We have hit bottom. At least I really, really hope we have. But in hitting Don Draper’s rock bottom, we were given the best episode of Mad Men yet.
In what starts off to seemingly becoming a night out with the boys of SCDP, quickly dissolves into a two character dance as Don and Peggy work through some shit together. It’s the night of the Cassius Clay/Sonny Liston fight and everyone is excited to head out to their local theater to watch a broadcast of the fight. But late in the day Don gets a message from Stephanie, in California, and we know what that means. Don’s decent is put into motion as he tries to avoid that call and distracts himself with the Samsonite ad that his creative team is failing at. It’s when Peggy gets roped into the mix that the cathartic, hostile, and long night of events gets rolling.
We know what sets Don off but Peggy is a bit more complex mess. The day is her 26th birthday and she is beyond successful for a woman, especially of that age, in the 60’s, but Peggy doesn’t feel like she has earned the respect that she deserves. This has long been a problem for her, it’s why she slept with Duck for so long, and it is all boiling up again due to a lack of acknowledgement on the Glo-Coat ad she feels like she originated. Beyond Glo-coat, Don hiring the lame duck Danny and being superceded by Stan on creative decisions is rubbing her quite the wrong way. These feelings come out to the man she has been whispering about behind his back, Don, when the two clash for the best scene of this great episode. Don is brutal in his lash against Peggy, even putting himself on the same level as Jesus, but for as harsh as he is he speaks a lot of truth as well. But so does Peggy, and between all the yelling nobody is really wrong as both cut each other deep. Peggy reaming Don over being drunk, Don judging here over her child out of wedlock, and a few other hits along the way. It gets nasty and one can’t imagine how they are going to reconcile their differences.
But the most intriguing turn of events was that Peggy can’t leave her work or Don; even in his drunk and unappreciative rage. She could have walked out, she should have walked out, and Don told her she could leave, but she kept coming back and choose work over her relationship; ending it with Mark (which was probably the right thing to do anyways). All hell broke loose, the two went their angry and separate ways, and things should have seemingly ended there.
Though, Don’s discovery of Sterling’s laughable manuscript recordings rekindles their conversation on far more civil grounds. Peggy opens up to Don and they fall into a conversation that spans many locations and hours. The episode’s tone changes in these moments as things get poignant and funny as the two share drinks and dinner before returning home to SCDP; only to encounter Duck drunkenly stumbling around their offices looking for Peggy. The two alpha dogs eventually run into a scuffle and Don gets his ass kicked by the drunken Duck. Don has fallen so far he can’t even beat up Duck. Peggy ushers out the former SC accounts man and passes out on Don’s couch with his head in her lap.
It’s that morning phone call that makes the episode though. Watch John Hamm work in that scene, it’s remarkable, and it might be his finest performance yet. Trying to hold it together on the phone with Stephanie and then losing it in front of Peggy. This is the final moment in Don’s fall and the beginning of a new relationship with Peggy. Peggy is going to have to become Don’s new Anna. You could see it as the episode unfolded, Don was already letting her in on the bits and pieces of who Dick Whitman is and it is only a matter of time until she becomes his new confidant. Their relationship is bound to spark a boom of creativity in the years to come, years bound to be filled with prosperity for SCDP.
-Can’t applaud Hamm and Elisabeth Moss enough for their work this week, staggering and high water marks for both. I wonder if Moss did this episode around the time she split from her husband?
-Don leaving his office door open, that has to be his story turning the corner; right? And it was such happy exit music.
-Anna Draper’s passing reveals that ghosts exist in the world of Mad Men?
-So Cooper doesn’t have any balls? And for no reason either. Damn that Lyle Evans!
-Trudy’s comment to Peggy in the bathroom about 26 being very young set off a lot in Peggy but I am sure Trudy was just trying to be nice.
-Duck, god I hate him, played wonderfully, but I was really sad Don didn’t lay him out. It was also great to see Don stand up for his potential confidant. Also, I think Duck successfully burnt any of his last bridges with Peggy after calling her a whore.
-Sterling was back to his old self this week with some delightful banter between him and Don. Where the hell is Jane anyway?
-What a dick move by what’s his name to sell the free tickets off, I think TV boy is the real weasel of the SCDP now.
-Danny can’t last long with the SCDP if you ask me, but he seems to be fitting in nicely for now.
-How bout Peggy pitching the elephant suitcase ad a few years prematurely.
-Don’s line about finding the mouse, putting it in the suitcase, and throwing it off the roof was hilarious; only to be topped by his roach line delivery, “Let’s find some place darker.”
-I really liked the moment at the bar in which Peggy and Don both knowingly acknowledged their secrets and admits to themselves, and each other, that neither of them is perfect.
-I have a feeling Joey’s stand off moment with Joan over the trash is going to come back and haunt him sooner rather than later.
-Peggy is totally the next Don, I just don’t know if that is a good thing or bad thing? Does Don ever step in and tell her she is better off not getting married if she is to follow his path?
-Props to the sound crew for making Don’s throw up some of the most violent and realistic ever put to film.
-Loved how they were able to work the fight into the episode on multiple levels and in a number of occasions.
-Don’s impersonation of Ali/Clay was excellent as well.
Ok, that’s all I got for now, see you all next week for hopefully another strong episode of Mad Men, though it is going to be tough to top this.