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TV REVIEW: MAD MEN

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Review by Slewo

The relationship between children and parents has long been an important component of Mad Men. How parents raise their children, cast shadows above them, and ultimately define them has long been a part of the show’s mythology. Children are often doomed to repeat the sins of their parents, sometimes they can move past it, or other times they don’t. While that is only one of the major themes of the episode, it impacts the proceedings quite a bit. The presence of a parent or lack thereof has played a major role throughout the series. For Don, the early loss of his mother, the apathy of his father, and the searing hatred of his step-mother shaped and malformed a lot of how he approaches fatherhood, marriage, and even his job. That being said, Don is one of the few examples of a parent who attempts to move outside of themselves and be a parent. Making a milkshake and babysitting is a small gesture, but in the world of Mad Men it’s a fairly large one given the minimal role Don played up to this point with his children’s development, even having mostly surrendered the role of father to the man who replaced him in his wife’s life. So whatever Don’s other faults throughout this episode, he’s shown as a man whose one saving grace revolves around his children’s future.

The other examples of parental relationship are filled with less hope for the future however. While we got an already damning glimpse of Megan’s mother and father several times in previous seasons, we get a further glimpse of one of Megan’s other siblings and the relationship with their mother behind closed doors. While it was never hard to extrapolate what kind of a family life Megan led based on her mother and father’s bickering, the action behind closed doors somehow measures out to be even worse. While I hesitate to compare it to daytime soap opera; the dramatic scenes between Megan, her mother, and sister do adhere very close to that trope. No one is supportive, and everyone is baring their fangs at the other, especially with the way Marie plays Megan and her sister against each other. It makes it very unsurprising that even after the shenanigans she pulled from moving stuff without asking, to sleeping with Roger (again), Megan identifies more closely with her mother than ever simply because “she did something” about her marriage. There’s also nothing surprising about parents using their children as blunt objects against each other, it’s certainly not unfamiliar to Mad Men, and even beyond adulthood it’s sadly easy to see how Megan’s own divorce is a pantomime of the disconnection Megan’s mother wants from her father. In addition, it reveals a lot more of the construction of Megan’s own nature as while she draws the line at allowing herself to be used further (by Harry no less) in return for a career, she still allows her thinking to be manipulated by her mother’s own words, allowing herself to take Don’s money as a price instead of hashing it out, and speaking in favor of her mother despite her plain disrespect towards Megan.

That being said, the episode is still very focused on Don’s recurring foibles. He’s never learned how not to treat women like whores, he simply needs to find the price, and he eventually finds Megan’s price in their settlement to the tune of $1,000,000. While it’s not a pleasant moment of truth for Megan, it says a lot more about Don. Revealing Don’s past as a rape victim did a lot to illuminate why his relationships with women are always so unstable, which combined with his lack of stable parental figures (including Roger) paint a still very ugly picture of where he’s headed. At this point, the only hope of salvation he has left is embedded in that first scene, with the picture of the father he could be, instead of the man that he actually is at the moment. To do that though, it’s very clear that Don will have to find a way to give up advertising.

Don’s faults throughout the series all stem at a very singular issue. As a child, he had nothing, and had a chance to start anew, to create a new person to wrap as a shell around what used to be Dick Whitman. Advertising throughout the series is shown to be a lie as the endless peeks behind the curtain give us, and in effect Don has been advertising a false life to himself, a life that does nothing to fulfill both the emotional and spiritual voids that exist inside him. Don’s advertising pitches as many people before me have pointed out are aimed at himself, and in order to be a better man, a better father he may have to very well give up the job that’s carried him for so long. While Diane was presented at first as a way for Don to begin thinking of Rachel Menken in the first episode, she in effect became a reverse Dick Whitman in the second episode of this season. The parallels are obvious: abandoning a family member, starting anew, and children hanging like a Sword of Damocles over the conscience. However, unlike Don, Diane has no desire to forget, she wants to be punished, and no amount of advertising can cleanse her of that guilt, nor allow her to trick herself into moving on. The minor debate in this episode over whether advertising can be art leads to that conclusion, that it has no spiritual fulfillment. For someone like Diane, or someone like Don who wants to be whole again.

4 out of 5 milkshakes

About soshillinois (294 Articles)
What's there to say about me? Well I'm an avid fan of comics, video games, tv shows, and movies alike. I love to read, consume, and discuss information of all kinds. My writing is all a part of who I am.
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