Mad Men: Three Sundays (S02E04)

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I’m reviewing all the episodes of Mad Men before the last seven episodes premiere in the Spring of 2015. If you want to see an overview of the episodes I’ve written about so far, click HERE

“Three Sundays” is kind of a very sad episode, because it is essentially about frustration. Midway through the episode, Don is incredibly frustrated by the fact that the agency has both lost Mohawk and failed to win American Airlines as a new client. Roger calms him down, arguing that Don doesn’t really want to have a new client, nor does he want to retain and old one, what he is craving for is “the chase”, the struggle of going after new business, and the thrill of getting it. In this case, Sterling Cooper went with everything it had after American Airlines, and just before they could deliver their pitch, they learned that Duck’s contact at American had been fired, and they were left “delivering a stillborn baby”. This is, strictly speaking, the biggest loss of the episode (since it affects all Sterling Cooper employees), but “Three Sundays” is filled with many other “chases” that end in failure.

We have, for example, Don and Betty trying to get it on before they are interrupted by their kids, and we have Roger, who does get to sleep with the woman he is attracted to, but because she is prostitute. The story-line I want to focus on for this episode, though, is Peggy’s. First things first, I feel like certain plot developments have to be cleared. “Flight 1” is the first episode this season in which we see Peggy visiting her mother and sister’s house. That is also the episode in which we see her holding the baby in church. A common misconception at the time of the episode’s original airing -and a completely understandable one considering the show is very unclear about it- was the belief that the baby Peggy is holding is her child, who has been taken away from her by the government, and is being raised by her sister. That, however, is not the case. The child Peggy is holding is her sister’s son. At this point in the show’s run, we don’t know what happened to Peggy’s baby. It isn’t really a detail that will color your understanding (or appreciation) of the episode, but it’s always nice to keep things clear.

Now, what happens in “Three Sundays” is that we are introduced to Father Gill (Colin Hanks), the handsome, young, new priest at Peggy’s local church. Catholic priests are, of course, celibate, but there is no denying that Father Gill feels a certain connection, and interest for Peggy. Whether or not it is a romantic interest isn’t completely clear. What is pretty clear is that Father Gill is a relatively decent man, who could be a very positive influence in Peggy’s life. Peggy’s mom says so herself, when she mentions how happy she is that Father Gill has taken an interest in her. By asking her for advice on how to read his sermon he essentially becomes the first man to actually recognize that Peggy might have some sort of professional expertise. Sure, Freddy Rumsen recognized her talent during the whole “basket of kisses” thing, and Don has a certain amount of trust in her work, but nobody at Sterling Cooper would really go to Peggy for advice on any matter be it advertising-related or not.

But this promise of friendship, like most promises in “Three Sundays”, comes crashing down when Peggy’s sister goes to confession. The interest handsome Father Gill shows in Peggy ends up being the straw that breaks the sister back, as she has been growing increasingly jealous by the amount of attention and compassion that Peggy has gotten ever since her pregnancy. As she says to the Father in her confession, Peggy had a child out of wedlock and seems to be rewarded, while her, who is a good christian, must continue with her sad little life. The psychology of the character is understandable, and there is no doubt that she is overwhelmed by circumstances that put her faith to the test, but I’m sure there is a hint of malice in using confession to reveal Peggy’s pregnancy to Father Gill. The last scene of the episode is very touching, as the priest offers Peggy an easter egg. “For the little one”, he says, knowing much more about Peggy’s past than she imagines.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Peggy’s arc in season one, but I must admit that it proved to be a good foundation. Season two Peggy has gone through the ringer. The fiasco of her trying to reach out to Pete, the trauma of her sudden pregnancy, and the loss of her child have all made her a much sadder and weary than a 22 year old should be. At the same time, her professional rise at the agency has given her confidence and a small dose of power, which nevertheless proves to be incredibly significant for determining her self-worth. The character’s personality is being born out of sadness, and she is certainly not a perfect person in any way, but at this point Peggy is the closest thing Mad Men has to a hero.

Random Thoughts:

  • “Why are we in the living room?” “Because we live here”
  • If you don’t think so by now, there will certainly be a point at which you will regard Betty Draper as possibly the worst parent that ever lived. Just look at how mean she is to Bobby in this episode, and how bad she wants Don to beat him!
  • Pete’s shorts! The show does love to have a laugh at Pete Campbell’s expense.
  • Even at her very young age, Kiernan Shipka, as Sally Draper, is a freaking delight. The nature of her character will sadly prevent her from spending much time at the office, but just seeing her talk to Joan about her “big ones” was an otherworldly experience.
  • Also, this!
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