image post

‘Mad’cap Recap 4:4

As Don pointed out last week, the youth are in charge now. This week’s episode, turning a welcome spotlight on Peggy Olsen and Pete Campbell, examined how up-and-coming young adults in the mid-60s straddled the widening generation gap. Let’s start with Pete.

Despite Don’s claim at the end of season three that Pete is more forward-looking than the rest of SCDP, Pete is still kind of an old-fashioned guy. He believes young people are apprenticed to their elders to learn from their wisdom and carry on their legacy and traditions while they build on the experience of the past to create a better future. Of course, Pete’s interpretation of this principle is more cutthroat than that, because he’s a sociopath. Notice the neat way he leveraged Trudy’s pregnancy against his father-in-law to convert the Clearasil conflict into a multi-million dollar account in his column. Notice also that this gives SCDP an additional cushion against the inevitable loss of the too-powerful Lucky Strike account, strengthening his own position at SCDP. (Dear Don: when Lee Jr. dumps your company, please rehire Sal Romano. Love, Kate.) Pete is not an innovator in his field, nor does he want to be. He just wants to beat the older guys at their own game.

On Pete’s side of the youth divide, we also have the Pond’s focus group of secretaries who, much to my chagrin and complete lack of surprise, confirmed Freddy’s assertion that the way to a woman’s wallet is through her left ring finger. None of them, including the heartbroken Allison, are interested in blazing new trails of self-indulgence without the security of a committed relationship. Speaking of Allison, I’m sorry to see her go, but I got a HUGE kick out of her replacement, Mrs. Blankenship. Joan knew exactly what she was doing when she gave that woman to Don as a secretary. And I think his increasing distance from the younger generation is going to be very significant down the line, perhaps in his relationship with Sally, but more likely in his relationship with Peggy.

Peggy is taking the path we may think of more readily when we imagine young life in the ’60s. She is breaking with all kinds of traditions and established mores. She smokes pot. She hangs out, and kind of flirts, with lesbians. She goes to loft parties to watch avant garde films. She kisses strange men in closets five minutes after meeting them. (She will be going to Woodstock; bet on it.) She also has a hard time relating to her more traditional peers. When Allison runs out of the focus group in tears, Peggy tries to comfort her as one of the girls, but when she realizes that Allison thinks she also slept with Don, her strong independent streak takes over, and she lashes out. To Peggy, the most important thing is protecting herself, her image and her reputation. Although she’s becoming more closely aligned with the ’60s revolutionary counterculture, she doesn’t seem really interested in having her social consciousness raised. If we ever see her at a sit-in or a protest march, it probably won’t be because she feels strongly about civil rights or Vietnam. It’ll be because she thinks she can learn something that will help her at work.

The final shot at SCDP encapsulates Pete and Peggy so well. Pete stands inside the office with the old guard, sealing a business deal with his father-in-law, while Peggy gets  swept away by a gaggle of energetic free spirits. What are they thinking when their eyes meet? Are they remembering the child they had together and both abandoned because it didn’t fit either of their plans? Are they acknowledging the cultural forces that may soon divide the office and the world, like the glass door that stands between them? Maybe it’s simply a meeting of like minds. Pete and Peggy have completely different approaches to dealing with the world around them–one traditional, one progressive, but both utterly self-centered. No wonder they are so bizarrely and unsettlingly perfect for each other.

More articles in Creative Fix

One Response to “‘Mad’cap Recap 4:4”

  1. I like reading these. It helps me digest (and savor) the episode.

Leave a Reply