MAD MEN: Scene(s) of the Week

So landing Jaguar, which I assumed would consume the remaining episodes of Mad Men’s Fifth Season, is a done deal. But in its wake, two crucial decisions are made that have the potential to alter the landscape of the show for the rest of its run. You know what I’m talking about, people.

Let’s start with Joan (what a season for Christina Hendricks!).

Pete seems all too comfortable wearing the “grimy little pimp” mantle that Lane flung at him back in “Signal 30,” but Don thinks that he’s going to be Joan’s white knight. He honestly believes that SCDP can land the account without Joan’s “assistance,” and he will preserve her honor at the same time. Poor Don. For all his savvy, he can be so naive. Joan has seen better days, and if she’s going to make a better life for herself and her baby, a bold move is required. Now Lane has his own agenda for suggesting that Joan seek the partnership in exchange for her services, but on some level he’s looking out for her in a way that Don isn’t. For all Don’s concern, does he suggest anything that might give her a better life? No. So Joan listens to Lane and that sets up as fascinating a sequence as the show has ever performed.

Don’s Jaguar pitch intercut with Joan doing the deed might strike some as too on the nose (Ginsberg’s “something beautiful you can truly own” tagline underscoring the moment where Joan is literally purchased for the night), but I saw it as Joan on the verge of truly owning a piece of all the work she’s done for so many years. Maybe Don is disappointed when Joan makes her first appearance as a partner, but now the woman who’s known what everyone was doing over the span of two separate agencies has a say in what comes next. What does it matter how she got the power; many a person has had to crawl before they can fly. Joan having a say sets up more storyline possibilities than I can imagine, and I figured that one of those would be Peggy finally getting respect instead of money thrown in her face for a job well done.

Alas, that does not seem to be in the cards.

Peggy jumping ship (to work with Teddy Chaough no less) is simultaneously inevitable and impossible. Just how much more could Peggy take? True, Don has come though for her on more than one occasion, but he has also abused and taken her for granted in ways that were often stomach-turning to witness. So it’s time for Peggy to make a change, and Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss were just about as good as they’ve ever been in that last scene (Don kissing Peggy’s hand is sweet and desperate and horrible all at once). Peggy’s smile as she leaves SCDP for what might be the last time is fabulous when you remember where she came from and where she might be able to go now that she’s pulled the thorn that could often be Don out of her side. And yet… what does all of this mean for Peggy’s future on the show? I don’t see Peggy coming back to Don (at least not in the immediate future), so does she pull a Paul/Sal and not show up again for several seasons except for a single episode, if ever? Or does she share Betty’s fate and only show up now and then, islanded in episodes where we won’t always care about the people in her orbit? Or are they setting up a situation where Don and Peggy are going to be battling each other for accounts when Season Six rolls around? I have to hope that it’s going to be the latter, and perhaps this episode is the first piece of the show’s endgame. Peggy is talented and driven, but there is no question that Don helped her get where she is today. And if Peggy ultimately destroys Don professionally, which in turn further damages him emotionally, who among us won’t be glued to our screens?

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