After last week’s epic Pete Campbell-fest, this was a slightly more disjointed affair that meandered occasionally but turned out to be another very, very good Mad Men episode. Of last week’s protagonists, Pete appeared only very briefly, while Lane was totally absent (as was Joan), and this time it was pretty much all about Roger and Don, the old dynamic duo.
But most episodes in this season still manage to fit in some major Peggy developments and this was no exception. She got into a fight with her boyfriend about her increasing obsession with work, then got into a fight with the client from Heinz when he still didn’t like her pitch, then smoked pot and performed a sexual act on a stranger at the cinema and then fell asleep at the office. Like Mr Campbell, she’s definitely turning into Don.
Her reconciliation with her boyfriend at the end only came when she was able to get out of her own head (not literally) by focusing on the increasingly-interesting Ginsberg. A late-night office conversation after a few overheard snippets of private family moments leads to the revelation that he is from Mars. Well, not really, but that’s what he tells her instead of having been born in a concentration camp and adopted by the ‘father’ we saw in his first episode.
Like Don many times before, she was able to latch onto this other person’s strife and feel a bit better about her own battle with a world that is still changing too slowly for her own personal progress (witness the patronising ‘you remind me of my daughter’ reaction she got from the Heinz guy after tearing a strip off him). For Don and Roger, however, time has seemed to be moving very fast and leaving them behind slightly.
The Drapers went on a holiday to a Howard Johnson’s service station hotel, which Don thought would be a jolly trip down memory lane, but having pulled rank by getting Megan out of that important Heinz pitch, he’d already pushed her too far. She had no interest in his nostalgic orange food and when he tried to reassert himself by driving off in a huff, her sense of independence saw her find her own way back to New York, leaving a terrified Don to spend the night trying to find her.
Once back at the flat, he still tried to dominate her physically, but ended up a pitiful mess on her knees practically begging for forgiveness, while she talked of these fights ‘diminishing’ what they have. Clearly Megan is no brainless arm-candy and you sense that she may well be wearing the trousers in their relationship at home and playing a bigger role at work if she can force Don to stop treating her like his personal plaything.
And then we have Roger, who has spent the season so far making quips and finding himself increasingly unnecessary at the office. Reluctantly he accompanies his wife to a pretentious dinner party (yet another really uncomfortable social event to add to Mad Men’s long list) that ends with LSD all round. And this is where it all started to get very strange, with the effects of the drug sending Roger’s brain all over the place, to the lovely and appropriate strains of I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, by the Beach Boys.
That’s certainly how Roger has been feeling recently, but the LSD trip actually seemed to help him a lot, with a drugged-up frank discussion ending his unhappy marriage and leaving him full of the joys of spring the morning after. His old partner Bert Cooper also had a bit of rebound this week, sagely complaining to Peggy that ‘everyone seems to have places to go’ while she’s on her way to the cinema, before criticising Don for slacking off at the end. He’s either going to become a force to be reckoned with or is going to die, I can’t decide which.
This was a topsy-turvy episode that featured a long, strange trip in the middle for Roger and a slightly different kind of trip for Don. The drug sequences felt a bit odd for a show like this, but had to be addressed now that we’re up to 1966, and thankfully it all managed to steer clear of pointless self-indulgence. And both Megan and Ginsberg added fresh depth to their characters, so overall it was another hugely successful episode in what is turning into another great season.