Mad Men Season 6 Review “A Tale of Two Cities”

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 10 A Tale of Two Cities (7)

In watching this week’s Mad Men, I had the feeling that I’ve seen this episode. Harry, Roger and Don head to California for a business trip and end up at a party drinking and doing drugs. Back in New York, there is still tension between the merged agencies, they’re still struggling with the agency’s name, and Pete Campbell contines to rant that everyone is against him. I’m ready for a storyline shake up.

The most played out part of the episode was the business trip to California that spirals into debauchery. Roger and Don are starting to seem like the old guys at the party and, thus, a little sad. As they walk in, Roger runs into his ex-wife’s cousin, Danny, and has some amusing back and forth with him. Danny is great and a fun foil to Roger, especially when he takes Roger down with a strategically placed punch. Don heads inside and smokes some hashish with the party’s hostess. In a drug induced haze (*yawn*), Don has a vision of Megan. This hippy incarnation of his wife tells him everything he’s always wanted her to say: it’s ok for him to be with other women, she’s quit her job to be with him, and she’s pregnant. Then he finds himself talking to PFC Dinkins, who tells Don, “Dying doesn’t make you whole,” at which point Don sees himself face down in the pool. He is rescued by Roger and doesn’t seem any more damaged than usual. Throughout these scenes, it feels like Don is out of place. He lacks the vitality that he used to have. The most significant aspect of this interlude is that Don can’t accept Megan for who she is. Deep down, he doesn’t want anything but a Betty-esque housewife.

In New York, it seems like the more Pete Campbell’s hair recedes, the more obnoxious he becomes. When Joan approaches him with her lead on Avon, he asks her to arrange a meeting for him and her contact. When Joan expresses interest in participating, he makes it crystal clear that she will not be involved. The usually assertive Joan is upset, but makes little to no effort to express her desire to take a more active role in the company’s client relations. Instead, she sets up the meeting without Pete. Everyone still views her as a glorified administrative assistant, despite the fact she is a partner. When Pete later finds out that she had the meeting without him and Ted sides with Joan, he has a meltdown. He childishly retaliates against her by excluding her from the meeting on the agency’s name. This is all familiar Pete behavior. He is always paranoid that he is not valued and that others are trying to usurp his position. We have seen Pete pitch this fit a dozen times. I understand that it’s the nature of his character, but it’s also a crutch.

Joan’s interest in expanding her role at the agency is a nice turn of events. She has the brains and the people skills to lure in potential clients. She will never, though, have the respect she desires from her colleagues. This ultimately goes back to her decision with Jaguar. By trading sex for business, Joan opened herself up for attack – as demonstrated by Pete and Peggy who make backhhanded comments. There isn’t a good solution for this one. Joan can’t be surprised that she has a scarlet letter on her chest. She especially shouldn’t be surprised that Pete Campbell will use against her the thing he begged her to do. There is no good solution for Joan. Her position will be even worse if she is unable to secure Avon.

Some of the episode’s era “rage against the establishment” felt forced. Cutler approaches Stan and Ginsburg while they are listening to the news. Cutler comes up to them and asks them why they aren’t working. Ginsburg flies off the handle and accuses him of being a fascist, “You’re a fascist because you love business and you hate everything else: freedom, blacks, Jews.” The entire time, Cutler remains calm and keeps reminding him this is about work. Emotions ran high during the 1960s, I’m sure. But this outburst felt over the top. A more genuine moment occurs between Megan and Don. As they watch the Chicago Democratic National Convention riots from opposite sides of the country, they are separated by more than geography. Megan focuses on the impact the police brutality will have on the rioters’ lives, while Don points out that the police are responding to the rocks being thrown. This exchange shows the generational gap between them.

In the end, Ted and Cutler propose that the agency’s name be shortened to Sterling Cooper & Partners. This issue of the name dragged on for so long that I lost interest in it a couple episodes ago. Mad Men has always had a very slow pace, but this episode seemed to crawl towards the finish. I’m anxious to see what will happen with Joan, though. With only three episodes remaining, we’ll see what kind of cliff we’re heading towards.

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