Tonight’s Mad Men was an exploration of the Supreme Television Court case of Don-v.-Pete.
Why do we love Don so much and hate Pete so much, when they are so similar in so many ways?
Tonight’s episode answered that question more clearly that perhaps any episode in the show’s history.
Because Pete gives a f**k, and Don doesn’t.
Because Pete tries to be successful. He tries to be powerful. He tries to live like a playboy. He tries so so hard.
Don, on the other hand, tries to screw everything up, and he doesn’t even try very hard.
They’re both babies. They both display the emotional maturity of a 4 year old. They’re petty, narcissistic, fragile men.
But whereas Pete’s every move is to turn himself into Don, Don barely has any moves, and the few moves he does have are positively destructive.
Which is probably why when Pete fails - and he always fails - we get such a darn kick out of it. The guy is so freaking driven, and in such a distasteful way.
With Pete’s life already in the dumps, the new merger between SCDP and CGC puts him in a state of panicked paranoia as he feels he’s being iced out of the company.
There’s no chair for him at the conference table. And when the new girl offers him her chair, he accepts without so much as twitching an eye, let alone batting it.
Meanwhile, his senile mother interrupts his already disastrous life, making him face the fact that no, he can’t take her in with Trudy and the kid because he doesn’t live with Trudy and the kid.
Because he’s a garbage person and she kicked him out.
And his attitude is so epically unsavory. His senile pain in the neck of a mother is preventing him from doing damage control at the office he’s trying to be king of. It’s like a classic sitcom premise, if all the characters were the worst.
Don, however, decides to skip work on the most important day SCDP has had since SCDP became SCDP - a day that he himself made happen—because a woman revealed to him that she was under his spell hard. “I need you and nothing else will do,” Syliva said.
And he makes her repeat it.
This flips a switch in Don’s head, and in his mind, it grants him permission to be Sylvia’s master. Old sexually dominant Don is back.
Whereas mindlessly promiscuous Don is depressing, sexually dominant Don is exciting. For the woman, and the audience.
Until tonight, that is, when it became utterly humiliating. Because Don is not in control of anything. After playing the Sex Master for a few days, Sylvia realizes that Don just oozes destruction. If she isn’t careful, her normal metropolitan life will become his next victim.
And when she tells him as much, his world shatters, because the philandering, inattentive, womanizing cocksman is actually at the mercy of the attention these women pay him. Who could have guess it?
Don’s destruction is felt at work too. After he gets Ted sloppy drunk at work, Peggy has to lecture him that Ted needs to rub off on him, not the other way around.
“He’s a grown man” is response. Because why would he care? He doesn’t care about much of anything.
Bob finally proved himself useful for something, and a relationship between him and Joan may be on the horizon.
Betty and Francis were thankfully absent from another episode! Automatic points.
The episode closed with Bobby Kennedy being shot - as was inevitable after the Martin Luther King, Jr. episode - with a lot less fanfare than other famous assassinations have been given in Mad Men’s past. The 60’s are coming to a close, reality is smashing the hell out of the shiny veneer, and things are looking more and more hopeless.
Tiny planes are terrifying.