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‘Mad’cap Recap 4:11

Kate’s back!  Hooray!!

I LOVE MAD MEN’S OPENING CREDITS. A faceless man surveys his clean, stylish office: his kingdom. He takes a step forward, puts down his briefcase. He is making progress and getting comfortable. That’s when the walls come tumbling down, and suddenly the man is in a mesmerizing freefall past skyscraper-sized ads for stockings, liquor and diamonds. Did the floor beneath him betray his trust and give way? Did he see his world crumble and decide to jump, either in panic or in resignation? In the final image, we appear to be looking at his dead body, splayed on the pavement. But as the camera pulls back, we see a cigarette tucked in his fingers, and the man now seems to be casually seated. Perhaps the collapse and the fall only happened in his mind. Did he imagine he was killing himself or saving himself? Or both?

You could probably write a whole thesis on the opening credits and all the symbolism they contain. I mention them this week because, after nearly four seasons of this show, I’m convinced that the credits have been foreshadowing the entire arc of the series. We’ve been watching the world disintegrate for so long, but I think this week marks the true beginning of the fall.

There was upheaval all over this episode. First, the news of Lucky Strike’s departure from SCDP leaked, and everybody freaked. Roger’s patheticness as he tried covering the truth that he lost the account weeks ago was compounded by Joan’s final (so she says) rejection of his romantic advances and capped by the arrival of his utterly self-indulgent memoir. I don’t know if anyone on Mad Men has ever looked quite so sad as Roger Sterling in his last scene, realizing that the life he spent decades building barely amounted to anything worth passing on. I’ve speculated before that a third heart attack would claim Roger this season, as he hasn’t really changed much about his diet, drinking or smoking. Now I wonder if he might be toying with the idea of something even more self-destructive.

Speaking of self-destructive…ohhhhh, Don. (Whoever had “episode 11” in the “How long before Don bangs another secretary” pool, stop by the front desk to collect your winnings on the way out.) In a classic sleaze move, Don was with Megan at the very moment that Faye was making the difficult choice to sacrifice her professional integrity for her relationship with him. It’s probably no coincidence that Faye is a Betty-esque blonde, standing by him as he trashes her trust, while Megan is another in a long line of brunettes on the side. Don may think he’s starting over, but he’s really just circling the drain. I found it interesting that Don was trying to use both women to curb his drinking somewhat, but I think Freddy Rumsen could tell him that his “no more than 3” rule (which I noticed he immediately broke and then lied about for no reason) is not going to be super successful in the long run.

But we’re not done yet.  The funeral of the rival colleague was maybe the lowest point of this episode for the little ad firm that could, and for pretty much everyone else involved. Listening to a stream of co-workers assure a dead man’s daughter that he loved her from afar was quite depressing, which we could see registering slowly across both Don’s and Pete’s faces as they considered whether somebody would have to deliver the same empty platitudes to their own daughters someday. (Sidebar: Pete has a daughter! Since he seems genuinely excited and hasn’t creeped on any neighbor ladies recently, I offer my heartfelt congratulations with a side of awwwww.)

The one bright spark in the whole episode came from, big surprise, Peggy, who managed to close a deal with Playtex, even with a layer of lipstick on her teeth. She clearly has ad pitch superpowers, which she is siphoning off of Don a little more every day, and she and Abe are hitting it off in bed (if not in conversation). However, I think even the marvelous Peggy won’t be able to pull off the feat of living in two worlds at once for very long. This episode was titled “Chinese Wall,” a reference that Faye made a few episodes ago to the compartmentalizing we all do in order to live with our own inconsistencies. If Peggy were to look around these days, she’d see that nobody’s walls stay in place forever. Sooner or later, we all fall down.

Photo credits: ae.tutsplus.com, amctv.com

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