This (half) season of Mad Men has been a strange one. The first two episodes felt like a strange game of withholding, as if Weiner wanted to see what we would sit through before getting to the good stuff. Fortunately for all of us, “Time & Life” delivered on that “good stuff” then inverted the pattern giving a strange feeling of relief and resignation. He’s telling us that no, it’s never going to be the same again, move on.
Everything old is new again, but this time it’s broken and it all falls apart. The questions “Time & Life” poses to our characters is appropriate on the cusp of a new decade, can they adapt to this brave new world or will they be left alone?
Peggy spilling the beans to Stan is her moment where she chooses to move forward, to adapt and to grow. Breaking away from the lesson learned from Don, to just forget, that she would be amazed how much this never happened. When Peggy decides to break away from that burden of secrecy it’s a beautiful scene between two friends. And it’s a moment that is earned and understood in a relationship based on mutual trust and a sort of understanding, one the show has been investing in for years.
Peggy has of course spoken about this aloud before, but only in hushed tones and in a sort of power play with Pete. But this is different. As Peggy acknowledges the huge impact this decision continues to have on her life to this day she begins to reconcile her past with her present, and her future. This is not dissimilar to how Don has slowly letting Dick Whitman slip back into the Don Draper of his own creation, on a path to becoming whole again. I don’t know if Don can ever accomplish happiness, but I like to think that Peggy has a fighting chance.
This is the episode where we see our guys come together, no Betty, no Glen, No New Friends! Our old dogs are jolted out of complacency when the partners see their status quo threatened by the looming absorption by McCann. But it’s ultimately too late, their coup is crushed before it ever began. We’ve done it before, but it can’t happen again. Not like this.
We’ve seen Don Draper reinvent himself time and time again. Trying on different faces. There’s Swimming Don, California Don, Suburbs Don, and City Don. We’ve watched him try and fail to get his life together, to get sober, to get somewhere. But like Jim Hobart said, he’s arrived. Don has been trying to get there for so long he never even saw it coming, probably never actually realizing what his end goal would be.
But even faced with defeat professionally, everyone has someone, except for Don.
And I’ll leave you with this…“The king ordered it!”. (a.k.a. Pete & Trudy 4 Eva).