Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mad Men Season 3, Episode 12: The Grown Ups.

What is going on? - Betty Draper

Betty asks that question more than once today as the escalation of violence and its resulting upsetting of the status quo makes her feel as if her life is under attack.  She's one of the grown ups, who can't be sheltered from the news and has to be strong.  But she doesn't feel strong, she feels as if the world is falling apart around her.  But it's not the news of the day that's causing her to feel this way; it's just a manifestation of the emotional turmoil brought on by her discovery of the truth about her husband and the truth about her feelings for him.

In Episode 3.02 we knew what it meant when Margaret announced that her wedding was set for November 23, 1963 and in Episode 3.12 we have the painful payoff as we relive the unfolding in real time of the John F. Kennedy assassination.  One of the first major news events to happen in the TV age, we see how the nation crowded around small black and white sets desperate for news, desperate for answers.  The characters in Mad Men are similarly shocked and confused about what is happening to their world and this historic moment propels many to question their lives.

But before those three shots are heard in Dallas, Texas, Pete Campbell is already reeling from the news he just received.  He's being passed over for the top spot in the Accounts department and Ken Cosgrove will be top dog.  Pete handles the news well enough.  Rather than exploding at the office, he packs up his things and heads home, shell shocked and deeply hurt.   As he tells Trudy, Ken will be "senior something of something accounts and I'm not."

Roger's daughter Margaret is pouting about the very expensive pre-wedding present she gets from Jane and shows more than mere pre-wedding jitters.  She doesn't want to get married and believes that all signs point to what a mistake she's about to make.  She blames Jane for ruining her life and her mother Mona chimes in that her father is not blameless.

Peggy is off for a nooner with Duck when the first hint that something terrible has happened is on the news. He turns off the TV so as not to disrupt the mood while Harry and Pete are discussing business with the news playing in the background. Within minutes everything will change and be put in perspective. 

But not for Margaret Sterling.  Her wedding will go on, the trauma spreading across the nation, watching not just their president but the father of two young children shot down in his prime, will not interfere with her big day.  Not surprising the turnout is pretty anemic with most people not in the mood for a celebration (or reasonably expecting the event would be rescheduled). 

But two people did show up.  Betty Draper reluctantly joined her husband at the wedding and was rewarded when she saw Henry Francis glide in on the arms of his young daughter (a friend of the bride).  She was surprised to see him there, he had been hoping to see her.  The timing could not have been better for Betty.  Fresh on the heels of the discovery that her philandering husband was also a criminal and a liar, Betty was ready to reconnect with Henry who has almost a mythical position in her mind as the one person in the world who will make her happy. 

After the disaster of a wedding, where Roger actually stepped up and gave a great speech and otherwise made the best of a bad situation, he went home, put his drunk wife to bed and then called up Joan.  That's who he turned to when he couldn't deal with what was going on around him. And Joan nailed it, the spoiled-rotten rich kid who cracks jokes like other people breathe couldn't handle something real and sad and decidedly unfunny.  So he turned to her for comfort - not a roll in the hay, but just to hear her voice and have her say something understanding.

It is meaningful who people choose to turn for in times like this.  Roger chose Joan, Betty chose Henry.  She woke up Don just to tell him she was going out to "clear her head" and rebuffed his suggestion that he and the kids join her.  For good reason; she planned to meet up with Henry.  Something about him has hung with her since Derby Day and now is the culmination of all that.  With the proof that Don has been lying to her, Betty is free to pursue this dream of Henry, on his white horse, who will whisk her away to a land of enchantment and happiness.  Henry wants to marry her - despite the fact that she's already married, despite the fact that she has three children, despite the fact that it may complicate his boss's run for Governor.  Henry is in love.

Betty is in love too, and it's not with Don.  She tries to tell him, but with everything going around in the country, Don thinks this is some reaction to that.  He doesn't yet see that she hasn't been in love with him for a long time and has been looking for something to fill that void. Of course, he has no way to know that she has found that thing in the arms of another man.  Don thinks if he ignores what she's saying, it'll go away.  He doesn't know that she's made up her mind.  The next morning, Betty barely looks at him and the frosty relationship between them is noticeable to the kids.  When Bobby suggests it's cold outside, we can't help but think it's probably warmer there than next to Betty.

Don goes into the office on what for most is a national day of mourning, spent at home or in church.  He would have spent the day in a bar, but they were closed out of respect.   So the office was his next choice.  Not surprising, he finds Peggy there, working.   She has the art work for the Aqua Net campaign on her desk and only then do we see the eerie similarity between the couples driving with their top down and the president's doomed motorcade.  Peggy wanted to be alone to grieve, not with her roommate and an apartment full of people, not with her very religious mother who was sucking all of the emotion out of the room.  So she came to where she feels comfortable, the office.

She goes to watch the funeral in Bert Cooper's office and Don passes.  He goes into his office, alone, as "The End of the World" starts playing in the background.  JFK is not the only thing that will be buried today.


The first reports in from Dallas, Texas mentions three shots.  Later an eye witness who took a Polaroid of the motorcade as it passed in front of her claims to have heard two shots.  And fifty plus years later we can still debate the events of that day.

While we see Walter Cronkite's famous, eyeglass removing, clock checking announcement of the president's death, we also see what Huntley and Brinkley, the duo with the most popular news show at the time, had to say of the events.

