While much of this season, from the utter shock of the John Deere accident to the abject horror of Peggy taking a roll in the hay with Duck Phillips, much of this season of Mad Men has been one surprise after the next; however, one thing that had been foreshadowed from the moment we saw Margaret Sterling’s wedding invitation flash across the screen was John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Well, it finally happened in this past week’s episode:
While my irresponsible blogging instincts have me inclined to skip all the way past all of this quagmire of historical seriousness and get straight to the matching shoes and dress Trudy was going to wear to Margaret’s wedding before Pete decided he was kaput with Sterling Cooper (seriously, that blue was fabu!), I think the above image really sums up what this past week’s episode was actually about, which was watching television.
Seriously, if we weren’t actually watching archival news footage reporting on JFK’s assassination and the subsequent murder of Lee Harvey Oswald this past, we were likely watching someone watching news coverage. While Don assured his kids that everything would remain the same, and Joan assured Roger that the world was still turning as usual, the near omnipresence of the television in this past week’s episode served as a reminder of how things really were changing in the 1960s, and how integral a part television (and particular televised news) would play in this cultural shift that has led to our current era of media oversaturation.
There’s something so antiquated yet prescient about being reminded of a time where news didn’t travel by Facebook or 24-hour news network. Added to that, seeing the phones at Sterling Cooper go dead from the overload was comically surreal in that it was like seeing 1960s version of Twitter go down, but nobody turned to Western Union telegrams to vent their frustration.
As for the more plot-oriented elements of the episode, they felt largely overshadowed by Kennedy’s death (which only makes sense); added to that, this is the penultimate episode of the season, so it only follows suit that this episode should be a set-up for the finale. Peggy’s still making baby Jesus (and the rest of us) cry by going for horizontal jogs with Duck, Roger is obviously pining for Joan, Jane continues to forget to include the occasional solid food with her liquid diet, and Lane Pryce proves he could only be more adorable sipping his tea in gloves if he were sipping his tea in mittens. We also learned about what Betty Draper likes when life gets tough:
Can you blame her? Singin’ in the Rain is so irresistibly warming to the soul it’s like cinematic hot chocolate, but not the crappy kind that’s made with water and inspires Pete Campbell’s disgust.
We also learned about Betty’s anti-Singin’ in the Rain:
Zoinks. A not entirely unsurprising zoinks, but a zoinks all the same.
It’s totally open to discussion whether dropping the “I Don’t Love You Anymore” bomb positions Betty as selfish über-bitch or protofeminist. As fun as her flirtations with Henry Francis have been, watching her accept his marriage proposal would be the Betty Draper equivalent of the Suzanne Farrell affair, i.e., forced and stupid. At the same time, though, let’s be reasonable adults capable of facing the hard facts, namely the one about how Don Draper is a really shitty husband. Maybe it’s six of one and a half-dozen of the other? Mad Men does love its ambiguity, so that’s likely, and perhaps we might even get some sense of clarity by season’s end.
Oh who am I kidding? Mad Men loves its ambiguity, so HA!, don’t hold your breath.