Turns out Mad Men has a soul after all. At the end of the episode, entitled “The Strategy,” we find Peggy, Don, and Pete having a family dinner at a burger barn. Three people battered by life having a cordial meal together. However, as the rest of the episode preceding the scene revealed, these are three people who have just learned what it is to be human.
Peggy and Don are still somewhat at odds, more on Peggy’s side though. She is still seething, slopping around, feeling sorry for herself that she can’t reach the level of the great Don Draper. It’s a dark shadow to try to crawl out of, but I’m sure she does. The problem with Peggy is that she’s too hung up on being Don that she forgets that she is her own person. In the episode, she delivers a beautiful Draper-esque pitch for Burger Chef. Elizabeth Moss exuding every bit of confidence as her character has. However, all that confidence crumbles away with one suggestion from Don. She can’t seem to grasp the concept that no matter what there will always be a better idea.
It also begs to be said that the episode was a wonderful reminder of the changing times. This half-season has been great at that so far. The hippie culture, the computer, but this episode brought to the surface something that the show has been focusing on since day one: women. Peggy realizes her pitch is rooted in the past. The family she was trying to portray, a couple of happy kids with Dad waiting for dinner and Mom worrying what to make, was becoming the minority. Peggy herself began to rue what she has become. A woman who has turned thirty with nothing to show for it, but in one of the show’s softer moments, Don reminds her (with the help of Sinatra’s “My Way”) that she is doing just fine. Then, they danced. It was hands down one of my favorite moments of the season and maybe the series. It perfectly summed up the duo’s relationship as a mentor and his protege, a father and his daughter, as friends.
The episode was also a huge stepping stone for Joan, which also makes me wish this episode had given more screen time to Hendricks whose Emmy chances look skunked by this season. Bob Benson is made an offer to move to Detroit to join Buick after Chevy makes a move to bring its advertising in house. Knowing that the GE executives will be more assured if he comes in with a wife, he proposes to Joan who, after years of being objectified, asserts that she would rather marry for love. Hendricks is so subtle with her acting, but impactful at the same time. She emotes so naturally. It’s a travesty that she hasn’t won any awards (or the entire cast rather) for this role.
The one last piece to that dinner in burger chef is Pete. He has been a mystery this entire season. There was a point where I realized that the charm of it all may have seeped into him (like his tan) and he was living in some dream world where nothing mattered. However, after leaving Bonnie in New York to visit his daughter in Connecticut he is given a sort of wake up call. Trudy isn’t at the house to greet him and doesn’t come home until late. Pete feels rejected and unwanted. Trudy even points at that he saw his daughter enough for the year. His dream is falling apart. In New York, Pete is the man who needs to be needed and Bonnie realizes that. She goes back to Los Angeles without him on the same flight as Megan who was visiting Don.
Their relationship has been falling apart since the beginning, but it was clear now that she was trying to run away from Don now. When in the apartment she decided to take the rest of her stuff with her to Los Angeles, but when Don offered to bring it when he visited she closed up. It looks like the era of Megan Draper is no more.
This was a refreshing episode of Mad Men. So often the show is brutally honest and cold in its portrayal. It is part of its success. This episode reminded us that sometimes things do fall into place. That the lives of the characters aren’t lost causes. They have room to grow, learn, and move on. It excited me to see how the writers tear them apart again.