Monday, August 18, 2008

'Mad Men' Monday: Three Sundays

Authority and responsibility. Do you shirk them?
Avoid them? Abuse them? Utilize the power of your authority and responsibility for your own selfish ends? That's what I saw as the Mad Men theme this week in an episode where this one central notion was spun off into different directions, in disparate storylines during the holiest period on the Christian calendar.

-- At home, Don and Betty Draper spent a weekend day drinking and blowing off previously made plans so they could fool around . . . and consequently forgot that their kids needed to eat dinner. The two got got into a fight later in the episode -- which got physical -- when Betty chastised Don for failing to use corporal punishment on their son Bobby who'd been misbehaving. In another scene Don had to take his daughter Sally (who'd earlier been shown making ginormous vodkas on ice with a splash of canned tomato juice for her parents) to work with him while Betty took Bobby to the ER after he burned his mouth on a griddle while Don (!) was making pancakes. Don left Sally under the supervision of the secretaries and later found the girl passed out on a sofa after she'd consumed a glass of alcohol left on a desk.

-- At work, Duck Phillips, who'd convinced the company's partners Roger Sterling and Bert Cooper to dump a client, Mohawk Airlines, in order to pitch American Airlines for their business (over Don's strenuous objections), fell on his face when his contact at American was sacked and all the work the Sterling Cooper folks put into the pitch (including working over the weekend, on Palm Sunday) was for naught. Don wanted Duck held accountable, but his boss Roger Sterling gave him a pass.

-- Peggy Olson's sister Anita was a seething cauldron of pent-up frustration because Anita sees Peggy as living the glamorous life of a Madison Avenue ad gal -- apparently not paying any price for having borne a child out of wedlock by a man the night before his wedding to someone else -- while Anita struggles to be the good and dutiful daughter, the good wife to her chronically injured husband and the good mother to her children (And Peggy's son? It's still not clear that the toddler constantly with Anita is Peggy's.).

-- Don apparently suffered no repercussions for last week's ladies room assault on Bobbie Barrett, as she turned up at his office to convince him to help her develop a pitch for a TV show for her comic husband. The meeting ended with, viewers were led to believe, another sexual interlude, this time with both of them appearing to consent.

The entire episode can be summed up by Anita's confession to the creepy Father Gil, who clearly has designs on Peggy. After confessing to taking the Lord's name in vain and pinching a few coins left on top of a washing machine at the laundromat, Anita said she hates Peggy for getting away with everything. She asked Father Gil why people should bother to be good at all when people who do bad or immoral things appear to face no consequences for their actions. All Father Gil could come up with was that the good people will be rewarded in heaven. This, mind you, in an episode that was sandwiched between three Sunday masses during the two weeks preceding Easter and ending on Easter Sunday.

One other random item that was nagging at me: What's the significance of Don's son being named Bobby, while the woman with whom he's now engaging in an odd, almost mercenary affair also being named Bobbie? Certainly this is no accident. Both Bobby and his father have been lying a lot lately.

So, what say you? What did you think of this episode? Does Don act in any way he pleases and suffers no consequences? Do all of the characters walk around in bubbles of selfish narcissism, doing whatever they want without regard for others? Do we all? Let's dish some Mad Men.

Image credit: AMC.

Series creator Matt Weiner discusses the episode in the AMC video below:


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