Mad Men, Season 4

Week 9: Fired, Quits, or Dead
Talking television.
Sept. 20 2010 6:05 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 9: Fired, Quits, or Dead

Still from Mad Men. Click image to expand.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper and Cara Buono as Faye Miller in Mad Men 

I'm afraid I'm not the one to muster a defense of Roger and Joanie Part Deux. I always love it when they share a scene, but I, too, am wary of this recoupling. I completely buy Joan's volatility in the wake of learning that Dr. Greg is deploying to Vietnam. And of course the mugging was terrifying. But even given those twin traumas, I don't see Joan wanting to get busy on a city street, and a clearly dangerous one at that. Joan's discretion and her poise have always been two of her greatest assets, so it was jarring (and not quite believable) to see her behave so recklessly. The tryst was also disappointing for this viewer because it was yet another example of a strong woman giving in to a man she knows is trouble. (I complained about Faye acquiescing to Don's advances last week.) Watching Roger and Joan groping one another, I thought back to the wonderful exchange they had the day after Kennedy's assassination. It was a conversation between two people who had shared a real love, were wistful about what might have been, and eager to be in touch in the face of a great shock. But Joan, at least, seemed at peace with how things had shaken out. I didn't think she'd let Roger hurt her again. I fear he will.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

That said, I did think the mugging scene was a worthwhile one, in the sense that it conveyed a side of New York that Mad Men often ignores. As I walked through the John Lindsay exhibit I mentioned last week, it occurred to me how little the troubled New York Lindsay presided over resembles the one we see on Mad Men, which is so often set in Manhattan's finest hotels, restaurants, and bars. Granted, Lindsay is still a few months from taking office in the summer of '65, but it was interesting to see the series grappling with the violence not just in Birmingham or Vietnam but right outside SCDP's office doors.

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I promise not to mention the John Lindsay exhibit again next week.

At least one of our commenters was troubled that the man who held up Roger and Joan was black. Knowing Matthew Weiner, he probably pored over the crime statistics for the block of Manhattan he imagined the mugging occurring on and made an informed decision about the race of the assailant. It didn't trouble me that the mugger was black, though it did bring into relief the extent to which the struggle of women in the workplace has replaced the Civil Rights Movement as the series' political undercurrent. As you noted, Michael, Peggy draws a direct comparison between the two struggles over whiskeys with Abe at P.J. Clarke's. But up until this episode, this season had pretty much left the Civil Rights movement behind. The mugger stood out, in part, because he's one of the only black actors we've seen through nine episodes of Season 4. Carla's role in the series has diminished along with Betty's. The Time-Life building has no need for Hollis, Sterling Cooper's elevator operator. Paul Kinsey, who dated a black woman and spent his vacation marching in the South, was also left behind in the move. If Betty is still dreaming of Medgar Evers, we're not privy to her visions.

This is more of an observation than a complaint. The shift in focus makes a lot of sense dramatically: In Peggy and Joan, and now Faye, SCDP has three very different women through whom to explore 1960s workplace realities like the ones Julia's mom powerfully conjured. And perhaps the Civil Rights Movement will continue to have some presence, through the Fillmore Auto Parts account. Would it be hypocritical and provincial of me, as a native of the Hub, to now complain about the triumvirate of stereotypically racist Bostonians who run Fillmore? I suppose it would.

Mike, you're the TV Club's fly-fishing expert, so your word will be final. But I say there's no chance Don has ever tied woolly bugger—I think Ken was being a smart aleck. Did you guys also get the sense that Ken had a little more swagger than he did in the past? He didn't just roll over when Don complained that Ken was pitching the Fillmore guys on two campaigns. As the secretary and treasurer of the Ken Cosgrove appreciation society, I enjoyed watching him give Don a little pushback.

No one was willing to go out on a limb last week and trust Joey's instincts on Harry Crane's sexual preferences, so I think I'm going to get in on Ken's "fired, quits, or dead" action. Kenny, I've got a fiver says the comely Megan ends up fired.

Can we order a pizza?
John

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