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.
I want to start talking about “A Night to Remember” by looking at its ending. The episode ends with a sort of small montage in which we see the characters on which the week’s story-lines focused. We see, for example, Joan taking off her clothes after a day at the workplace. We see that her bra has left red marks on her shoulders, which in true Mad Men fashion, is a largely symbolic image. In this episode, Joan gets to help Harry Crane with some of the overwhelming workload that he has won for himself after becoming the president and sole member of Sterling Cooper’s television department. Joan fills in by reading scripts and making sure that the content of the programs doesn’t interfere with the advertising the agency’s selling. Not only does Joan get a kick of having this job, but she is awesome at it. She is fantastic convincing Maytag that they should advertise on “As the World Turns”. But just as she is getting the hold of it, she discovers that her newfound job has become an actual position, which means a man has been hired to do it.
Yes, “A Night to Remember” is another episode of Mad Men that focuses on the role of women in the early sixties, and by this point you should know that those kinds of Mad Men episodes tend to be some of its best. Getting back to that closing montage, we also see Peggy contemplating life while sitting in her bathtub. Earlier in the episode she was approached by Father Gill to, once again, use her advertising abilities to help him. This time, by creating a poster that will get kids to actually come to a dance organized by the church. Peggy comes up with the tagline that gives the name to this episode, but receives a lot of push-back from the older ladies that are in charge of the dance. She expects Father Gill to be on her side and convince the ladies of the value of her idea, but Father Gill seems more interested in other things. I’m pretty sure that he does see the value of having Peggy help out in publicity matters, but his primary goal seems to be to come closer to Peggy and help her by getting her to confess about her adultery and the existence of her child. For a religious man like Father Gill, getting Peggy closer to God would be the obvious way to help her. Still, Peggy does not tell him anything.
Meanwhile, the very last scene of the episode features Don sitting alone at the kitchen of Sterling Cooper, right after receiving a call from Betty in which she tells him that she doesn’t want him to come back home. After a long time of being unhappy, Betty has finally had it. So, what is the straw that broke the camel’s back? Betty hosts a dinner party, which also happens to prove a point Don made earlier that day while trying to convince Heineken of going with a campaign that would target “upscale, educated women”. Betty ends up being the perfect target of that campaign, and she doesn’t like that. She thinks Don’s making fun of her. She thinks she is the punchline of some joke she doesn’t know about. This seems like a weird thing to be so angry about, but in Betty’s case, it’s yet another sign that she isn’t in control of her life. All of season one was spent with Betty being deeply unhappy by the void she was feeling in her existence as an “ideal housewife”. She was rejected when she tried to go back to modeling, then she finds out that her husband was talking to her therapist behind her back, then, this season, that her husband is having an affair… This seemingly inoffensive joke implies that Don knows her better than she does, that her life is beyond her control. That she can’t escape.
Or can she? Telling Don not to come home is at least an attempt to get some agency, but will it work? All three of the ladies in this episode stand at a crossroad. They have extended their hands; they can almost touch the thing they want most with the tip of their fingers, and yet they are not closing to actually grasping it. Somewhere towards the middle of the episode we see Joan interacting with her fiancee. She is relaxed, but the reason for her ease seems to be the fact that she is been working with Harry. Peggy is trying to be a strong, independent woman, but she is still the girl that got pregnant and had to give away her baby. Betty is desperately trying to find some meaning in her life. These are all worthy causes, that don’t seem impossible to achieve, but given the circumstances of these ladies lives, they just might be. Once again, if we go back to the closing montage, we also see Father Gill, who grabs his guitar and starts singing “Early in the Morning“, a song in which the narrator asks the Lord to “Help my find my way!”. That is the call that these characters are making, the question is if anyone will answer.
- “I was right, there is only one book about Moby Dick”
- Because the show is set in the sixties, it isn’t the ideal candidate for product placement. Still, the Heineken story-line was written as the result of just that.
- Sally is starring in a ballet of Winnie the Pooh (“She’s going to be Piglet” says Betty somewhat passive-aggressively). I just wonder how popular Winnie the Pooh was at this point in time. I know that the first Disney short came out in 1966, but I never had a grasp of how popular the books were before Disney got a hold of the property.
- “Crab, Duck. Duck, Crab”
- “It holds the promise of the wholesome hand-holding that eventually leads to marriage”
- This episode features the first time Betty looks through to Don’s desk. Or at least she tries to. If you’ve seen the series before, you know how this might matter in the future.