What happens when you put Mad Men on speed?
It becomes way more awesome (who knew that was possible?)! Just like everything on speed! ...Say no to drugs, kids.
This week’s episode is called “The Crash,” and like most of the show’s episode titles, it has a ton of meanings.
First, there’s the literal crash Ken gets into with the guys from Chevy. But of course, that’s just a metaphor for the slow crash that SCDPCGC is going to be enduring with the nightmare of an account that Chevy will be.
Then, there’s Don’s total, head-first, fiery, pathetic crash into lovesickness over Sylvia.
And of course, let’s not forget the most awesome crash of all: the comedown from the crazy speed that Jim Cutler had injected into the entire creative staff’s asses.
Through all the drugged-up lunacy of the episode, “The Crash” really hit home Don’s severe, deep-seeded Mommy issues.
We’ve always known that his inability to maintain anything even resembling a functional relationship was partly due to killing his prostitute mother in childbirth and being raised by his step mother...around more prostitutes.
But this week we really saw the brunt of it.
Firstly, Don has no clue what he’s after. He doesn’t even know what happiness looks like.
The fact that Sylvia cut off her affair with Don sends him into a spiral. Now that their relationship isn’t something he can control, he wants her even more.
But he’s just searching for a Mommy, for God’s sake. And she can’t be that.
Don will never have a Mommy. He has so little of a Mommy that Sally was actually able to believe - even for a second - that a strange old Black lady that mysteriously showed up in Don’s apartment while he was gone could seriously be his mother.
Sally later tells Don over the phone, after the woman makes off with a bunch of Don’s valuables, that she “realized she doesn’t know anything about him.”
That’s because Don doesn’t exist. Don is actually Dick, and Dick’s very existence killed his mother, who was just a prostitute who accidentally got pregnant, anyway. In short, Don has no identity.
That used to make for an exciting life. Don got to be whoever he wanted to be.
But now, finally, all of his complexes are crashing down. And Don just desperately needs a Mommy. He needs an identity. He needs a foundation, something to reach down into when he's lost. Right now he's got no compass whatsoever.
The speed also brings out the long-gestating romantic tension between Stan and Peggy. While he’s on the juice and she’s on the sauce, he tries to kiss her. She tells him that she doesn’t like beards, and that he’s like a brother to her, but that doesn’t stop him. “I need this,” he tells her.
After he gives her a story about his cousin dying in Nam, she still rejects him, and as she walks away he compliments her ass. Her reply? A genuine “Thank you.” More of that is surely to come.
As the episode closes, after Don’s literal crash in his apartment when he comes home from a three-day work binge, some sleep and a shower changes everything.
On speed, Don was planning to pitch his love to Sylvia. After the crash, when they have to share an elevator, he says nothing to her.
On speed, Don is motivated as hell regarding the Chevy account (well, he wasn’t actually working on Chevy, he was working on his Sylvia pitch, but he was motivating everyone else to work on Chevy). After the crash, he basically tells Ted, who is only there because of Chevy, that he can’t do Chevy anymore.
Don! Stop destroying EVERYTHING!!!
Frank Gleason's death felt underwhelming. Perhaps it will serve a greater purpose further down the line.
This episode was almost completely devoid of Pete and Joan, as the whole thing focused on the copywriters trying to find that perfect pitch for Chevy.
Pete’s absence felt appropriate, given his paranoia about being iced out of the company. Look for this to come up again in a big way as the season comes to a close.
Creative has always been a really fun aspect of Mad Men, in fact, it’s basically the entire hook of the show. Watching them try to come up with even one workable slogan while high out of their minds was a blast.
Don’s silences are becoming more and more pointed. Every time he ignores a question or sits next to someone while staring into the foreground, you can just feel him trying desperately to suppress the torrid of thoughts running through his head. It’s not gonna work, Donny boy. Let ‘em out.
This was the first fantastic episode of the season.