Tuesday, October 13, 2009

'Mad Men' Tuesday: Wee Small Hours

*Warning: Spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Mad Men.*

“I want what I want when I want, when I want it. You don’t care what it does to the rest of us.” -- Betty Draper, about her baby waking up in the middle of the night crying in hunger, but it wasn't really about the baby.

"I want you. I don't care. Doesn't that mean anything to someone like you?" -- Don Draper, to a young woman he's about to bed after she warns that they could get caught.

I don’t understand Betty and Don Draper. No matter how hard I try.

I can understand Betty’s distaste for the dullness of suburban life, her intellectual boredom, her jealousy that Don gets to work in the city, mix it up creatively, dine in fine restaurants with “clients” and live an exciting life outside of the home. I can also understand that Don doesn’t seem to think he deserves a beautiful wife and an idyllic family who live in a beautiful home in the ‘burbs because of his background, and that thing with the stolen identity. A multi-millionaire who’d appeared on the cover of Time Magazine told Don that he was "indecently" lucky, so why didn’t he feel that way? And almost all the women on the show (except for Peggy Olson) seem to be trying to get what Betty has but she doesn’t seem to want it either.

However when it comes to Don and Betty’s romantic lives, I’m going to have to come to terms with the fact that I don’t completely get them and am not sure I ever will. Don and Betty just shared a wonderfully sexy jaunt to Rome, proving that they’re still hot for one another, but the moment they entered their suburban home all of that just evaporated, like their home and their kids serve as one big, cold shower dampening their affections for one another. So they turn outward instead of inward in an attempt to satiate their deep unhappiness, instead of working together.

Betty, who seems like she’s just waiting for the feminist revolution to start, wants to feel desired and senses that Don’s distracted (or doesn’t like being Don’s housewife, a possession) and looks elsewhere for affection. In Mad Men’s second season, Betty looked to the young, handsome equestrian to dote on her, to desire her, but the moment he tried to forge a real romantic connection and kiss her, she cut him off and directed his affections toward her married friend. At the end of that season, before allowing her unfaithful husband to return to the home, Betty evened the infidelity score with a fling with a stranger in a bar. This season, it’s been Henry Francis, the powerful aide to the governor who has made it plain he wants a relationship with her, which she seems to be seeking (by writing him letters, going to his office to chuck a heavy box at him) and then rebuffs Henry’s attempt.

“I don’t know what you want,” Henry said to her. What does Betty want? Does Betty even know? Is it all just about the satisfaction of the chase and when the chase is over any potential relationship is kaput, like when Betty told Sally that every kiss beyond the first is but a mere shadow by comparison?

Speaking of loving the chase, there’s her husband Don, who has this beautiful Grace Kelly wife and, after she threw him out last year, seemed to be on the good husband/good daddy road to redemption. Don has not acted on his sexual impulses since the near-fling with the flight attendant in the season premiere (though he did run away like an angry teen when Betty asked him why he didn’t sign the Sterling Cooper contract). Then he fell off the faithful husband bandwagon during this “Wee Small Hours” episode where he consummated his simmering desire to have the idealistic, young elementary school teacher whom he asked whether she’s “dumb or pure.”

What’s curious is his selection of conquests. In season one, with Don’s affair with Bohemian artist Midge there was little chance of Don getting caught or Midge running into Betty or anyone Don knew. But as his time has gone on, Don has selected women who are more likely to meet and have run-ins with Betty. Bobbie Barrett was a client’s wife and a person with whom Betty would run into at events. Miss Farrell, Sally’s former teacher who said she sees Betty at the market and lives close by, is even one degree closer. Is he trying to get caught and be punished like the bad boy he thinks he is, deep down inside?

Other storylines:

-- Poor Sal. He was acting in all manner of social correctness with the drunk and aggressive Lee Garner Jr. If Lucky Strikes Lee had made a move on Don which Don rebuffed, do you think Don would’ve been fired as easily as they disposed of Sal? As I watched Sal photocopy his work, I wondered/hoped he and the other “misfits,” Sal and Peggy, would jump ship to join Duck.

-- By golly, is Connie Hilton a nut? The moon stuff, the telling Don he’s like a son and an “angel” and then reprimanding Don for not actually pitching a Hilton on the moon, that whole exchange was baffling. “You did not give me what I wanted. I’m deeply disappointed Don,” Connie said after Don presented a smart Hilton campaign. “. . . [W]hat do you want from me love? . . . When I say I want the moon, I expect the moon.” (Betty could just as easily have said those words to him.) All the moon talk made me think of It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey promising to give Mary Hatch the moon. Anyone else get the feeling that this odd relationship between Connie and Don will end badly?

What’re your thoughts on what Don and Betty really want? On Sal’s termination from Sterling Cooper? Connie’s Hilton on the moon?

Image credit: Carin Baer/AMC.


Cooley Horner said...

SUCH a good episode, though painfully dark even by this show's standards. Betty is such a child, but she's also waiting to become a woman in so many ways. You make a good point saying she's "waiting" for the feminist revolution; interesting that she and Sally will be both be experiencing that at the same time.

I like the small hints of what's to come that we've been getting this season. MLK's speeches in the background really gave a hushed and haunting tone for the changes ahead in the "Mad Men" world, and I like how Ms. Farrell was "out for a run" but not going anywhere in particular (reminded me of the amusing scene from season 1 when Francine and the other women didn't understand why Helen Bishop was just "walking" nowhere in particular).

I am really liking this season, but I'm starting to feel that Matt Weiner owes me some Pete and Peggy development, even if that development is anti-development, so to speak. I also missed Joan; wondering how--or if!--they'll get her back in the Sterling Cooper office...

Erin said...

This week's episode was the best. Everyone is so tortured on this show. It's painful to watch sometimes but I can't look away.

I really felt so bad for Sal. When he asked Don "What if it had been some girl?" I was confused. Anyway, great recap, Meredith!

Jon said...

If your man is pushing you away and acting distant

Or if the guy you’re after isn’t giving you the time of day...

Then it’s time to pull out all the stops.

Because 99% of the time, there is only 1 thing you can say to a standoffish guy that will grab him by the heartstrings-

And get his blood pumping at just the thought of you.

Insert subject line here and link it to: <=========> Your ex won’t be able to resist?

Once you say this to him, or even send this simple phrase in a text message...

It will flip his world upside down and you will suddenly find him chasing you-

And even begging to be with you.

Here’s what I’m talking about: <=========> Is your man hiding something? He may need your help?

Thanks again.