Mad Men season five blog: 'Dark Shadows'

There’s a mix of feelings that come to you when you look through an old yearbook or some undergraduate essays you wrote when you first came to university. At first it's a profound yearning for what that was - wow, I was so skinny or energetic or happy - and then your brain (and your ego) kick in with assurances - you’re better than that now, more mature, happier, wealthier, I’m in a better place. 'Dark Shadows' plays on that tension this week as the episode explores the history of what’s been and what’s to come.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper ©Lionsgate

For Don Draper, life boils down to two things: his work and his women. He’s got quite the past with both and he’s on the verge of finding out what the future may hold in regards to both. And to help him get some perspective on what’s ahead, enter Michael Ginsburg and not-as-fat Fat Betty. Both, it would seem, have no problem flagging up Mr. Draper’s career and marital flaws. The former is coming hard and strong at the agency; at the heels of Don who’s sitting comfortably on a thick, cushy portfolio. Ginsburg’s suit is getting nicer and his words are far sharper. In this week’s hour he manages to reduce Don to a petty copy writer, extort Roger and step right over Peggy to get what he wants. We may have seen Ginsburg as a vulnerable orphan, unable to comprehend the horrors of his life as a survivor of the Holocaust, but he isn’t letting that stop him any longer. Instead, Hitler and Don are getting an icy cold snowball to the face.

It’s interesting to note Ginsburg’s entrance to the agency as the first Jewish employee. Roger’s storyline this week had him taking out his Jewish ex-wife to woo the Manishevitz account, the Jewish wine looking to go mainstream. It’s about this time in New York, that Jews go from being the immigrants to the titans of industry. Over in Hollywood, Jewish families had been running movie studios since the 1930s , but kept quiet about their immigrant identity and faith. Similarly, Judaism has always played a peripheral role in the series until now: Roger’s involvement in WWII and, of course, Rachel Menken. But the Jewish people finally become vocal, on the heels of Civil Rights about their entitlement to a voice and a recognition of the history of their people.

The Sno-Ball pitches were a really telling moment for how we’ve come to view Don this season. His apparent happiness and suppression of all things that go bump from under the bed at night have led to a stagnation. The devil pitch was hacky. It reminded me of the Freddie Rumsen “girls want to attract husbands” lipstick pitch earlier last season. It’s not that Don is off his game - he can still pitch - it’s just that it’s getting boring and obvious.

Another piece of not-so-subtle imagery came in the form of an injured whale, drawn by Bobby, who goes by the name of Elizabeth Hofstadt Francis. I predicted that the two Mrs. Drapers' meeting would be salacious and it was, in the show’s unique way of injecting drama into the every day. Betty is confronted with this modern apartment, comparing it with her Victoriana mansion in Rye and the svelte, beautiful, European (actually, French Canadian) Megan undressing in front of her. Wounded, Betty uses the sheer weight of her deep running relationship with Don to thrown stones at the light-bulb illuminated new Draper marriage.

Bringing Anna up was cruel, to Sally and to Don who made a point of destroying himself last season as she was dying. Another act of truth though, set him free from Betty’s sabotage. I wish and hope he could really recognize how his honesty transformed Sally from chewing out Megan to behaving like the adult, now surpassing her own mother in maturity.

The future is probably baffling Don Draper right now. Barely able to wrap his head around the new Beatles album and a bit part in ‘Dark Shadows’, the present is doing a solid job of keeping Don on his toes. But as the air grows toxic, Ginsburg vows to outdo his boss with one million ideas, Sally really becomes a grown up, and Don may need to readjust his focus.

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