Mad Men, Season 4

Week 13: I Feel Faye's Pain
Talking television.
Oct. 18 2010 5:48 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 13: I Feel Faye's Pain

Mad Men still. Click image to expand.

We've yet to discuss the biggest mystery of this confounding season finale: What the hell has gotten into Harry Crane? It's as if the rumor that he's gay somehow got back to him, so he's running around the office desperately hitting on any fresh talent that wanders down the hall. I haven't seen him lay it on that thick since the girls came in to audition for the Maidenform modeling gig. How can you work in the same office as Don Draper and have that little game?

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

Julia, I'm glad you came to the defense of this episode, but I'm afraid I'm not persuaded. I agree that it wouldn't make for good television if Don "traced an unerring path to recovery," as you put it. But does that mean he has to up and marry his secretary after one admittedly very impressive milkshake cleanup and two or three voulez-vous-coucher-avec-moi-s? In real life, people often have trouble changing, especially if their demons are as dastardly as Don's. So, yes, in a way Don's proposal to Megan felt real, the authentic act of a man who wants to change but is afraid to do so. But as a viewer, I was frustrated. We've see Don make this mistake so many times before; when he was making those moony faces at Megan, I felt as if I was looking at a character who has learned nothing in the five years I've known him. I don't want or expect the guy to take a vow of chastity. But there's a difference between a setback (sleeping with Megan while trying to build a meaningful, adult relationship with Faye) and a complete 180 (proposing to her).

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Don's sudden lunge toward his secretary makes me wonder why the season bothered spending so much time on his slow but seemingly significant growth as a character. Think of how different the Peggy of 1965 is from the one who came to Sterling Cooper from secretary school in 1960. How different is Don? Peggy's evolution this season was thrilling. Don's water-treading in this episode, I thought, was disappointing.

For those of us who had the "Here we go again" reaction when Don showed up at Megan's hotel room door, the choice of "I Got You Babe" had a resonance Matthew Weiner might not have intended: It is, of course, the song that greets Phil Connors every morning in Groundhog Day. Would that Don had made as much as progress this season as Phil does in that classic.

I wonder whether I was so stung by Don's break-up call to Faye because by that point in the episode I felt as if I was in her shoes: I, too, had fallen for the idea that Don was capable of change. Now I just wish he'd go take a shit in the ocean. Or at least have to handle a dirty diaper or two.

Michael, like you I'm very curious whether Don will give Megan a shot at copy-writing. If he does, Peggy will obviously see it as beauty winning out over brains. But in Megan's defense, she was pretty great in that Pond's focus group—were her contributions in that meeting all that different from Peggy's contributions during the Belle Jolie product test? Obviously, Peggy followed up her contribution by writing good copy, not by bedding the boss. But maybe Megan does have the spark. She isn't Jane Siegal; she does seem to have ambitions beyond the secretary's desk and the stovetop. I suspect that her ambitions, and not just visions of Don in his swim trunks, were behind her "yes." But I guess we'll have to wait for next season to see how much Peggy Olson she has in her.

A parenting question for Michael: Would you leave your 2-year-old in a hotel room to go watch TV with the baby-sitter?

I'd best stop talking now,
John

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