*SPOILERS* (All my reviews have spoilers but these are more potent)
I feel like I enjoyed this episode a lot less than most of Mad Men fandom. Some people have compared it (with knowing exaggeration) to the Games of Thrones’s Red Wedding in terms of the shocks it delivers, but for the most part the episode didn’t really hit me on an emotional level. The episode felt disjointed and lacked the seamless integration of plot lines that memorable Mad Men episodes share. The episode had no streamline momentum; each storyline peaked at different points, some ended there, some puttered on and in the meantime Peggy has a dead rat in her apartment.
That particular subplot only exists so that Mad Men can fulfil its weekly legal obligation to have at least 4 separate story-lines that hammer home the theme this is housed in the episode title. Peggy does indeed ask Stan for a favour and offers a favour of her own, but he’s already sexually sated. End of subplot.
Don’t get me wrong though, everything surrounding Sally’s rude awakening was masterfully handled. Like the other plots in the episode it featured a rather mundane narrative that was completely upended by a shocking discovering. But let’s talk about Bob Benson, before we get to the best stuff.
I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed that Bob’s secret wasn’t that he was a time travelling Bobby Draper, but I thought his coming out was subtle enough to not disregard his previous characterisation in favour of presenting the NEW GAY CHARACTER to the show. However, I’m trying to remember if Bob had a strong relationship with Pete prior to this episode because he feels like an odd choice to be party to Bob’s reveal. We’re not really given a strong indication as to why Bob may be interested in Pete. Does he see a gay soulmate in Pete, does he think he’s more open-minded (probably true), or is he simply attracted to him (not to judge his taste but, come on Bob, you can do better). Regardless of motivation, the scene was able to do a lot of work with a single knee bump, making Bob’s inclinations entirely clear without turning the scene into a melodramatic outing or an angry dismissal. The rest of Pete’s story is pretty uneventful; Pete and the rest of the audience is creeped out by the idea of his mother having sex and then we work out that his mother is probably just crazy – which we already knew.
The other major storyline can also be summed up in a single sequence. What at first seems to a be a mostly frivolous story of Sally and the boy whose ass she likes gets deadly serious in one of the most surprising moments in Mad Men history. Surprising both because we would never expect Sally to be the first to find out about Don’s affair (despite Sally’s unfortunate history of walking in on unfaithful adults) and because we expected Don and Sylvia to be a thing of the past. It is all superbly constructed, we are already tense because we really want Sally to get in and out without being seen (despite how inevitable it feels), then BAM, Don ‘comforting’ Sylvia, for some reason with the door open. As expected Don can’t talk his way out of it, and Sally’s respect for her ‘hero’ slowly dies a little. Their conversation through the door is heart breaking as Sally wants to both embrace and scream at her father but cannot muster the strength to do either.
Sometimes I complain that Mad Men works a little too smoothly. Where are the rough edges? Why must all the stories be of a piece? Can’t we simply watch these characters’ lives play out? Well I’m fickle. I wish this episode was a bit neater and less erratic. I prefer Mad Men’s edges to come from drama and character, not from odd plotting or story construction.
What I Likes:
– Didn’t make notes so again this will be short
– Realistically bloodied dead rat. Honestly I would probably handle Peggy’s rat problem exactly the same way as her: freak out and call someone to come over. I’m not sure if this subplot was supposed to mirror her life with Abe and suggest that no home is perfect; maybe I’m reaching.
– At least we see some of Stan’s home life, despite how short it is.
-Bob is eerily earnest, whether he’s getting coffee for someone or coming on to them. At least his character has been consistent.
– Don’s absolutely confused daze after the Sally reveal is very well handled by Hamm and it’s the sort realistic reaction scene that you can only see on Mad Men.
– I do enjoy the idea that Ted constantly thinks he’s in a vicious battle with Don (and he is in a way), without Don ever realising it. Really Don’s just kinda selfish and is used to being the wunderkind (wunderman?) of the firm.
What I Don’t Likes:
– I suppose I’m glad it wasn’t made into such a huge deal, but it seems strange to introduce Bob’s homosexuality through a storyline about Peter’s mother have sexual fantasies about her carer. Although the out-of-nowhere nature of the reveal certainly makes it more shocking, seeing as the storyline had very little to do with Bob. I’m sure they’ll explore this side of the character more in the future.
– I don’t have much to say on the ‘shipped off the Nam’ side of Don’s storyline. Honestly I think it functioned mostly as a way to get Don and Sylvia back together.
Overall Grade: 7 Frisky grandmothers (Now I’m just creeping myself out)