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Friday, 5 of March of 2021

Mad Men – “Dark Shadows”

“I don’t think about you at all.”

Betty accidentally sees Megan dressing at the Draper residence.

Betty remembers when everyone thought of her as a sex symbol and not the resident fatty.

Regrets abound for not having the time to do a Mad Men review last week. So many opportunities for pop culture references and snark, from Rory Gilmore making another mistake with an old-money douchebag to Don almost getting Drake Ramorayed. I assure you, all the quips I had planned were hilarious.

This week it’s all about violating the sanctity of homes, both physical and physical (if you know what I mean). And physical because Betty could probably eat a Thanksgiving dinner if she’d hop on a treadmill. It is the invasion of privacy and shattering the safety of so many people, whether they know it or not.

Also, Betty reprises her role as being the worst.

It’s been a while since Betty has been any kind of force against anyone but The Fatness has finally had enough of ignoring all the demeaning things that’ve been happening to her. Trespassing into a universe where life goes on without her and then seeing her role improved in a state of unfat undress is the last straw. Then the switch is flipped to full-on cliché ex-wife mode after reading Don’s love note to Megan on the back of Bobby’s drawing of a whale (with harpoons — isn’t he a little young for Melville?).

But, like Betty’s road to fatty-town, her reentry to juvenile manipulation is paved with lack of restraint. Telling Sally about Anna is like killing a fly by burning down the house. There had to be other ways to go in order to put Sally on tilt against Megan but, instead, she plays her trump card as the one ever-present weakness in Don’s life: world’s colliding without him to stop it.

The concentration on Betty in this episode is interesting in all phases but I particularly liked a couple of the sound cues. When Betty walks into the apartment, just before catching Megan in her all-together, her survey of the apartment, assembled and modern, is accompanied by Don’s personal soundtrack, the Woodwinds of Reflection. Without even seeing Betty’s face (from the sound cue, the scene is a pan from Betty’s POV) we understand this to be a defeat for her. I’m not sure if she expected rat traps and mattresses on the floor in a Park Avenue apartment but the actual vision of a home (as opposed to the coldness of her own house) is enough to tear her down. Complicating her feelings is seeing Megan there. First, her home as a temple is threatened and then her body, too.

My favorite sound cue, though, has to be while she and Henry are talking near midnight and he reveals his insecurities about his job. He’s bet on the wrong horse, he says. Another violation in her house, particularly if she’s keeping up with the Drapers, and, as she takes it in, the refrigerator clearly turns on. It’s a symbol of her coping mechanism (the Fatness wants to eat her anxiety) but it’s also almost like something revving up, like the machine is starting to whir inside of her.

The third cue, just before she cracks and intends to use Sally as her pawn, comes from Bobby’s homework. The papers seemed so loud compared to even dialogue in the scene. I don’t know. Maybe that was how paper sounded in the 1960s, like wooden Transformers popping your grandfather’s knuckles. The sound stood out to me and, justifiably, since it’s what’s written on one of those papers that sends Bets over the edge.

So Betty sends Sally into the Draper home like she was Loki in The Avengers and puppeteers her heart so she’s ugly to Megan. Unfortunately for Betty, Don and Megan aren’t as fragile as Don and Betty or even Betty and Francis are. You get the feeling, especially when Don about flips out and calls the Fatness but stops on Megan’s insistence, that this understanding between the new Drapers, filled with love and compassion and teamwork, is the shining example of heart that can’t be put asunder by meddling tactics from a scorned fatty 50 miles away. I mean, if revealing a history of Anna to Sally isn’t enough to bring Don to a state of uncontrolled panic because Megan is able to calm him, the wicked witch of the suburbs is going to have get highly creative instrumenting some sort of malevolence for them.

Of course, the Draper and Francis homes aren’t the only ones to be infiltrated. Jane suffers Roger’s selfishness, both in dragging her back into their marriage from limbo so that he can use her Jewish heritage to win a client and then with sex after he watches her get hit on by said client, which ends up poisoning the home she got in order to purge her life of loving memories of him. At least Roger feels remorse afterward for what he’s done but — what a jackass. And then Ginsberg feels his home-away-from-home violated by Don only presenting his own idea and leaving Ginzo’s in the car. Ginsberg had to learn eventually what the money is for.

Interestingly, this is also Don’s first real stab at work after a long time of being on love leave. He may have let things drift in his absence but this is him taking back his house. He’s king of this roost and Ginsberg trying to stand up for himself with passive-aggressive, sidling accusations isn’t going to bring Don Draper down. While his personal home has been infiltrated, Don’s station at SCDP is the bridle to the whips of the other stories. It is the beacon of an unpenetrated house.

While not as entertaining as last week’s episode, this week’s served up a good amount of intrigue that was quickly scuttled before causing any real damage. Which is to be expected in Mad Men. Don coming out like a rose and Roger having all the best lines.

Some other things:

  • Dear God: let me never be in a position where I have to weigh out how much cheese I can eat.
  • Roger: “How Jewish are they? You know, Fiddler on the Roof: audience or cast?”
  • Worth noting that I like Bert Cooper when he’s funny. “Already?”

  • From Ginsberg’s notes: “Sno Ball — It’s something you name your pig!” Ginzo and his subtle literary references.
  • Betty bumps into that lamp because the Draper house is not made for fatties.
  • Can I have a dictaphone? I know I could just get an app for the same purpose but — I want a dictaphone!
  • I don’t like Don’s idea. At all. Also, Peggy needs a win.
  • Weight Watchers had to be a pain in the butt before computers.
  • Something I’ve never done: woke up in the middle of the night and cooked a steak.
  • Well, Rory Gilmore’s all grown up now.
  • “Lovely Megan, I went to buy a light bulb. When I get back, I’ll see you better. Love, Don.” Not sure why Don’s note needed a voiceover. I suppose to hit that point home that Betty is internalizing it. But I like the note way better than his Sno Ball idea. Glad his writing skills are being put to good use.
  • Pete continues to have nothing to live for (by his own standards) but continues to live because he got into those Traveling Pants. Alexis Bledel puns: I got a million of ’em. Anyway, I like how this thing didn’t work out for them even though, and probably because, Pete orchestrated it. He tried to be the voice of the company and got punished for it.
  • Every man for himself. Peggy really needs a win.
  • Smog emergency. We don’t want your stinking poison in our house.
  • Meanwhile, in the suburbs, Betty: “I’m thankful I have everything I want. And no one else has anything better.” Except the better place to live, the better relationship, and all the stuffing she wants. Because she’s not a fatty. Fatty.

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