Mad Men Note: Speechless


Do we talk about tonight’s drama, or do we talk about the opportunities that it gave to Jon Hamm, January Jones, and Christina Hendricks to smash a few records — Mr Hamm especially. The only factor that made things easy for Jon Hamm was Don Draper’s very considerable growth since the first season. In a nutshell, Don has stopped worrying about being caught out.

Consciously, he must have calloused the habit of shrugging off its improbability. If he hasn’t been caught by now, why would it happen? (The very same shrug that must have lowered his guard enough to allow him to leave his desk’s keys in his bathrobe, there for Betsy to find.) More deeply, however, Don has become someone who knows that he can handle anything. Confidence is a feedback loop; eventually, you don’t have to whistle happy tunes anymore. If Adam showed up today, Don would know how to handle his need for recognition. He wouldn’t try to throw money at it. But then, he learned the futility of throwing money at problems from Adam’s suicide. There’s no going back for a second try.

It’s clear that Betsy Draper has learned a few things too. If it would be unfair to call her a great dissembler, it can’t be gainsaid that she has mastered the fine art of time-release. It’s as though the men who have tried to tempt her into infedility had taught her instead how to deploy information. And yet it’s clearer than ever that Betsy doesn’t know what she wants out of life — that she can’t quite understand the possibility of asking the question with the serious expectation of genuine answer. The question of what she might want comes up only because Don keeps bruising her with knowledge of what she doesn’t.

As for Joan’s decking her husband with a vase full of flowers, we can only dream that the ladies responsible for this evening’s episode are familiar with Maggie and Jiggs, of Bringing Up Father. It was hoot majeure.

We’re on the slick slope of the season’s final hours, flying downhill toward the big fade-out, which, presumably, will blot out the Draper family home. I, for one, will be asking myself why I care. I’m not ashamed to say that I do care, but is it because the show captures a world that I knew from the cusp of adolescence? Or it is because the story is so well told — in which case the setting could just as well be medieval Toledo?