Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9 – Dark Shadows

If looks could kill…

Ginsberg: I feel bad for you

Draper: I don’t think about you at all

Although the above quote was a great put down by Don towards the end of this week’s episode of Mad Men, it clearly is not true.  The show’s world has now reached 1966 and the older generation is rapidly realising that they are being replaced by a new one with fresh faces and ideas.  Draper is concerned that his role as creative genius will be taken by Ginsberg; Betty sees her younger self in Megan; while Roger and Bert are struggling to maintain any relevance at their own agency, watching Pete Campbell run the majority of the client relationships.

After Pete has announced to the Sterling Cooper Draper trio of SCDP that he believes he can get them coverage in a New York Times article about hip advertising agency, Draper goes through the process of getting together a portfolio of their best work.  The only problem he finds is that all of their showpiece articles were written by Michael Ginsberg – not Peggy, his prodigy, nor himself.  Joan attempts to comfort Don by telling him it shows what a great job he has been doing as creative director, but also saying he should include “The Letter”.  An absence of impressive work from the previous year gets Draper’s creative and competitive juices flowing – he wants to prove that he is still able to provide valuable input for their pitches to clients.

A Sunday session in the office does not provide inspiration for Don, but an unplanned peruse through Michael Ginsberg’s work – stumbled upon because of left on light in his office – is enough to make Draper stay late to come up with something he believes will impress both the clients and his subordinates.  At the creative meeting, the anti-hero of the show is patronized by Ginsberg who tells Don that he impressed that his idea was good, given that he had not written for so long.  This notion that he is a has-been is exacerbated when Draper’s creation is relegated to a backup by account managers Pete and Ken, but Don deliberately leaves Ginsberg’s work in the cab prior to the client meeting, taking only his own for them to see.  Draper knows exactly what he has done to the younger employee and his justification of making the sale does not satisfy Ginsberg, nor does it abate the competitive juices that are now flowing through Draper.

This episodes sees the return of Betty Francis, who is also in fear of being replaced by a better, younger version of herself in the form of Don’s new wife, Megan.  In between her portion control – which involves measuring out cheese and spitting out the whipped cream she sprays into her mouth in secret – and weight watcher meetings, Betty is doing her best to ensure that she is not usurped by the new Mrs. Draper in Sally’s life, since she cannot stop such a substitution for Don.  Jealousy runs through Betty’s veins – as well as the heavy cream – when she sees her ex-husband’s new apartment and a shirtless Megan getting dressed, revealing a body that she herself would have had in her modeling days.

After seeing a love note from Don to Megan on the back of her son’s drawing, Betty realises that she can try to ruin things for them from a distance by telling Sally all about her ex’s first wife – Anna, the woman who the real Don Draper was married to prior to his death in Korea.  Megan sees through the nonsense from her predecessor and is able to calm Don down before he calls Betty up, providing the exact reaction she had hoped to provoke.  At the beginning of the episode, Megan was giving Sally some acting tips on how to cry without being upset, but the youngster proves herself adept in the art of manipulation when she disappoints her mother by downplaying the reaction she had to learning about Anna Draper.  If Betty put as much energy into exercising as attempting to spoil Don’s new-found happiness, she might not have to restrain herself into having the smallest Thanksgiving dinner in history.

Bert Cooper has had a peripheral role for the entire length of the show, but Roger Sterling started off as a crucial accounts man yet now sees his influence diminish as Pete Campbell’s star rises.  Cooper has new business for the firm in the form of Max Rosenberg and Manischewitz wine and he brings it directly to Sterling, hoping this might be a client the two old-timers can keep for themselves.  As it is a Jewish company, Roger approaches Ginsberg to do some prep work to make him look good at the first meeting.  This attitude frustrates Peggy who protests she can write for anything and did a good job with Mohawk despite not being an airline – but the main cause of her discontent is missing out on the cash bribe Roger is once again forced to hand out in his attempts to maintain relevance at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.  The real cost of winning the business is far steeper than Ginsberg’s payoff – Roger recruits his soon-to-be ex-wife Jane, who is also Jewish, to accompany him to dinner with the Rosenbergs (no relation) and she demands a new apartment out of the deal.  The running total of Sterling’s expenditure in bribes this season so far now runs to: Peggy – $400 (Mohawk work); Harry – $1100 (to switch offices with Pete); Michael – $200, Jane – new apartment (both Manischewitz).  As he exclaims, Roger really needs to stop carrying less cash on him.

2 thoughts on “Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9 – Dark Shadows

  1. Great write-up as per usual. One thing I noticed this episode, which has also been a recurring theme this season, is Meghan’s extremely protective handling of her and Don’s marriage. As a disclaimer, I’ve only seen each episode once and I am only drawing from memory, but I can now already recall at least three scenes in which she has mentioned her fear of a “contamination” (Make up sex scene after the house party, her claim Betty is trying to ‘poison’ their marriage, and the comment about the smog in the city during the parade). These comments, along with the scene with her father at the dinner last episode, and the argument with Sally this most recent episode, lead me to believe that Meghan is obsessed with keeping all of her relationships calm and happy despite what issues may lie beneath the surface. Don seems to be heading back to his old self, and I think the scene with Don and Betty in the kitchen at their old house at the end of last season will be extremely important in upcoming episodes.

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