Mad Men Review: The Quality of Mercy

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Signs have been pointing all season to Bob trumping Pete for relevance at Sterling Cooper & Partners, and it seems Pete has finally found his counter-attack.

But more importantly, we finally know what the hell is up with Bob Benson.

Don and Roger Mad Men

After learning that Bob speaks fluent Spanish, and is entirely capable of dropping that placating smile in favor of a more stern, self-assured demeanor, Pete discovers that Bob is not who he says he is.

Of course, Pete has some experience with this, having discovered the same thing about Don in Mad Men Season 1.

Bob lied about his upbringing, his education, and his experience, and instead of firing him on the spot, or bringing this to the attention of the Partners, Pete decides to use it to his advantage.

Pete certainly is skilled at looking out for himself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob ends up being significantly more cunning that Pete, who has proven that all his self-concern rarely amounts to actually getting ahead.

While Pete has basically told Bob that he has to be his slave (and no, not in the way that Bob would have hoped last episode), Bob may show up in the next episode with a smile and a plan to destroy Pete.

Mad Men loves taking things at a glacial pace, and hammering home themes through subtle repetition. So the parallels between Bob and Don are intriguing.

Pete has always been the guy waiting in Don’s wings. And we’ve all hated him for it. But by introducing someone with such a parallel past to Don, especially at a time when Don himself seems to be regressing rapidly, we may just be in store for a major shakeup between these three characters.

The show opens and closes with Don looking mighty fetal. He’s helpless. He’s lost. He’s destroying everything around him. Couple that with the heavy Rosemary’s Baby themes this week, and we’ve got a big old devilish baby Don on our hands.

So what has he destroyed this week? Well, despite his best intentions, he continues to alienate Ted and Peggy, once again placing her in the middle of their subtle feud for influence.

Ted Mad Men

Peggy’s boiling point seems nearly reached. She was obviously the bad kind of shocked when she learned of the merger earlier in the season, and now she’s more or less got all of her fears justified. Don is a cancer, and she needs to get away from him.

Then in Don’s personal life, Megan continues to sense that something is wrong with Don, but somehow can’t figure out what it is (she should be able to take a pretty good guess given his past).

Then there’s Sally, who his indiscretions with Sylvia have given the boarding school bug. Sally continues to flirt with rebellion, inviting Glen to bring some booze and pot to her overnight stay at the school.

As much as we may expect it, however, Sally proves that she’s not simply looking to “piss off her dad,” as it were, when she rejects Glen’s friend Rolo’s advances out of jealousy that Glen might be fooling around with one of the other girls.

But, Sally gets the award for best line of the episode (maybe the season) when Betty coyly suggests that her father has probably given her a beer, and she responds with “My father has never given me anything.”

The slow burn of the show gets a little trying at times like this, but next week’s Mad Men Season 6 finale is sure to tie up some of these frayed ends in an intriguing way.

We’ve had lots of imagery of crime, of accidental violence (now’s probably a good time to mention the opening with Ken getting shot in the face—holy hell!), of intentional violence on a national scale, of collapsing facades, of romantic relationships dying at every turn, of failure and disappointment and endless poor decisions.

I can’t help but think that Bob and Megan will be big factors in the finale. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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