Mad Men, Season 4

Week 12: Don's Hail Mary
Talking television.
Oct. 11 2010 6:24 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 12: Don's Hail Mary

Well, Roger certainly didn't seem suicidal, did he? There was much speculation around the Web this week that, after his abysmal shaming at the hands of Lee Garner Jr., we'd soon find him out on a window ledge—the credit sequence's falling man made real. Instead, he seemed as sprightly as ever, relieved that Don is now the firm's misbehaving partner, tossing one back before learning people's names so he can fire them. Whew!

This week's major casualty is Midge. Michael, I'm not sure there was "no shock of recognition" for Don in Midge's dingy apartment. (What was more depressing: that her husband tried to pimp her out to Don or that she somehow lost that beautiful Season 1 loft, with its gorgeous casement windows?) Midge is the only woman Don's ever dated who is as utterly uninhibited as he is, someone who said yes to everything without ever getting too attached to any of it. Until now, when Don finds her all too attached to heroin. Don is shocked by her plight—by her wry, ashamed, still trying to play it cool "What am I going to do with a check?"—and I think seeing how far she's fallen reminds him how far he's come.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

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

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I also found it meaningful that when Don sits down to write his Dear John letter to the tobacco industry, he does so in his abandoned journal of recovery. He tears out those mawkish pages (good riddance!), but they clearly laid the groundwork for his renunciation. Relatedly, it's true that Don's letter wasn't about doing the right thing, but it wasn't all about who's dumping whom, either. It sounds as if you guys agreed a bit with Bert, that Don's ad for his agency was a wild Hail Mary, that in praising Don to the heavens, the SCDP partners "created a monster." But I think Don may finally be recovering his ability to sense change in the wind before it comes. Seeing Midge in her state confirms for Don that the era of actions without consequences is over. His ploy is a desperate long toss, but he may be regaining his aim.

Meanwhile, I, too, fell for the Bobby Kennedy trick. John, I think you're right that this season has taken a more oblique tack in confronting the politics of the era, and it's one I'm grateful for. Sally's dream about hovering over London, for example, would not have been better with a bloody Medgar Evers in it. I think the show has been at its strongest this season, in part because of its focus on the relationships among the partners and the principals. Don's 50,000 thank you to Pete Campbell—and the silent toast and nod that acknowledged it—were among my favorite moments of the year. Pete will only grow more loyal to the man who keeps Trudie and her father from bossing him around.

I also liked returning to Miss Edna's office, although the smidgen of Sally's session that we saw made me wish we'd seen more of how the shrink engineered her behavioral turnaround. Miss Edna is another competent female professional on the scene, and her deft confidence in her sessions underscores what I think has become this season's main theme, apart from addiction: the rise of women at work. I thought the farewell between Faye and Peggy was particularly touching, although one thing mystified me—why didn't Faye agree to go out for that drink?

Pickles are funny,
Julia

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