Mad Men: In Which We All Watched in Awe While They All Watched in Awe

11/02/2009 4:29 PM |

Mad Men season 3 episode 12

Hello, everyone. I’m back from my admittedly poorly-timed hiatus, but I learned two very important things these past couple of weeks: food poisoning and the ALCS will indeed keep me from Mad Men. But it wasn’t like I missed too much—well, beside the revelation that Putnam, Powell and Lowe plans to sell Sterling Cooper.

Oh, and the fact that Betty discovered Don’s secret drawer of evidence and he had to come clean about the whole stealing a dead man’s identity thing. Also, Joan hit Dr. Asshat in the head with a vase, so he joined the army. Would it be too crass of me to say I hope he goes to Vietnam and dies? In light of last night’s long awaited episode focusing on the JFK Assassination, yes, it probably is.

I have to say I was extremely pleased with the way the episode was executed. I have been a little obsessed with waiting for November 22, 1963 to roll around in the Mad Men Universe. Probably because the second season episode focusing on the death of Marilyn Monroe was so good, I had sky high expectations for this bad boy. And it did not disappoint.

While I was a couple decades shy of being alive for the Kennedy Assassination, I’m no stranger to watching a national tragedy unfold on television, and the shared-experience phenomenon that goes along with it. So, on that note, there was something compelling and familiar about seeing everyone from the Drapers and the Campbells in their respective living rooms, to Duck and Peggy in a hotel room, to half of the office piled around Crane’s desk absorbing the news as best they could.

Before I continue, I want to emphasize that I understand that Mad Men is just a television show. And yet, last night was one of the weirdest confluences of fiction and reality that I’ve ever experienced while watching an hour-long TV drama, and the effect was almost chilling. In a way, everyone who was too young for the real thing (like myself) was experiencing it for the first time, albeit in a hyperbolic and condensed way, as they watched the show. Even though we knew what was going to happen (I personally was anticipating Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald live on television) I was just as sad and dumbfounded and angry as the characters were.

Watching the events unfold in that way, and not, say, in later films, or YouTube clips, or however else people have watched it in the last 45+ years (ed: in novels), made it as real for me as an actual person and audience member as it did for Betty and Carla watching from their couch. Maybe I only think this because I’m conditioned to believe this was the defining, unifying moment for all Americans up until September 10, 2001. Or maybe I’m just romanticizing the whole thing because I’m from Massachusetts and all things Kennedy-related elicit a certain reaction. Or maybe I’m an idiot. Whatever explanation I can give for my reaction is arbitrary; the point is I found it to be a powerful hour from an awesome TV show that I’m sad to see come to a close next week.

That being said, let’s talk final predictions! What with Babyface Cosgrove officially being the Vice President Blond Head of Accounts or whatever, Pete will finally take up Duck’s offer to switch agencies, which will not bode well for the Duck-Peggy romance. Oh, and that whole Betty not loving Don thing? I’m fairly confident that despite this pronouncement, like some others we’ve seen this season, Betty will not act on anything—including accepting Creepy Belly Feeler’s ridiculous marriage proposal. And the season-long unraveling of Don Draper will probably come to a head in some crazy way that will keep the die-hards in eager anticipation for many long, cold months. See you next week!

(photo credit: Carin Baer)