This week’s Mad Men was one of my favorites in quite some time, as it juxtaposed two very different stories, both brilliantly written, performed, and seamlessly edited together to make one fantastic episode. It focused on Don’s return to the company at the same time as folks began to install the office computer, as well as Sterling’s attempt to extricate his daughter from a hippy commune. The future, told in two very different styles.
The opening of the episode was surreal, the entire office gathering to witness a step into this aformentioned future. At the cutthroat suggestion of Harry Crane (who’s back to really get on people’s nerves), the firm got rid of the creative bullpen, opting instead to install a computer the size of the entire room (replacing human creativity for the coming of the digital age). Right after, the California office put Peggy in charge of a burger chain, slapping Don on her team, making her his boss for once (he threw a typewriter against the wall and began binge drinking in frustration). Just seeing Don have to step into Peggy’s office was a glorious bit of tension.
As usual, ego was the star of the episode.
On the flipside, Roger had his hands full with his hippy daughter moving to a commune with no electricity and the singular law being free love (and also complete, unanimous agreement or nothing). Sterling, in an attempt to delicately remove his daughter from the clutches of said commune folks, tried to fit in, even sleeping under the stars for Margaret, only to realize her happiness also came with a healthy dose of cheating extensively on her husband. In one very epic scene, Roger tried to physically wrestle her away, trying to get her to realize she had to be a mother first. It was neat, and a good dramatic effort by John Slattery.
Back to Draper. Before we get into a discussion of the poor dude’s shattered ego, let’s focus on the best two moments of the episode. Both were conversations between Don and the guy installing the monolithic machine in the office. In the first, the installation man declared that his machine could count stars faster than any man, with Don countering that a man looking at the stars wouldn’t be thinking of a number (there’s always that reminder that Draper is a creative genius, and a dreamer at that). The second time he spoke to the computer man, he was drunk, and literarily called the high powered nerd a devil in men’s clothing. That was epic.
But let’s get to why he was extremely inebriated. After realizing Peggy was effectively his new boss, he spiraled, being an ego monster more than anything else. Right after that realization, Cooper also put him in his place by reminding him that although he was a founder of the company, he was going nowhere in an office once occupied by Lane Pryce (rest in peace, you poor devil). So, lots of drinking, enough to forget leaving the office to go to a Mets game and make an ass of himself. And here I thought Draper couldn’t hit a lower bottom. Not so graceful, Don, not so graceful.
The ending, though, saw a bit of a changed Draper. After Freddy told him to start actually doing real work, Don returned to the office, embittered, sure, but right there at the typewriter, working on an assignment for Peggy. Maybe Don is growing up, but this is probably only one of many more ego battles to come in a so far brilliant season of Mad Men. There’s a lot of uncertainty floating about, and the powers have truly shifted since the show’s inception. And soon we’ll see which characters are able to handle the coming future, and which will be left behind. I really hope something terrible happens to Harry Crane. That’d be excellent.