14
Sep
2009
Mad Men: Season 3, Episode 5
The Fog
Jordan
I find it particularly fitting that last week's meditation on parenting is followed this week with the birth of a brand new Draper. As this episode opens, we see that Sterling-Cooper is trying to cut back on its spending. Lane wants every dollar accounted for, yet it's clear how deeply he respects Don when Don argues that the Creative Department needs time to be creative.

Pete spends a good portion of tonight's episode trying to figure out how to sell Admiral TVs to people who want them. Unfortunately, since those people are black, he makes little headway with Admiral and gets himself in hot water with his superiors (why would Admiral want to be associated with the "unseemly" clientele Pete is after?). Yet the more important moment that highlights the time these characters live in is the scene in which Pete tries to converse with Hollis on the elevator. The Civil Rights movement is heating up, with Medgar Evers murder all over the news, and it seems that our second class characters on Mad Men are joining the struggle, be it through an open conversation on an elevator (as Hollis has with Pete) or through a desertion of a long-held post (as Carla departs to "spend some time with family"). As always, this show seems to have a perfect handle on a huge historical moment, and watching things slowly build toward where they will end up is one of the highlights of any episode.

Meanwhile, former head of accounts Duck Phillips is back with a vengeance, headhunting Pete and Peggy as potential employees at Grey, the advertising firm where he now works. To Peggy, the offer brings the promise of more money and more respect. To Pete all it shows is that Peggy has more leverage back at Sterling Cooper than he does (which leads him to quip, "If you want to woo me, you'll have to buy me my own lunch). Pete may just be annoyed at the position he is in, but Peggy is finally realizing she has opportunities, which leads her to an awkward conversation with Don where she is denied a raise.

Finally, outside the walls of S-C, Betty gives birth to Eugene Scott Draper (anyone else thing naming the baby after recently departed Gene might mess with Sally's mind?) in easily the most surreal sequence the show has ever had. Rather than foreshadow what's to come, this dream sequence seems to exist solely to examine Betty as she is right now. Not only did the sequence give me the overall feeling that Betty did not want to be a mother again (especially, as she proves while delivering, because she still doesn't trust Don to be faithful), it also showed her deep seated fear of fighting for what she wants in life. As her dead mother tells her (while standing over a man I can only assume was supposed to be Medgar Evers), "You see what happens to people who speak up?" Betty's fear of death, and her anxiety over exerting herself as an autonomous person has never been so starkly clear (especially as her father tell her, "You're a housecat. You're very important and you have little to do"). Betty pauses, as the episode ends, before rushing to care for her crying baby. Perhaps that baby represents, rather than a new chance with Don, a problem that she knows will never go away.

That problem rears its ugly head tonight as Don begins a flirtation with Sally's teacher. Brunette, soulful, and a little wounded, she is exactly Dick Whitman's type, and I'm sure more will come of their flirtation, especially since Don already lied about the phone call he received. The life Don chooses to lead is brought into question tonight when Dennis (Matt Bushell), another father-in-waiting and a prison guard, makes a confession to Don that he needs to be a better man now that he has a child. Don looks at him with knowing eyes"”he's made that promise before and failed to live up to it each time, and when we see Dennis walking by later in the episode, he can't meet Don's eyes. It looks like Dennis too talks big talk, but its harder to become a better person than either of these men thinks.

Mad Men is notorious for having titles that tie into every aspect of the episode, which is why the name of each episode holds particular importance to an analysis of it. This week, "The Fog" refers not simply to Betty's drug-laden labor, but also to a feeling present in all the characters that they are trapped between who they have been and who they want to become. Peggy wants to be Don Draper, but is still making little money and wonders if she might fare better over at Grey. Pete wants to be head of accounts, but sees himself marginalized by what is nothing but good business, due to the racism of the day. Don wants to be the moral exemplar both Peggy and Dennis see him as (Dennis tells him, "You're an honest guy. Believe me, I'm an expert."), yet he is still beginning another affair and has failed to become a better man for either of his children. Even the nice moment he has with Sally as they share a late night snack seems all too fleeting. Don Draper wants to be the consummate family man, the perfect career man, and all around the best guy in the room. But he isn't and this week showed us he's not likely to be anytime soon.

Grade: A-

Notes:

-"Our worst fear lies in anticipation." Amen Don. Amen.

-"We do it together. Integrated." "I don't think that's legal." Oh the "˜60s. People were so much dumber then.

-"Third time. It must be old hat." The look Don gives Peggy is perfect and heartbreaking. She too has a child out there, but she didn't get any celebration for its birth.

-"Are you aware of the number of hand jobs I'm going to have to give?" Roger knocks them all out of the park.

-I know that in an ensemble this big its perfectly normal to not have every character in every episode, but I've been picking up on it more as I watch this show live. This was the second slow Roger week in a row, and Joan didn't appear at all last night"¦
Tags: Mad Men
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