5 Things I Learned From Last Night’s Mad Men: Episode 5, “The Flood”

April 4, 1968. SCDP is up for an award (sort of), Peggy is buying a home. Don is obsessing over Syliva. Ginsberg is on an awkward blind date. And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated. In the wake of the tragedy, we see the employees at SCDP react (ad men and secretaries alike). Tonight, the world of Mad Men, every single person in it, was handed a tragedy, and nobody knew quite how to cope. 

Here are 5 things we learned:

1. We Learn How Everyone Reacts to Grief (Again). Tears. Shock. Ignorance. Captivation. After the news of Dr. King’s death, everyone is reacting. Everyone is responding. And I have to say—Peter surprised me here. When Harry comes out of his office, complaining about the news taking away prime time shows and thus advertising—Pete really hands it to him. It’s always great to see Pete lash out at someone when it is actually deserved, and him standing in that hall yelling “IT IS A SHAMEFUL, SHAMEFUL, DAY” hit me in all the right places. Pete has a soul? He calls Trudy to sincerely comfort her—he doesn’t fight her when she chooses to stay alone and when she turns him down. He was genuine here. Maybe some good will come of Pete’s separation from Trudy. Don offers Meagan placated hugs and a shoulder to cry on—when his real concerns, his real worries lie with the safety of Sylvia. Roger offered some wonderful, thoughtful, poignant lines: “Man knew how to talk. I don’t know why but I thought that would save him. I though it would solve the whole thing.” For the most part, there is a great deal of fear. And there is a great deal of uncertainty. There is panic. Not a single person went unaffected by this tragedy, in one way or another.

2. Peggy is in the greatest relationship on the show. Her and Abe make me quite happy. First of all, the fact that she’s buying an apartment is fantastic—get it gurl! But I was mostly thrilled with the way Abe handled it. He was completely supportive. Not an ounce of resentment towards her. In fact, he was filled with respect. It wasn’t until she yanked it out of him that he offered any opinion on the location of the apartment he will be living in for years. It was her money. He wanted her to choose. And his reasoning for not wanting to be on the Upper East Side: He always imagined they’d raise their kids with more different sorts of people. What a gem. And that grin on Peggy’s face when he said this… Don’t even get me started. Peggy is at the top of the world. If she has an affair with her boss, I will be VERY disappointed.

3. Betty Wins Mother of the Year. As usual, Betty takes every chance to prove she’s a pretty shitty mother. She tells Bobby he’s destroying their home upon discovering that he tore up a tiny piece of wallpaper. Seriously? She is keeping the children away from the tv, which is understandable, but I think she does it more out of her inability to watch than her concern for the children. She forces Don to drive to pick up the children, even though he literally has to ride through riots to get to them. Why? Because she’s resentful. Because she’s selfish. Because he would “Crawl to Canada to pick up his girlfriend.” What? When Henry tells her in regards to his running for senate: “I can’t wait for people to meet you. Really meet you.” I couldn’t help but think—me neither, Henry. What does he see in this woman that we don’t?

4. Don Has Postpartum Depression. I am still processing through my feelings on his monologue to Meagan. I know this quote is long, but I think it bears repeating:  “When your baby is born, you act proud and excited… But you don’t feel anything. Especially if you had a difficult childhood. You want to love them, but you don’t. And the fact that you’re thinking that feeling makes you wonder if your own father had the same problem. And then one day they get older. And you see them do something, and you feel that feeling you were pretending to have. And it feels like your heart is going to explode.” I don’t think Don ever would have opened up like this to Meagan if he hadn’t been white girl wasted drunk. I don’t think he would have opened up to <i>himself</i> if he hadn’t been, honestly. But this felt huge to me. Like, I finally understand Don’s relationship with his children. He wants so desperately to be a good father. He wants to be able to have Sally come and talk to him about her fears over this tragedy. He wants to be able to respond when his son says he’s scared someone’s going to shoot him in his face. He wants to love them, and be proud of them, and be there for them—but he can’t do any of this. Because he was never shown love. Because he never saw a decent parent, he doesn’t know how to be a decent parent. But God damn it he hates himself for it.

5. Some Other Stuff Happens That Really Doesn’t Matter. Honestly, in the wake of the death of Dr. King—Nothing else mattered much in this episode. And nothing much else happened. The award show was interesting for a lot of reasons—Peggy and Don interact for the first time. Meagan and Peggy are up for the award though neither work for SCDP anymore, and Heinz isn’t even a client anymore. That creepy guy from LOST is a potential client, and good to know he’s that creepy in every role he plays. I’m not sure why Roger allowed this meeting, as the pitch was in horrifying taste, but I laughed quite a bit when he started talking about one tear being everyone’s tears and all the animals’ tears. Henry is going to run for Senate. Betty still struggles with her weight (I’m over it). Everything was overshadowed by the assassination of Dr. King—as it should have been. As it was in real life.

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