"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner recently told Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air" that 1968 was one of the worst years in American history. We see the tensions of the time reflected most accurately in our main man Don Draper, who is unraveling with each episode in this sixth season.
We know what our "Mad Men" characters are going to deal with. We knew the Tet Offensive was coming. We know Martin Luther King's assassination was on its way, and we know the fate of a certain Massachusetts politican that will happen in just a few months.
But with each historic event, we get to watch how each character reacts- sometimes with grief, anger, love, resentment, or just denial. In this episode, we saw that empathy and remorse can sometimes come from the most unlikely of sources, and events like these can cause unexpected reactions. We learned that, whether is April of 1968 or April of 2013, national tragedies touch us all, whether we're close to the source or not. Some of us want to do anything we can (like Megan attending the vigil), or that we want to stay somehow connected (Betty unable to turn off the television). Just a few weeks ago, we all received this unwelcome reminder.
A breakdown of the episode:
Race (and awkward hugs). As was predicted, this topic has been touched more heavily and consistently than past seasons. We saw how deeply divided things were-- whether it was through Peggy's interaction with her secretary of through Joan's awkward hug with Dawn. It was painful to watch these two strong women try to relate to a situation that is so different from theirs. This truth is painfully apparent to Dawn and to Phyllis, but not to Joan or Peggy.
Pete. It's not a secret this guy isn't my favorite character, but he has always been on the cutting edge of seeing past racial boundaries.This tragedy may have sparked a painful realization of his mistakes and how alone he is, but I do believe it's creator Matthew Weiner saying no character is purely good or evil. Nothing is just black or white.
Roger's druggy friend with one of the worst ad ideas ever is Lost's Ethan. Does he always have to be creepy?
Don and Bobby. So far, this scene of Don taking Bobby to his place of refuge, the movies, is one of my favorite moments in this season so far. We see the creativity and smarts Don's middle child has (for the first time, and with no help from his parents). We see the heart wrenching moment when he tells a black movie theater staffer that, "people come to the movies when they are sad." We watch Don fall in love with his son.
Don's darkness. It much be such a hard thing to admit: you have to fake love for your children. it shows how completely problematic Don's thoughts and actions are, and we see the effects they have on so many people. Bobby's worry is about his stepfather, not his own, and Sally's troubled relationship with her father is well-documented. We see Megan and Don, and although they had a "moment" this episode, we see his inability to connect with anyone and impossible standards he sets for people in his life that they will eventually fail to meet, no matter how hard they try (Peggy, Megan). Now, we see him longing for his mistress, but how long will it last?
The episode ended with Don on the balcony, alone. Despite being constantly surrounded by people, he is alone. With each episode, we get more and more insight into how much internal struggle Don faces, and it leaves us wondering-- will he ever be able to get out of his own personal hell, or is he doomed? And who is he taking with him?
Let's just hope it's not Bobby, because as we saw, that kid is pretty cool.
Did you watch the episode? What are your thoughts? What did you think of Michael Ginsberg's arranged date? And the new hope for Peggy's relationship? How did you think the show handled MLK's death? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
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ContributorsKatie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
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Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.