As I’ve stated, time and time again, the women of ‘Mad Men’ are way more interesting than the titular bad boys. As great as last week’s introspective Don episode was, we got a lot more time with the women this week, and we’re all the better for it. (Argue that Sally Draper isn’t the most interesting, nuanced, complicated character on television. Oh wait, you can’t.) So read on for more on this week’s episode, ‘The Beautiful Girls.’
First: I have to talk about my favorite thing from the episode, and maybe the most painfully funny, ghoulish moment on the show since the infamous lawnmower incident – Miss Blankenship’s death and the hilariously ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’-like way that it’s handled. Maybe there’s something wrong with me (in fact, I’d bet on it), but man did this have me in stitches. The show has really amped up the sight gags this season. Virtually every composition, it seems, is meant as something more. Sometimes this is meant for deeper, more dramatic or thematic reasons, but often times, the scenes have been staged with a kind of Jaques Tati-level of comic inventiveness. (And I think about this not only because Roger’s office looks like it was on loan from the set of ‘Playtime.’) The death and removal of Don’s elderly secretary really is a profound tour de force.
Now, moving on…
The episode starts with Don in bed with the lovely adviser Faye. It’s a pretty hot and heavy scene, and we only get to witness the aftermath. Is it me, or does there seem to be something more genuinely real about these two? Despite the fact that Faye seems to get the jitters later in the episode when forced to deal with Don’s daughter, Sally – who ran away via railroad (Yankees can’t do anything without their precious trains) – it seems like an actual, adult relationship Don has gotten himself into. However, the teaser for next week teases the return of his flighty young date.
Speaking of Sally Draper, well, she just continues to be really messed up. Betty doesn’t want anything to do with her, even when the crisis with her escape is presented. Don seems to be mostly confounded when she shows up. Still, he tries to treat her nicely, and to suppress his grim aversion to parenting. He even takes her on a morning trip. What strikes me about the Sally sections of the show is how Don is still determined to be a better person. After putting Sally to bed, he returns to write more in his journal. Could Don really be on the right path? (Other than taking a couple of swills, of course?)
The most surprising female ‘Mad Men’ character in this week’s episode is (again) Joan. After trying to maintain a cool veneer in the office despite her emotional turmoil over her husband’s enlistment in Vietnam, she makes the wrong decision to go out with Roger. If she hadn’t, none of the rest of the episode would have happened. That means that she wouldn’t have gotten robbed (her wedding ring was even taken) and, in the post-larceny rush, wouldn’t have had sex with Roger in some dingy downtown stairwell. My somewhat far-out prediction: Joan will wind up pregnant with Roger’s baby. I only say this because of the clip with which the show is moving. This episode is set in late summer; the next episode could be a month or two later, plenty of time for her to discover that she’s pregnant. Also, she said something to Roger, gravely, about needing to talk to him. About little Roger, Jr., maybe? (P.S. – where the hell has Jane been this season?)
One more thing before I go – the last image of the episode might be my favorite of any show this year. (Yes, even better than Jack closing his eyes.) Wowee.