Musing Review: Mad Men – Mystery Date (S5, Ep4)
There’s something both exciting and scary about a mystery date and it’s the same simple little unknown that evokes both very strong emotions. Last week’s Mad Men shared its title with this concept and there were a number of mystery dates to talk about. The entire episode had a very dark feel to it and it was evident in everything from the clothes to the dialogue. I’m on the fence on whether or not it was a good episode though it wasn’t a bad one either.
I’m going to touch on three main stories from the episode and I’ll start with Jane first. When she opened the door to see who her mystery date was she found her husband Craig standing there looking all dapper and handsome on his triumphant return from Vietnam. This was a big day for her and her family. Craig had not yet seen his son and looked very happy to see him. Unfortunately the excitement of this mystery date quickly waned and turned to fear and sadness. Though I’ll say ended on a good note. Craig unilaterally decided that he would re-up his service in the Army for another year and would only be home for ten days. Needless to say this upset everyone and really came to head at a dinner with Craig, Joan, her mom, the baby and his parents. Then it was followed by a very scary 1960s husband yelling at his wife through a door fight. At the end of the day Joan made a very bold decision. She decided to kick Craig right out the door. If I may say so this was a great decision. Jane was always independent and never really needed a husband to define her. Especially one as terrible as Craig.
I never liked Craig from the beginning. That night he raped her certainly didn’t make me like him any more. I never quite knew why she married him in the end. Was it out of desperation? Was she insecure? Either way I think it was a great decision to finally get rid of him. He would just poison their family. Now this was a big move for the 1960s though we already knew times were a changin’. Single working mothers were not the norm of the day though if anyone would be a kick-ass one I’d put my money on Jane.
Peggy had her own mystery dates too. Yes, I meant it plural as she kind of had two of them. In the first one Roger opens the door to her office. We were going to find the pretty much useless Roger of today or the Roger of the past that knew how to run an advertising agency? We were greeted to the useless Roger and this one forgot to tell his “ad man” Ginsburg about needing a pitch for Mohawk Airlines on Monday morning. Roger had to resort to bribing Peggy to do it for him. This was a great scene. Peggy had Roger “by the balls” and got him to pay her $410 dollars. Times have indeed changed. There was a time she’d be fired for talking back to a partner, like fired on the spot and walked out of the office. Now she’s milking it for all it’s worth. She got $10 for the work, and $400 for the secret. Did she seem a bit like Don to any of you? I know he’s sort of been her mentor but she really channelled his bravado.
Her second mystery date was another game changing moment indicative of the changing times. So Peggy was working late in the office on Roger’s corporate campaign and there was a scary noise in the office. She went searching around the deserted space and when she opened a door she found Don’s secretary Dawn sleeping in the office. Dawn said she couldn’t go home and Peggy offered her the kindness of her home and they went back to Peggy’s apartment. There they had a couple of drinks and commiserated about being secretaries and blazing trials in their respective ways (Peggy about being a woman in a man’s world, Dawn about being a black person in a white office). At the end of the night came the key moment, when Peggy ultimately decides to leave her purse out there right in front of Dawn. It was an intense scene. Both Peggy and Dawn knew what it was about, the distrust that society had bred into Peggy rearing its ugly head. Peggy knew it and had such shame in her eyes. She ultimately left it out there and was not rewarded with her kindness (at least I think she was robbed, I couldn’t read the handwriting on the note). At least she started bridging a gap that will take many years to cross.
The last person to have a mystery date this episode was none other than our favorite Mr. Don Draper. Don’s past started to rear its ugly head. While riding the elevator with Megan one of Don’s past flings from season past Andrea entered and was all flirty. This made Don uncomfortable and Megan upset. This apparently wasn’t the first time this happened and it didn’t make it any better. Don was also sick, coughing, sweaty and did not look good at all. He barely made it through his day before having to go home and pass out. Side note: He did a lot of smoking, I thought they were going to foreshadow some bout he may have with a smokers disease but that didn’t happen this week.
Once Don went home he passed out immediately. He woke up to a knock at the door and it was none other than Andrea. All she wanted was Don and he mustered up (and I really do mean he had to muster up) the strength to kick her out. He didn’t want her there and didn’t want her being seen so he told her to go out the service entrance. She left and he passed out again. He awoke to her at his bedside. She kept saying how much she wanted him. Don was fighting it until he gave into his passion and slept with her, cheating on Megan. Now this upset me. I really thought Don had turned a new leaf with his new bride. She isn’t Betty but maybe all of these things were always inside him, Betty just brought them out.
Here’s where it got scary. Afterwards Andrea tried to tell Don this would be a recurring thing and he vehemently opposed. When she just kept insisting on it Don’s anger reared its ugly head and he attacked her. He strangled her to death!! We always knew Don had an ugly side but I never though it’d go to murder. I think deep down he knew that he couldn’t repeat what he’d done and he really wanted to save his current life. I think he’s just fighting his own demons and for his mystery date he encountered a dark version of himself (that he needed to fornicate with – there’s totally something Freudian in there). Yeah, this was all a dream brought on by high fever. So Don didn’t really murder anybody. At the end of Don’s story Megan said she was worried about him and Don told her not to worry. If I were her I’d worry about Don’s dark side. He’s fighting some heavy stuff. I think he wants to beat them though it’s going to be a long road for him.
There were a couple other things of note. The entire episode was set upon the backdrop of the Speck Murders (July 1966) and put a very scary overtone to the episode. Sally was scared by the prospect and had a very intimate moment with her step-Grandma. At first their relationship this episode was annoying but then it totally turned and they really turned a leaf. Sally is starting to grow on me after her annoying presence last season. Ken Cosgrove talked once and Ginsburg gave a really great ad pitch. I’m thankful that Joan’s mother and her in-laws weren’t caricatures of themselves. Other characters (Harry, Lane) were noticeably absent though I don’t think they would have added to the mystery date story.
So it was a decent episode and possibly the “scariest” I’ve ever seen. They’re certainly charting new territory in Mad Men and I look forward to future, good episodes.
Watch Mad Men Sundays at 10:00PM on AMC.Tags: AMC, Mad Men, review, season 5