7
Sep
2009
Mad Men: Season 3, Episode 4
The Arrangements
Jordan
The Arrangements opens with Betty's father Gene forcing her to discuss his plans for after his death, and ends with the family discussing those very plans after Gene dies in line at a convenience store. Between these two occurrences is likely the most head on treatment of parenting in the "˜60s this show has yet done.
We get to see Don and Betty shrugging off their children like they're an unpleasant chore often enough, and that happens again tonight (most heartbreakingly when Sally, mourning her grandfather's death, is told by Betty to "go watch television", but I'll return to that in a moment), yet we also get to see Don actually take an interest in his children, and we get an insight into how he would like to raise them, if not for his whole "cool detachment" persona. Telling Bobby that "it's a dead man's hat. Take it off" certainly shows off his more honorable side, but more than that, it sheds light on just how desperately he doesn't want his son to end up like him. Dick Whitman spends his life wearing another man's name because he had no compunctions about taking a dead man's dog tags, and with it his identity. Yet he truly does want his son to have a better life. Additionally, as the episode ends, Don actually checks in on Sally, as if secretly hoping she'll be awake and he can comfort her and have a heart to heart. Sadly she is not, so he instead packs away the evidence that Gene ever lived in the house.

The true tragedy of this episode lies (as it so often does) with Sally, who finally found someone she could connect with and who had faith in her, only to lose him and be left, once again, alone. The scene when Betty escorts the police officer inside, slamming the door and leaving Sally alone on the other side of it perfectly symbolizes how much Sally lost with Gene's death. Before he went, though, he had a chance to tell her she could go places in life, and do anything she wanted. I hope Sally gets a chance to take his advice.

In another look at parenting, Peggy (who, by the way, does even less parenting than the Draper's when it comes to the baby she threw her sister's way and now pretends doesn't exist) decides to move to Manhattan, and gets a startling scolding from her mother as a result. The relationship between Peggy and her mother, and to a lesser extent between Betty and Gene, shows the larger disconnect between parents and their children on this show: Peggy's mother will never understand the potentially wonderful way Peggy's life is going, and feels that Peggy thinks she's stupid for trying to stop her; Gene was disappointed by Betty choosing a safe, naïve life for herself and marrying Don, but he was wise enough to realize it was his own fault for sheltering her (and was kind enough to try and parent Sally in the little time they had together).

For all the time I've spent discussing parenting this week, most of this happened behind the scenes of an otherwise sort of flippant episode centered on a failed ad campaign for Patio (looks like Peggy was right, but hey at least Sal gets to be a commercial director now) and a doomed ad campaign for Jai Alai (spoiler alert: it doesn't become bigger than baseball). And Sal, while enjoying success (and a chance to let his gay side out while directing a musical commercial) at work, is watching his marriage slowly unravel at home. Kitty needs "tending" and as she watches Sal act out the commercial he's directing, there's a knowing look in her eyes that shows she's a whole lot less naïve than when we saw her last year. She may need to get a little every once in a while, but she's discovering that Sal will never be able to truly give her what she wants.

And, as all of this goes on in our small little world of Sterling Cooper, the storm clouds are gathering in the country at large. A monk setting himself on fire may seem like a small news event, but those of us here in the future know that Vietnam is heating up, and every mention of Jack Kennedy is a small reminder that we draw closer and closer to that fateful November day.

Grade: A


Notes:

New Bobby spoke!

"It's not Ann Margaret." Roger only needs one line an episode to establish how much of a badass he is.

Joan also barely appeared tonight, but when she did she taught Peggy an important lesson about how advertising can apply to her personal life. I can't help but think that Joan would make one hell of a Mad Man"¦
Tags: Mad Men
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