Mad Men, Season 3

Week 12: Duck's Tattoo
Talking television.
Nov. 3 2009 8:30 AM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 12: Duck's Tattoo

Still from Mad Men. Click image to expand.
Mad Men

I've got a freeze frame here, and I think I can read Duck's tattoo. It says, "Thug Life." Make of that what you will.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

Allow me to join the chorus of praise for Mona Sterling. She is a lioness—regal, poised, scary when angered. I loved watching her expertly manage her prissy daughter and her disagreeable ex-husband. The India line Julia quoted was great, but the highlight for me was when Mona took the phone and translated Roger's unhelpful banter into words that get Margaret to quit her pouting. That crisis (temporarily) averted, Roger asks, "Is everything OK?" To which Mona can only laugh, leaving Roger to do the same. There was contempt in those laughs, but affection, too, the kind even a nasty divorce can't erase. I think you're right, Patrick, that Pete and Trudy are Mad Men's healthiest couple, but I bet there was a time when Roger and Mona were terrific together.

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One more word in defense of the Sterlings. Pete finds it unseemly that they proceed with Margaret's wedding in the wake of a national tragedy. Yet it appears the decision wasn't as gauche as Pete thinks. Michael Wilson of the Times' City Room blog had the ingenious idea of pulling out the wedding announcements from the Sunday, Nov. 24, 1963, edition of the paper and calling up some of the people who got married that weekend. All the couples Wilson tracked down went ahead with their weddings in spite of the assassination (though at least one of the marriages ended in divorce—sorry Brooks!). What's more, an article Wilson found in the Nov. 24 Times listed several social events that had been cancelled due to Kennedy's death but didn't mention any wedding cancellations. Sadly, the disposition of the city's bakers that weekend is likely lost to history.

My favorite part of the Roger/Joan conversation: Roger's deadpan opener. "So, what's new?"

One powerful moment we haven't yet discussed occurred near the end of the episode, when Don comes downstairs on the Monday morning after the assassination. He lingers outside the kitchen, pausing to watch Betty serve their children breakfast—afraid to confront his wife, perhaps, or soaking up a domestic scene to which he might not be privy for much longer. When he does finally enter the room, Don quickly glances at Betty, in the hopes that she has come to her senses overnight, but she refuses to look at him, or to speak.

What struck me about the scene is that the Draper children pick up on the tension in the room—in fact, it's Bobby who alerts his sister that something is amiss, conveying his observation with a silent nod in the direction of their mother. Bobby Draper—twice recast—has heretofore barely had a meaningful line of dialogue in the series; his declaration earlier this season that "peaches give me a rash" was wordy by his standards. So it was interesting to see him discern, from his parents' body language, that something wasn't right between them. Finally, a flash of emotional intelligence from young Bobby. It's as if Kennedy's death, which the Draper children have watched unfold on television, has opened their eyes to the tragedy playing out in their own home.

Knob Creek, eh, Julia? I think it's good you're finally being picky.
John

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