvement that she currently does), but I sympathize with Bertram’s reluctance to give away his business. Sharing isn’t the same. But the cows were tempting. And it’s good to see that he doesn’t die when someone steps with shoes on his carpet. I guess Cleveland was serving at the table shoeless? That’s kinda funny.

With one episode left for the season, all we have to do now is list what will be resolved now and what questions will be left open. I’m sure Don is going home, although I wonder what he’ll do when he learns he’s just made $500,000. I’m not sure if Joan will break off her engagement. I’d like to see Joan confide to Peggy, or the two of them have some kind of subtext that gives Joan some hope or resolution, but I don’t think we will. I don’t think Pete will learn about his baby, but I wonder if in Season 3 he’ll be divorced from Trudy. (Is her family the type to tolerate childlessness over a divorce?) I don’t think we’ll see much of Anna again, and I think the points to be made by Roger’s elopement with Jane have all been made.

Favorite scene: Peggy in the dark, rifling through people’s drawers for a cigarette, sparking it up, and wandering around the office like she owns the place.

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