Mad Men Season 7 Review “The Strategy”

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 6 The Strategy (3)

Last night’s episode of Mad Men was exasperating. We retread familiar ground and made little to no progress on the glacial pace of this season’s action. By the end, I could sympathize with Megan, who looked elated to pack her things and leave Don behind. In one sense, Mad Men is true to life in that people rarely seem to change. For the viewer, though, this is a frustrating version of reality that is persistently dissatisfying.

Peggy
My loathing of Peggy continues unabated. She is so aggravating. While I can sympathize with her sense of frustration at having to navigate a male dominated work place, she does nothing to endear herself to her peers. This week, she comes up with a solid marketing plan for the firm’s fast food client, but before she can bring it home, Pete suggests that Don do the presentation with the client. Peggy is not happy about this, and who can blame her? The situation hits on all of her insecurities: her work isn’t as good as Don’s, she’s not likeable, and she doesn’t have the traditional perspective (wife/mother) that her colleagues seem to look to her to provide.

But the problem with Peggy is the manner in which she deals with these challenges. She becomes hostile, combative, and petulant. When Peggy skulks around the firm on the weekends and harasses her fellow coworkers at home, you just want someone to stand up to her and tell her to get a life. I can see that Don has some deeper understanding of her since he also is an emotional mess. But, in the last scene when they dance together and she puts her head on his shoulder, his face looks like he is completely horrified.

Some might see the moments at the end of the episode with Don and Peggy as tender and a throwback to earlier seasons when the two had a more solid mentor-mentee relationship. That’s not how it felt to me. Like a child, Peggy stomped her feet the entire episode and whined about not being the one picked first for the team, then when Don threw her some crumbs of approbation, she licked his hand like a puppy.

Let’s compare Peggy to Joan. Joan has to battle a different kind of sexism than Peggy. Joan’s intelligence and work are frequently discounted by her physical appearance. Yet, Joan doesn’t let these slights drive her into tantrums and doesn’t waiver in her demand that people pay her the respect she deserves. Joan is similar to Peggy in that she is unmarried and trying to succeed in a man’s world. But, Joan manages her challenges with dignity and doesn’t lash out at those around her. Ultimately, with whom would you prefer to work?

Don
Mr. Draper looks to be heading for a break up. As mentioned, Megan looks ridiculously excited to get away from him when she leaves New York. When she tells Don that she wants to go somewhere else with him – not California or New York – he appears to see this as a sign that she is wanting to limit his presence in her life and her own in his. They have different worlds and she doesn’t think they need to crossover anymore. This is a reasonable decision that Megan needs to make for her own sanity. After the sadness of last week’s threesome, I’d rather see Megan regain her dignity and move on.

As for Don, it occurred to me with this week’s family theme that there were promises made at the end of last season that have not been fulfilled. When Don stood in front of his childhood home with his children, there was the hope/expectation that by being honest about his origins, he could rebuild his own family in some small way. We haven’t gotten any of this. It seems like the focus is either on Don’s personal life or work life, but the two can’t ever co-exist.

Pete
At the end of the episode, Peggy, Don and Pete sit down for a burger like a sad, dysfunctional family. In a way, they all three deserve to be together. Pete is just as miserable as the two of them. He pitches a fit when he goes to visit his daughter and finds that Trudie is avoiding him. His attempts to shame her for going out cause she is a mother, which is particularly pathetic. All Pete did was reinforce that Trudie has absolutely done the right thing in getting rid of him.

We’re almost at the point of the mid-season break. I think it’s not a good sign that I’m starting to wish that they all go on a firm retreat to the Caribbean and the plane goes down.