Duck turns off the TV in the hotel room so the news won't interrupt their tryst then after they've finished he turns it back on.  Peggy has to be disturbed that he thought he could hide such huge news from her lest his afternoon be ruined.

We see how different people process the news differently.  Margaret Sterling complains about how the assassination has ruined her wedding.  She and her family all agree that the wedding will still go on.  Harry Crane is calculating how many commercials won't be airing because of the news coverage. Pete stops thinking about Ken's promotion and how mad he is at his bosses, right now he couldn't care less about Roger's daughter's wedding. Instead he just wants to stay home with Trudy.  They aren't the only ones and it's an awkward setting - the empty chairs and the people gathered watching the news in the kitchen.  Roger's child bride Jane complains that she'll never get to vote for the handsome Kennedy.

Don talks Betty into going and that turns out to be a mistake because Henry Francis shows up.  She's happy at first, her eyes twinkling when she sees him. But when he goes over to a pretty young lady and greets her, Betty is hurt.  That is, until she hears the girl call him "Daddy."  The rest of the time it's a slow built of sexual tension between the two, who barely make any eye contact.  At the end of the evening, the way the camera is positioned we see Betty taking in the room and seeing her husband on one side and the man she loves on the other.  Don looks at Betty, but she's not meeting his eyes. He's worried about her and kisses her, thinking she's still upset about the horrible news.  He has no idea why she's sad and distracted.

Back in episode 2.12 Don told Anna Draper all about the girl he wanted to marry, Betty Hofstadt. "I just like the way she laughs, and the way she looks at me.”  She looks at Don now with a mixture of boredom and disdain.  But Henry Francis is the beneficiary of that loving look from her now.   Even 
Henry's daughter notices Henry noticing Betty.  

All is not well in Roger's new marriage.  He wants her basically to stay at home and be young and beautiful and not have any ideas of her own.  He's furious that she upset spoiled little Margaret by having the nerve to give her an expensive wedding present.  When she says, sadly, "I'm the good person here," Roger shoots back, "You're not good because you didn't listen to me and you really upset her."  He's choosing his temperamental, irrational daughter over his new wife - not a recipe for marital success.

Henry Francis is shameless.  He doesn't know about Don's lies, all he knows is that he is obsessed with Betty and he wants her.  It's a strange infatuation for such a mature man. He seems attracted to Betty's sadness as much as her beauty and all he wants is to be the knight in shining armor that rescues her.  But what he doesn't want to be is Romeo to her Juliet, players in some tragic love story.  He wants this - them - to be real.  He doesn't realize that once upon a time Don felt the same way and wanted nothing more than to make Betty happy.  It's not that easy.

In case you were wondering, we know now that "Singing in the Rain" is Betty's favorite movie. 

What was the meaning behind the temperature extremes in the office, from arctic cold to Death Valley hot. It reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode "The Midnight Sun" where we see a woman dealing with oppressive heat as the world is sweltering on its way to a cataclysmic apocalypse only for her to wake up and find out, to her relief, that it was a dream. The world is not boiling after all.  Alas, what she doesn't remember is that the world in fact is engulfed in crushing frigidness and the planet was moving away from the sun and heading into oblivion.  Another dichotomy in this episode was the light and dark contrast in the clothing of Lee Harvey Oswald and the policeman escorting him as he was shot.

The song at the end, "End of the World" by Skeeter Davis (which came out in 1962), also references a bit from "The Midnight Sun," as the singer asks why the sun keeps on shining.   But the lyrics of the song could not be any clearer as they encapsulate where Don is in his relationship with Betty:
Why do the birds go on singing
Why do the stars glow above
Don't they know it's the end of the world
It ended when I lost your love


Lane:  It's become apparent that you are excellent at making the clients feel their needs are being met, but Mr. Cosgrove has the rare gift of making them feel as if they haven't any needs.

Jane:  I am the good person here.

Pete: Trudy, stop it with the Ellery Queen.

Harry: I'm going to die at this desk unnoticed. 

Paul: Somebody shot the president. 

Margaret: It's all ruined.  It's gonna be ruined. 

Pete: It felt for a second like everything was going to change. 

Roger: Mona, you're a lioness. And thank you for resisting the urge to eat your cub.

Roger:  So what's new?

Roger: Nobody else is saying the right thing about this. 

Betty:  What is going on?

Henry:  Have you thought that there are other ways to live?

Betty: I want to scream at you for ruining all of this. But then you try to fix it and there's no point. 

Betty:  I don't love you

Betty: You can't even hear me right now.
Don: You're right.  

Peggy: What are you doing here? 
Don: The bars are closed. 

Peggy:  My mother was crying and praying so hard there wasn't room for anyone else to feel anything.

Spoilery Observations (Don't read if you're not caught up)

This is the second time that Pete has been upset at how highly the firm (especially Lane) thinks of Ken and how little they think of him.  First when they were each made co-head of accounts and now this.  Pete finally "wins" when Ken is fired in episode 7.08, but only briefly - until Ken announces he'll be Pete's client.  And we know Ken is used to having an accounts man who makes him feel like he has no cares.

Roger turns to Joan other times in the future and they have well set up that she holds a special place in his heart and is the one person he can be real with.  After Ida Blankenship dies in the office in Ep. 4.09 Roger again turns to Joan.  He's depressed and this death has caused him to think of his own mortality and says to her "I don't want to die in this office" echoing what Harry says in this episode about dying at his desk unnoticed.

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