The imagery of Mad Men often walks a fine line between poetic and on-the-nose. But for an episode that opens and closes with Don in a foetal position, this one manages to stay just on the right side of pretentious. Todd VanDerWerff has a wonderfully in-depth analysis of all the Freudian underpinnings of this episode, so I’m just going to look at the episode on a more superficial level.
*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.
The ubiquity of drug use has run rampart this season. Sure it relates to its prevalence in America circa 1968, but it also underlines this season’s – and 1968’s – tackling of chaos and waywardness and the futile attempts to manage it. This theme has been well managed by this season, but by its very nature, it leads to episodes and characterisations that don’t really amount to much. Now Mad Men has never focused heavily on driving forward narrative arcs, but by the end of each episode we should get a better sense of these characters, who they are and what they want. What we get in this episode is two very enjoyable story lines that don’t really amount to much and a couple of less interesting side tales of office politics.