Between the literal and figurative bloodbaths in the Sterling Cooper office, Sally’s tenuous grasp on the concept of reincarnation, Don’s new best friend Conrad Hilton, and actual maternal love coming from Betty, this episode was a doozy. Nearly every denizen of the Mad Men universe is represented, and trying to successfully recap it here would be a little silly, so I’ll make you a deal. You go watch this sucker on your own (or come to my house, we still have it on the DVR) and then come back here to discuss. Because not only did this episode give us Lois the secretary running over the foot of the new Putnam, Powell & Lowe management with a riding mower, but it also got me thinking about some of the deeper issues at hand.
To wit: Matthew Weiner must be texting his old pal David Chase or something because the last two episodes were increasingly Sopranos-esque. For me this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since I happen to love The Sopranos, but just last week a friend and I were discussing how Betty’s drug induced hallucinations during baby Gene’s birth bore a striking resemblance to many of the numerous peeks we got into Tony Soprano’s mind. Throw in some good old-fashioned carnage like we got on last night’s episode, and the similarities keep on coming. Good TV usually merits comparisons to other good TV, especially if both of the shows were helmed by the same dude. And yet, I feel like it’s more than just dream sequences and blood that is reminding me of Tony and Family.
What The Sopranos ultimately became about (most prominently in the latter half of it’s sixth and final season) was this sense of urgency that the world as Tony Soprano knew it was slipping away from him. And last night, I started to get that same feeling from Don. By having so many life changes thrown at him, something within Don is starting to crack. First, we have Don being funny. Thats right, remember during the Jai Alai episode he broke the ant farm and then made a joke about it? It was awesome and totally out of character. Next we have Don opening up to complete strangers—as in telling them more about himself in one conversation than he has ever told Betty in their entire marriage. Last week it was the prison guard in the maternity ward waiting room, and three episodes ago it was, as a few correctly predicted, Conrad Hilton. Sure he opened up to Rachel Menken back in Season 1, but they were doin’ it. So what is causing Don Draper to behave so un-Don Draperly?
I tend to believe that Don, aside from the fact he (SPOILER ALERT!)stole a dead guy’s identity and has been living another man’s life for the last decade or so, truly fears and opposes change. So when you have an episode devoted to further shakeups at Sterling Cooper, be it in the form of yet another Putnam, Powell & Lowe underling being sent in to keep tabs on him and his colleagues, or the loss of an important office fixture like Joan, you can see that Don’s facade, or rather Dick Whitman’s facade as Don Draper, almost starting to crack. The last time this happened, Don ended up on off the grid in California, and Sterling and Cooper sold the company. Who the hell knows what’ll happen this time around. But I do suspect that there will be some truly compelling episodes from television’s re-crowned Best Drama as Don continues to lose sight of the world he once knew.