Mad Men, Season 5

Where the Monsters Dwell
Talking television.
April 10 2012 8:47 AM

Mad Men, Season 5

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Where the monsters dwell.

Mad Men (Season 5)
Joan and Greg at dinner

Photograph by Michael Yarish/ZMC.

Gents,

Julia Turner Julia Turner

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

Sold! John, you’re very persuasive on the episode’s flaws. Although the mood was powerfully creepy and Joan’s ouster of Greg was sweet, the theme at the episode’s core—something about women, desire, and darkness—felt hastily sketched.

One theory: This was an episode about where monsters dwell. Usually, they live under the bed, out of sight, scaring us only when we think about them. But in the Richard Speck murders, one of the most disturbing details was that the one nurse who survived found refuge under a bed. This notion of her cowering in her confined hiding space while violence consumed every other room of the house is, perhaps, a metaphor for the topsy-turviness of America in 1966. Riots, strikes, and murders are in the news, and there’s a sense that violence and wildness have been unleashed into formerly safe expanses—that refuge is hard to find.

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But if that’s the case, what are we to make of Ginsberg’s Cinderella nonsense? We had a lot of fetching slippers in this episode: In addition to Andrea’s red stiletto, Peggy had some enviable green slingbacks up on that desk of hers, and Joan lifted one stylish pump off the ground when she greeted Greg, in a pantomime of a homecoming embrace. But the episode didn’t use these motifs any more deftly than Ginsberg does in his hasty pitch. Women want to get caught? But Joan didn’t stay with Greg because she was titillated by his dark side. And that’s not what attracts women to Don, either. If we are to buy Michael Ginsberg as the second coming of Don Draper, then the show had better spend a bit more time establishing his chops.

John, you’re right that we don’t yet have a sense of what SCDP is like through Dawn’s eyes; so far, her character has served only to show us what a dolt even well-meaning Peggy is. (“You’re not a nurse!”) But I loved the show’s willingness to embarrass our heroine, who had so many groaners: I love how she mentioned her boyfriend was covering the riots, as though to prove she was hip to Dawn’s troubles.

Mad Men’s major subject is what it feels like when the world changes. So far, the show has explored the perspectives of people who, like Peggy, gain new opportunities, and those of people who, like Roger, see their worlds shrinking to the size of the space under the dust ruffle. But the show still observes Michael and Dawn from the outside. Here’s hoping we get in their heads soon.

In my heart, I’m on the verge of throwing you guys in front of a cab,

Julia