The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

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If some of the episodes this season have felt a bit slow on the plot pacing, last night made up for it all. Joan becomes partner, Peggy leaves for greener pastures, Don is back at the creative helm, SCDP lands a car, and we all have to wonder what the hell will happen in these final two episodes. Titled “The Other Woman,” the episode revolved around the twin dilemmas facing Joan and Peggy, namely how they will assess their own worth in the face of an office full of men who see them as secretaries who really want to help out.

Natalie and I have worried that Peggy was getting a short shrift this season, fading into a caricature of herself, reduced to a foil for Ginsberg or a comedic third wheel in the various late night shenanigans of the Drapers. I was deeply gratified that Peggy herself seemed to notice the way her star was waning at SCDP, not from lack of effort or talent, but from the simple fact of being seen too familiarly. We wondered exactly what it was Peggy was thinking as she watched Megan follow her dreams, even when it meant looking the gift horse of Don Draper’s benevolence in the mouth. We’ve always known that Peggy feels loyalty to Don that is hard for anyone else who never visited her in her postpartum bed to understand. It is not just that Don gave the girl a chance; it is that he taught her own to fashion herself from scratch as a woman who deserved a chance and would write her own history. She is absolutely right, as was Freddy when he suggested it to her, that Don would do the same and if he could think clearly would know it was the right thing to do. When Megan first mentions wanting to leave SCDP, in fact, this is exactly what Don suggests: she should join another firm, get out from under his shadow. It is interesting to realize how much more Don needs Peggy at his side than Megan and how much more strongly her absence will be felt. I was a weepy mess in their goodbye scene, like Don not really able to believe this was the end. But when the Kinks start playing and she steps into the waiting elevator with a smile on her face, I felt her elation at escape, at the exhilaration of a new experience and the chance to make it on her own. It is a testament to the charisma of Don’s personality, and to how strongly I think of Don and Peggy as a creative team, that until that smile I worried she was making a terrible mistake. But perhaps unlike Don the younger, a mistake here or there is not going to get Peggy down. She’s going to be just fine.

I felt anything but joy and elation watching Joan reposition her mask of resolve and walk, head up, into her first partner’s meeting. As the years have carried us forward, Joan has seemed more and more a creature of the past. She has learned to survive in a man’s world, and given her thirteen-year history at the firm, her professional competence and calm, and her B-52 body, she is likely to make it to the end. But she has never become one of the “new girls,” figuring out her own ambition or seizing her own future. The closest we’ve seen to this was when she finally got up the nerve to kick we-all-wish-he-was-dead Greg out on his ass. But as she struggles to gain her Joan-composure after Don comes back from the pitch and before going into Roger’s office, it was exactly the same chilling gesture of smoothing her skirt and taking Greg’s arm after he raped her back in season 2. When it really comes down to it, she doesn’t think she is worth more than her seductive curves or her bedability. She might be the queen of SCDP, but the kind of queen sold to whatever foreign potentate is needed to secure the future crown.

So as Don pitches Ginsberg’s beautiful tag line for Jaguar and we watch Joan play Helen of Troy to Herb’s Sultan of Araby in his mixed-up, degrading fantasy, are we supposed to think of her as the woman who, no matter what she stoops to in the moment, is the “free spirit,” impractical beauty who can’t be owned? Or is she the exception to the rule, ownable, or at least rentable, and therefore somehow diminished in her worth?

And what about Megan, in this ode to Woman Mysterious? Ginsberg came up with his brilliant tag line, or at least started down the path toward it, watching, not Megan’s sexy friend romp around the board room, but meditating on Megan’s unpredictable comings and goings. “She just comes and goes when she wants,” he muses, half-amazed. Does this mean Megan is more like a mistress than a wife, in the analogies of the episode: not within Don’s control, beautiful, but wild and unpredictable, and even impractical? Don is certainly learning, last week and this, that he does not own Megan; he can barely keep her from breaking all the china and stomping out of the house every few days.

I’ll sign off before I go on too long, but I will leave with two questions: when in the world did Pete Campbell start calling all the shots at SCDP? And did anyone else worry that Peggy was going to step into an empty elevator shaft based on Don’s experience two weeks ago? I think I am definitely waiting for someone to die…

I’m going to have to get an apartment in the city,


p.s. dear readers, Natalie is in Italy walking an ancient pilgrimage path, so chime in with your own thoughts on the episode!

Written by themothchase

May 29, 2012 at 12:09 pm

One Response

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  1. Love your reviews! I have no great insites, but the way the show was edited to show Don telling Joan “it’s not worth it”, and then backing up to show that his comment came after the deed was done was heartbreakingly brilliant.


    May 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm

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