Many shows do it, but you gotta love the depth of the universe of characters that this show has created. We’re going to see the likes of Don, Peggy, Pete, and Joan on a fairly regular if not a weekly basis. Then there are the Trudys, the Carlas, the Glens (who made several interesting appearances last night, particularly during Sally’s Land-O-Lakes box as a symbol of infinity monologue). We forget these characters for weeks, sometimes seasons, at a time. Then they return with memories both good and bad. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
A lot happened last night. The layoffs of so many SCDP employees, a tragically relevant turn of events for the agency, are in the forefront of everyone’s minds (save for Betty who, with the loss of Dr. Edna, does what she does best – damages her daughter, this time by promising to tear her away from the only home she’s ever known and the only friend she really has). Back to the firm, if there’s any chance of keeping things afloat until Don’s open letter works its wonders (and I think we know that’s where they’re going with this), the partners have to dig deep into their pockets. This is easier said than done for Pete, with a new daughter and a wife whose patience for the whole rogue agency venture is wearing thin. So to see Don come through for the man he once wanted to fire, the man who tried to destroy him back in Season One, was a well-earned moment for their relationship. They’re not friends; they’ll never be friends. But Pete respects Don and Don values Pete. Considering how screwed up both men are, this is huge. But it was another echo from the first season that stood out for me – the reappearance of Midge.
It seems so long ago, but Midge was an important part of the show’s early episodes. She was the first of Don’s many mistresses that the audience met. While not a great love of his life, not Rachel Menken, Midge was Don’s excuse to play a bohemian every now and then (who can forget the pot party where Don recalled “the hobo code?”). Yet there was always the feeling that Don walked away from Midge and her assorted friends smugly satisfied with his own life choices (even if they were built on lies). Don has endured much since his days with Midge, and when he first sees her again, there’s the hope that he can turn back the clock, maybe forget his complicated present and just pretend for a little while. Maybe someone as forward thinking as Midge might even have some insight into the SCDP dilemma. No on both counts. Midge is reduced to a starving, heroin addicted artist trying to score. Don obliges, and once again he leaves Midge feeling a little bit better about his own life’s path, twisted as it is, but now he leaves her with a feeling of sadness. It’s a sadness that ultimately drives him to write his open letter, but a lot of good that does poor Midge.
This is Mad Men. Midge might not be gone forever (don’t forget, this is the season that saw the return of another recovered addict, the still sober Freddy Rumsen). People drift in an and out of our main characters’ lives, and we remember the impact they had on the story at various points in time. But if this is it for the character, what a waste. What a tragic end to someone who was so vibrant when we first met her (but what a great performance from Rosemarie DeWitt). It’s a story we all know. And no doubt one that Mad Men will continue to tell when you think of all the faces and names we’ve come to know and have yet to meet.