I Think Norman Mailer Got Shot Over There
So I’m realizing each week poses the question anew: who is Don Draper? And despite initial hopeful signs, we always seem to move through drunkenness and prostitutes to end on Don’s shifty eyes looking lost in the world of his own making. We’ve been flirting with a Dick Whitman storyline already this season, but we returned full force to California this week to remember the man Don could have been before he was Don – before he was just a man in a room with a checkbook.
I love it when Don goes to California – it’s such a stark juxtaposition to New York and, while we are constantly reminded of how flaky Cali can be while he’s there, we also get to see Dick at his most relaxed…literally, being himself. This LA trip gave us the most gorgeous scene of the episode: the turn from night, to dawn to mid-morning sun shining through the windows as Don stared blankly at nothing, moving not a muscle. This beautiful time-passage hearkened back to the second season’s artistic playfulness – an old Mad Men trick I wouldn’t mind seeing more of. LA has always inspired the artsy in this show.
And so, despite the potential loss of great character, this artfulness is another reason why Anna’s cancer is such a painful twist for me. But it’s also because in past seasons California has served as Don’s safe haven; the place where he can go to recharge and let his guard down. No one on earth knows him like Anna knows him and so, as she points out, no one on earth can love him like Anna loves him. She’s his final tie to who he once was. And so as we’ve watched every aspect of the life Don built for himself crumble – his marriage, his control over his work, his sex-appeal – now we have to entertain the crumbling loss of his former self too. Lord have mercy, I’m half expecting a suicide attempt in the weeks to come.
A suicide attempt, or remarriage to a younger lady – both of which would amount to a similar narrative device in the context of this show; that is, Don’s decent into the man he vowed he would never become. Divorce is ugly on him and, despite insisting that he wouldn’t give advice on the matter, he’s initiating Lane into a similar sort of ugliness. I loved watching Lane’s newbie nervousness over coffee, not knowing how much to pay a prostitute, pitted against Don’s world-weary expression of man who has done this too many times…at least he kept his kids’ room sacred though, allowing neither Lane’s tryst nor his own to take place in Sally and Bobby’s bunks!
The flower mix-up with Joan reminded us just how in control of her situations she can be – and the return of her fiery nature gives me hope that she won’t just keep taking it from that jerk husband of hers (he might have stitched up her hand in a sweet way, but let’s not forget he marital-raped her last season…I’m not forgiving him anytime soon!). I’m hoping she doesn’t get knocked up by that creep, although a single-mother Joanie might make for a fascinating storyline! Did you notice how she wore virgin-Mary blue throughout most of the episode? I had to wonder if that was an intentional play against her (shockingly matter-of-fact) double abortion-ed past. Either way, that first blue dress with the ruffles descending from the waistline was incredible! If you figure out where we can get that dress, please let me know – stunning!
I’m curious that the show’s title came from a random story, buried in a scene that was more poignant for numerous other reasons. “The Good News” being the religious message Anna’s niece got from her room-mate upon awakening – but why make that the episode’s title? Is it to show the rumblings of the religious right that will one day rise in the country? Was it just to remind us that Don is searching for something, for some meaning or some truth that he hasn’t yet found? Or was it simply to remind us how a-religious the Mad Men world is? I’m not sure?? Thoughts, friends?
I’ve got to close with what were some incredible lines of the night – lines that continue to run around in my head calling for further reflection on their deeper meaning: Anna’s “I started thinking of everything I was sure was true and how flimsy it might all be” referred to UFO’s but much, much more; as did her, “A patch of new paint is just as bad as a stain”; but perhaps the best of all was Don’s repetition of Anna’s, “We’ll have to smoke the dress” – the burning desire of a dying woman, echoed in the desperate need of a man who has utterly lost himself.
Here’s hoping for some Betty next week…and a little more Peggy too!