Monday, October 6, 2008

'Mad Men' Monday: The Inheritance

To me, the latest Mad Men episode, "The Inheritance" is all about the family you have, the family you make for yourself and how you deal with your place within that family.

First, there was the Campbell family. Pete hates his family, despises them, seems almost pleased that he believes he's unable to pass on his DNA to another generation. However when his wife Trudy raised the subject of adopting a baby, he (as well as his mother) balked at the notion. "It's someone else's child," he said to Trudy, threatening to put his "foot down" on the matter. ". . . It's unnatural."

But Trudy's response set the stage for the remainder of the episode when she said, "We're not related by blood and you love me." Family is more than biology.

Which brought us to the fractured Draper family, where Don was still staying in a hotel while Betty and the kids are at home. Betty learned that her father had a stroke -- three days after it happened -- and Don accompanied her to visit him in Pennsylvania at her childhood home. She discovered that this was one in a series of strokes that has left her father with memory loss and a lack of social restraint. (He kept thinking Betty was his deceased wife Ruth and, at one point, fondled Betty's breast at the breakfast table in front of everyone.)

Betty felt like a stranger in the house, now that it has been taken over by her father's new wife Gloria, who clearly does not like Betty, has gotten rid of many of Betty's mother Ruth's things without offering them to Ruth's children and has intentionally kept Betty out of the loop about her father's health. Betty's brother Bill didn't make things any easier by expressing his bitterness at the fact that she and Don were doing well and living in the New York City area, leaving him holding the bag of responsibility for their dad, which he then ceded to Gloria.

Here, Betty was conflicted about her role as a wife (she had sex with Don after making him sleep on the floor, then later shunned him when they got back home), and was clearly uncomfortable playing caretaker, instead of a child, to her ill father now that her stepmother has shoved her aside.

Back at Sterling Cooper -- the company which serves as pseudo-family to many of those who work there, like Ken Cosgrove who seems to have little going on outside of work -- Harry Crane was feted by his colleagues for the fact that he's soon going to become a father, and Paul Kinsey made plans to leave his fellow ad men in order to join a family of civil rights activists along with his girlfriend Sheila to take a bus down to Mississippi to register voters.

Then there was Don, it always comes back to Don doesn't it? Now that he's estranged from Betty, he has no family at all. He only sees his kids for dinner once a week. His wife won't let him stay in his house. He has no parents, no brothers or sisters, no real friends other than Roger with whom he's curt these days. We haven't even seen the Odious Bobbie Barrett lately. His father-in-law, despite being addled by strokes, hit the nail on the head by saying about Don: "Who knows what he does or why he does it? I know more about the kid who fixes my damn car . . . Nobody has what you have and you act like it's nothing. My daughter's a princess, you know that? . . . He has no people. You can't trust a person like that."

Creepiest moment: Glen Bishop crashing at the Draper household, Betty giving him one of Don's T-shirts to wear while she washed his dirty clothing, then the two of them holding hands as Glen told Betty that he's going to rescue her, like Superman from the comic books. Yes, Betty did the right thing in calling Glen's mother Helen, but the fact that she and Glen sat there, side by side, drinking Cokes and watching cartoons while holding hands was excruciatingly uncomfortable. Felt the same way about last season's scene in the parking lot when Betty also held Glen's hand as she told him she felt so alone.

What did you think about the latest Mad Men? Your thoughts in general about the episode, including the disturbing Glen scene?

Image credit: AMC.

1 comment:

Juanita's Journal said...

Again, why is Bobbie Barrett odious to you? Is it because she is an adulteress? Both Peggy and Joan had indulged in affairs with married men. Don is an adulterer. Does his damaged childhood excuse his behavior?