It’s just he way he is; and maybe it’s just the way she is
Well, we wondered at the beginning of the season why there was this focus on how impulsive and reckless Lane can be – I suppose we now know. The earlier Doris storyline (and even the Pete beat-up, which we were oh so gently reminded of this week) helps situate this one; despite the held-together British exterior, what actually holds Lane together seems to be a knack for duplicity and terrible decisions. Unlike other storylines in Mad Men that often feel like they’re trying to talk about something else (gender, politics, consumerism, etc…) this one felt like pure story. As pure story, though, it requires some later narrative pay off, and this leaves me very concerned for what the embezzled sum will do to SCDP’s potential to nab the car and put itself on the map (a nice little parallel there, of course, is that the most expensive Jag was still $2K less than what Lane stole…which shows us just how deep in he is). All that said, what really captivated me – and all of us, I’m imagining – was the lovely interaction between Don and Joan.
It reminded me of when Don and Peggy played hooky last season. Of course, Peggy asked straight out why they never hooked up – that’s just Peggy’s style. But the beauty of flirtation and friendship that erupted between Don and Joan as they discussed the same question was even more compelling. I loved the moment at the dealership when they were asked about kids and she said, “4, all together” – it somehow revealed she knew this was play, and knew she was in it for the game, not the reality (reality and fantasy being one of this week’s more heavy handed themes, in fact). We were told earlier this season that Meghan is jealous of Joan, sensitive about Don spending time with her – and sure, I get that. Who wouldn’t be!? But the past tense with which these two spoke so underhandedly of their desire for each other gave echoes of a world that is quickly receding in the new Mad Men geography. There’s an energy, and eros to not saying it out loud, and Don and Joan performed that sexual energy perfectly. So when the roses arrived from him at the end, it offered a lovely depiction of how he understands her need to keep that fiction alive.
Sidenote: I mentioned how Tom and Lorenzo’s fashion blog pointed out Joan’s costuming with the roses tracking her relationship with her husband…this episode followed that pattern again. She began in the dress with the dying, abstracted roses, but then when she went out with Don, her dress was vibrant, blue and red roses bursting life from her. When the real roses arrived at the end, I think it was the first time in a long that her clothing lacked floral adornment. We’ve interpreted those roses as telling the story of Joan and Greg, but I’m thinking now it was really a story about her. I’m not quite sure what to make of it – but it must have something to do with her desire to project the objects of adoration she no longer has onto and from her own body, some sort of desire to remind herself that she still matters. I don’t know – do you have any thoughts?
At the very least, it’s worth juxtaposing Don’s time with Joan to his homecoming with Meghan. And here I need to give a second photograph:
I noted a couple of weeks ago how static Don’s facial expressions were being held – without movement, as if he were stuck. This scene used that visual motif again – compare the life, movement and joy in his expression with Joan. His face is natural – I believe Jon Hamm is truly happy in that moment. In this second shot, I see Don purely – no pure human joy of the actor breaking through. And his frustration with the play is its utter lack of subtlety, the precise type of playful subtlety he has with Joan…and which he really doesn’t have with Meghan. For all the lovely ways their marriage is open and honest and communicative, I’m always left wondering how much he really wants that. He’s a man who built his life on lies and fictions – I’m not sure he can live in the cleanness of Meghan’s new world. He seems so much happier in the smokey swirl of a bar that has songs he needs to resist dancing to.
I’ll leave Megan’s reactions and the whole Hare Krishna thing to you – although I can’t resist two side comments. There were two visual cues when Don came home around Meghan – the pasta evoking the pasta she made for Sally the night she had the Heinz breakthrough, and the single glass of wine taking us back to all those nights Don came home to eat while Betty just drank. And then with Harry – even before Lakshmi showed up, I felt like we were being heavily reminded that he was in Pete’s old office. When she arrived to perform a version of the fantasy Pete had had last week about Beth, I couldn’t help but wonder what connections were being drawn there – that the fantasy was utter betrayal, another contribution to the dream/reality/fantasy themes of the week, did not seem to bode well for Pete in the weeks to come. Jaguar is only making him hungrier for recognition and I fear he will soon snap in a much more dangerous way than he has done thus far.
One last thing: are you, like me, worried about all the cumulative scenes of Don driving wildly and drunkenly this season? Is it just me, or do you feel like a major character is going to die before the closer? Maybe all the seasons are this ominous and I forget, but there’s something sinister here that feels like it’s building to loss.
Oh, and oh my goodness – Roger knows! Of course he knows. How did I ever think he might not? What a perfect revelation. I loved it.
Ok, I really will stop now…so much more to say!
Your mother did a good job,