Julia Turner Chats with Readers About a Thoroughly Satisfying Episode of Mad Men

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
April 9 2012 5:36 PM

"Yay Joan!"

Julia Turner chats with readers about a thoroughly satisfying episode of Mad Men.

Mad Men (Season 5)
Joan effected an emancipation of sorts on last night's Mad Men

Michael Yarish/AMC.

Julia Turner was on Slates Facebook page on Monday to chat with readers about this week’s Mad Men. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity. To see the full conversation, click on this link.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

Julia Turner: Hello everyone! I'm Julia Turner, Slate's Deputy Editor and one of our official Mad Men correspondents. Crank up your accordions: What did you think of last night's episode? (My take is here.)

Jamie Harding: Loved Joan kicking her jerk husband to the curb, and the scene between Peggy and Roger was brilliant. Great episode.

Jamie Hood: First “great” episode of the season—Mad Men's strength usually seems to be in showing how humor and horror are only millimeters apart. With the Speck-murders tie-in and the recurring thread of sexual violence in the episode, alongside the morbid hilarity of Betty's mother-in-law, it seemed Mad Men was really back on its game. Also, Joan! And Peggy! Sally! The leading ladies were all fantastic.

Julia Turner: I agree, Jamie. Peggy’s witty negotiation with Roger—in which she made it clear that she had all the power, and knew just how to wield it—was great to watch. She seemed completely confident, which made it all the cuter when she counted the bills with girlish delight after Roger left the room. I thought back to that scene, though, later in the episode when Peggy confessed to Dawn that she's not always sure she wants to "act like a man."

Amy Meacham: Yay Joan!

Julia Turner: If I were Matthew Weiner, I would have named this episode "Yay Joan!" Watching her kick Dr. Rape to the curb was incredibly satisfying.

_______________________

June Thomas: Mad Men (and most other quality TV shows) are mad for symmetry, and I loved the symmetry between Peggy's growing confidence and Greg's new maturity. I've not forgiven Greg for his horrible behavior (to say the least), but is it really so horrible to volunteer for another year in Vietnam? (He's a doctor, after all—he's really going to be helping people who desperately need it.) Going there is a chance to start over—to be a good man.

Kate Andrews: June, I'd say yes, but jeez! What about asking your wife first? Or at least not lying about the means by which the government is sending you back.

Julia Turner: June, you're mad! Greg's volunteering was an utterly selfish maneuver, something that massages his own ego. To do it—without consulting Joan—was inexcusable.

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Holly Allen: I don't think it’s so horrible to volunteer, but given his circumstances—brand new baby—you'd think he'd want to stay home. When Greg said, "They need me," I’m sure all Joan could think was, "So do we."

Jesse Lansner: Remember, Greg originally joined the army without consulting Joan. (I assume Joan never told her mother about that, hence mom's comment about Joan having to bear the burden of being a military spouse.) I was starting to admire Greg a bit at the start of the dinner (he was a jerk to the waiter, but it was in defense of his institution, rather than just in defense of his own ego), but when we learned that he volunteered to go back to Vietnam, it reminded us that he will always put himself before his family. I say goodbye and good riddance.

June Thomas: Yes, indeed, he should've asked/told/consulted Joan. That really was unforgivable, but still.

_______________________

Rachel Larris: I actually thought Joan mentioning "You know what I'm talking about" was something for the audience and not something Joan, or a woman in 1966, would have done. It felt like it was for an audience that was mystified by Greg's date rape and then subsequent ignoring of it for a season. I felt like Weiner actually really misunderstood the psychology of a guy who would date rape his fiancée. He wouldn't have stood for Joan hitting him on the head with a vase later. How MM handled the date rape afterward (as if there wasn't any) always felt like a misstep. This felt like it was trying to correct that, but then it felt out of place.

Julia Turner: I thought the treatment worked. It showed Joan's awakening understanding of her priorities—she misses work more than she expected—and her own strength. She thought she wanted what every girl was supposed to want (marriage to a doctor? what could be better!), so she ignored her ill-treatment for a while. But Greg's continued disregard for her brought her back to that initial humiliation. It's another example of the repressed coming out into the open.

Jamie Hood: I also didn't believe Joan's behavior to be out of line with her character. In fact, it was sort of funny hearing Peggy question whether or not she "acts like a man"—because it's always seemed to me that Joan is the one who knowingly plays into feminine ideals to her advantage (while not really believing in them), whereas Peggy may actually desire some of those possibilities but displaces those desires for her career. In other words, Joan can take charge of a situation without a second thought when she needs to (which isn't to say this is really masculinity, but that it's something like "acting like a man" in the show's understanding of it), whereas Peggy always seems to be thrown off her game a bit when compelled to do something like that (as in her firing of Joey). And I never really felt that Joan put up with Greg's b.s.—she may not have called him on the date-rape originally, but she didn't let anything else slide.

_______________________

Brett Strand: Can that really be it for Greg? He was our only real connection to Vietnam, which is obviously heating up. As much as I loved seeing Joan break the mold (and now become a single mother with no reason to hide the fact that she is raising Roger's baby), I am concerned that we now have no real reason to care about ’Nam.

Julia Turner: I am sure Vietnam will remain a theme. We have yet to hear much about people being drafted, which could well happen. And there's always Stan's cousin.

Jamie Hood: Greg was a connection in Vietnam, but not a particularly interesting/dramatic one—as everyone kept remarking in the episode, he wasn't in combat and wasn't really seeing or doing anything there he wouldn't be doing in Manhattan. I think we'll be seeing more of him, but that Vietnam will have to heat up closer to home. With Pete, Ken, Stan, and now Ginsburg around, we have plenty of boys to be invested in—and I think in more complex ways than with Greg, who really only had his dreaminess going for him. Which was undercut by his treatment of Joan. (Also, thank god she called him on the rape! That was a scene that was very strangely swept under the rug—or under the couch, a la Sally Draper—by the show prior to now.)

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