The Five Things I Learned from Mad Men: Season 6, “A Tale of Two Cities”

Once again, Mad Men delivers us an episode dripping with division. Division of politics, division of the company, division of coasts, division of gender. But again, with all of the crises and convergences we see this episode, everything seems to be forgotten and fall together at the end. With a new name for the company it seems unimportant that Cutler wanted to fire everyone Don had hired. After Roger resuscitates Don after nearly drowning, it’s as though he was never face down in a pool inexplicably. With only three more episodes to go this season, I imagine we will see these temporary fixes fall to pieces very shortly.

Here are the five things we learned this week:

Nice Guys Finish Last? Finally, Bob is given a chance to show that he actually does work in this office building. Even though it may seem that he gets this opportunity mainly out of circumstance, we learn that this is Bob’s entire plan. He tells Ginsberg it’s not about being in the right place at the right time, it’s about being in the right place all of the time. And he is! He is always there!  It was hilarious when Cutler yells at Bob for once again just being around where there was no real reason for it. Despite all of the theories going around that Bob is an undercover agent, or internal affairs, I think we are so distrustful, or wary, of Bob because he’s nice. He is getting ahead in this company because he is nice. We literally have never seen this before. What does that say about this company we are dealing with? Either way, it seems to be working for Bob, and I am hopeful it continues to. (Or maybe he is CIA…)

A Tale of Two Cities—Gender Wide. Joan is still trying to figure out how to be a partner at this new company, in her new role. Now, all of the men in this newly merged place of business are struggling with their places as well, but Joan is completely disadvantaged because she is a lady. Pete never would have been able to bring in a client like Avon—his track record as of late has been pretty awful—yet Pete is the one who is offered the meeting, not Joan. I have to admit, even I thought Joan might blow it when she left Pete out of the mix. But she didn’t—she had that meeting solo with Peggy, and judging by the box of Avon products sitting on the conference room table, it worked. Joanie had to do it alone, she needed to prove that she was capable of this. She needed to assuage the belief around the office that she got her position through nothing short of prostitution.

A Tale of Two Cities—Statewide.  California. What a different advertising world. What a different world, period. “Work” parties that would take place at a steak dinner with a few (or five) martinis in New York, are poolside with tacos, margaritas, and joints in this alternate universe. A very short man who worked for Don and Sterling years ago is more connected and respected in this universe than Don and Sterling themselves. In fact, the one conversation we see between Don and someone who seems to be in a similar line of work, we see that even their clients are unknown out here. Is it just me, or when you pull these two men out of context do they become little more than creepy old dudes in suit checking out bikini-clad twenty somethings by the pool? Hell, even Harry Crane seemed more comfortable and respected here. However, I must say, there are few things I love more than seeing Don smoking hookah in a suit and a tie. A tale of two cities, indeed.

A Tale of Two Cities—Office Wide. Roger, Don, and Harry go away for a mini-vaca, and they come back, and the office is dividing and falling. Pete is about to have a nervous breakdown after being excluded from Avon and now the name of the company. Moves are made on Chevy but they are under review with the Jewish wine.  Ted is working vehemently to keep Cutler at bay who literally wants to fire a good deal of SCDP employees while they have reign of the office. When the cat’s away… The division between the two companies felt palpable while Sterling and Draper were out of the office. I can’t tell if the truce we find at the end with the new name—SC&P—will be a permanent solution, or a temporary band-aid. The lesser of all of the evils that come with a merging company

“Dying doesn’t make you whole. You should see what you’d look like.” Flash to: Don face down in the pool. Flash to: Is this another hallucination? Flash to: Don and Sterling on the plane, and I still don’t know what’s real. Weiner is doing an incredible job this season of alluding to Don’s death with imagery and hallucinations, without us knowing exactly what is real. Don smoked hookah—did he see the soldier in his hallucination and want to die? Does the idea of him not even being whole in death, push him to an edge that makes him jump into the water? The look on his face as Roger dismissed the incident with a laugh and a simple, “You’re not a good swimmer,” suggests so. Don continues to have these moments of complete and utter panic: pitching a suicide as an ad campaign, begging his door man to tell him what he saw in a near death experience, collapsing on the floor after his speed binge, and now face down in a pool. But that’s all they are—moments. He emerges from each of these experiences seemingly the same. Calm, strong, stoic. I am reminded of his visit to the hospital after Peggy gives birth, almost unaware of it herself, when Don tells her: “Move on from this. It never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.” Don is an expert at forgetting, and maybe this includes even his own momentary death wishes.

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