"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mad Men: The Inheritence

As is often the case with Mad Men, the title of the episode is perfect. This installment has little Sterling-Cooper stuff and tons of richly layered, sad, prickly family issues dealing with difficult moms, sick dads, unknown heirs and lonely little boys. I don't see too much of our main man, Don Draper, this episode, and I longed for more Joan, Roger and Peggy, but this episode is just as sad, disturbing and well-written as any of them.

Betty Draper: Betty's whole storyline is so fascinating and layered. She basically has issues with all three of the male characters in her life this episode. Her father, Gene (who actually bears a resemblance to McCain, in my opinion), has suffered a stroke and is starting to mix things up, mistaking Betty for her mother. The scene at the dining room table when he grabs Betty's breast is staggeringly sad, but Betty doesn't even miss a beat. She's shaken, but doesn't react negatively toward her father at all. She and Don go to see her father together, and she decides to sleep with Don while they're there, but kicks him out again once they return home ("Nothing's changed. We were just pretending."). It seems like all Betty craves sometimes is a little truthfulness. When Viola states simply that Gene is "very, very sick," Betty is relieved that someone is finally admitting it. Later, the boy with the crush on Betty, Glen Bishop, shows up in the Draper kids' playhouse and Betty brings him inside, where he takes Betty's hand and says he came there to rescue her. When Betty calls his mother to pick him up, he glares at Betty and says, "I hate you." As Sally Draper stared at her mother, I couldn't help but wonder what she's learning from Betty, and what Betty learned from her family.

Pete Campbell: Speaking of inheriting things, Pete and his brother Bud are sifting through what their father left them (or, more accurately, what he didn't leave them), while Pete and Trudy discuss adoption. Pete and Bud talk about kids and toast to "the end of the line," but of course, they're not the end of the line because Pete actually does have a child. I look forward to the scene when Pete discovers that Peggy had his kid. Pete can be such a prick ("Why do you insist on making me angry before I go to bed?"), but seeing the way his mother treats him certainly explains a lot. Again, what he "inherited" from that family has seriously informed the person he is now. When his mother snidely dismisses adoption ("You're pulling from the discards"), it almost seems like Pete becomes more sold on the idea because his mother disapproves of it.

Some more thoughts:

More heirs/inheritance stuff: Harry Crane's baby shower! During which he wears a giant yellow bonnet. I love that the cake reads "Congratulations! It's a Crane!" and I find it hilarious that they give him Lucky Strikes as a gift to celebrate the birth of a baby. Oh, and Mr. Cooper poking his head in to just say "happy birthday"? Priceless.

Trudy's line to Pete completely melted my heart: "We're not related by blood and you love me." It struck me as the sweetest, most beautiful argument for adoption there is.

So Kinsey is going down South to register voters, taking a stand with Sheila and waxing philosophic on the bus ride there: "Advertising, if anything, helps bring on change. Consumer has no color." I am loving this Sheila. She is no-nonsense and strong, calling Kinsey out when the need arises.

When Don scoffs at Kinsey and Pete for not having read Peggy's write-up about their trip to L.A., he jokes, "Maybe I should send her." For a moment Peggy looks so hopeful! Also, I love that her outfits are getting cuter. That fitted, black-and-white number is fantastic.

At one point Gene snaps at Don that he has everything and acts like it's nothing. "My daughter's a princess, you know that?" It makes me wonder if this is what's going on with Betty, that she was a princess to her father, and a perfect wife to her husband. But now her father is starting to slip away, and she's realizing her husband was not so perfect. Helen Bishop's comment to Betty seems significant: "The hardest part is realizing you're in charge."

It made me laugh when Pete told Bud to get back the money their father gave to Lincoln Center. Bud: "You can't take a donation back!"

Pete seems like such a little boy sometimes; he just has no filter. Like when he says to Peggy, "I hate my mother. What do you think of that?"

I like that Betty confides in Helen Bishop, finally telling another woman that Don's not living in the house anymore. It's good that Betty can talk to a female her own age about these things.

Smoking on planes! I forgot that this was ever something people did. This episode included little of Don's story, but I liked that it ends with him gazing out the airplane window, sunlight gliding up his face.

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