2
Nov
2009
Mad Men: Season 3, Episode 12
The Grown-Ups
Jordan
It finally came. The moment we've been waiting for, and speculating about all season (honestly, all series) arrived this week as President Kennedy was assassinated and the show came almost grinding to a halt in the wake. I have often pointed out that the show lacked a real Kennedy die-hard who would be crushed by the news, but this is Mad Men after all, and the show barely falters in pointing out that when the President is killed, its earth shattering for everyone involved.

Roger's poor daughter, whose ceremony was doomed by fate from the moment the date was set, got married tonight, after throwing a bitch fit over whether Jane would be allowed at the wedding. Roger is still publicly willing to go to the bat for his wife, yet her growing backbone and her relative immaturity are privately starting to get to him, resulting in a cordial relationship with his ex wife and more frequent telephone conversations with Joan, his ex-mistress. I hoped tonight would provide a Roger-Don confrontation that might set them on the road to reconciliation, but it seems we shall have to wait at least one more week for that.

The confrontation we witnessed last week between Don and Betty, on the other hand, is still having repercussions, and may permanently affect their lives. Betty meets with Henry Francis again and he asks her to marry him. Betty was already contemplating leaving Don (as she very well should be) but was discouraged by her attorney due to the financial and personal implications of divorce. With another suitor ready to take care of her, those are a lot less daunting, and Betty now has a very real chance to get out of her long lifeless marriage. As to whether or not she will take the chance, I tend to think no, but the fact that I'm far from positive reminds me I'm watching great television. Betty could walk out, take the kids and leave Don alone, and that would be a very interesting way to end Season 3 (a more permanent version of Season 1's ending, but still a powerful possibility). I don't think that will happen, but the possibility is intriguing.

On another front, Pete has lost out to Cosgrove once and for all, and the lack of promotion leaves him alienated from Sterling-Cooper. He doesn't want to go in, and he starts thinking about collecting his clients and placing a call to Duck. Trudy, always his moral guidance counselor, first advises him to stay loyal, but eventually comes to agree that leaving Sterling Cooper might be the best move. While Pete contemplates calling Duck, Duck is busy calling Peggy, with whom he's been having an affair for the last several months. Things are boiling up, just as they tend to on Mad Men, in preparation for what will surely be an excellent season finale.

But before we get there, "The Grown-ups" lets us linger for a moment in one of the biggest shocks in American history. At times it seems the entire world has stopped, and the characters will spend the whole episode watching archival footage and forgetting about their plotlines. It would almost feel too trite to allow the history to overwhelm the storytelling if that wasn't the exact effect the Kennedy Assassination had on the world. Instead, we see how these people react when the world around them is falling apart. Betty screams, cries, and goes running to the one man who really cares about her"”and it isn't her husband. Pete pouts and schemes to gain an upper hand in business. And Don, in a telling scene at the episode's close, refuses to watch Kennedy's funeral and instead goes into his office alone. The President may have died, and that may have deeply affected him (to the point where he pops one of Betty's pills), but the specter of divorce haunts him much more deeply and personally than Kennedy's demise. Don does love Betty, even if it is in a condescending, distant, none too fruitful way and he doesn't want to lose her. She is the mother of his children, and she completes the perfect life he has been building for himself. Without Betty, Don may have to actually learn what kind of a man he truly wants to be, and may have to pursue something that approximates actual happiness rather than just appearing similar.

Grade: B


Notes:

-"I heard the church was packed." "Those weren't our guests." It really sucks to have a wedding on the same day as a national tragedy.

-Betty's favorite movie is Singin' in the Rain. The woman clearly deserves to be loved.
Tags: Mad Men
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