Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like the Mad Men episodes where our anti-heroes get hit with some devastating piece of historically horrible news and try to make sense of the increasingly chaotic times in which they live. Season Three saw
“The Grown-Ups,” and everyone barely enjoyed the wedding of Roger’s daughter in the wake of JFK’s assassination Last night’s “The Flood took things a step further. Nearly all of our major characters were attending and hoping to be recognized at the ANDY Awards (ironic that only Megan went home with a prize; but then again, she’s good at whatever she wishes to do at a given moment), when the news broke of another assassination, that of Martin Luther King, Jr. People act out in various ways in the aftermath of the tragedy. Pete tries to reconnect with Trudy, and when he’s rebuffed he takes it out on Harry (who totally deserves it for only focusing on how the murder will impact SCDP’s revenue stream). Roger’s creepy new friend, Randall, sees the tragedy as a call to change via an extraordinarily disturbing pitch. Peggy sees her dreams for an Upper East Side apartment lost in the sauce, but it doesn’t phase Abe who envisions a totally different future for them (and I’m still not quite sure if she’s elated or terrified by his idea of tomorrow). Dawn and Phyllis endure the awkward sympathies of their co-workers. We even get to peek into the Francis household as Henry ventures into Harlem and comes away from the whole experience deciding to run for state senate. And poor little Bobby worries that Henry will also be felled by a monster’s bullet (which is like a punch in stomach for Don and maybe not completely far-fetched given Henry’s new plan).
On the subject of Don and Bobby, I appreciated their shared awe when watching Planet of the Apes as well as Bobby reaching out to the usher with his innocent (and spot-on) observation that human beings like to escape into fantasy when the real world becomes to much to bear. But as Don finally talks to Megan (like really talks to her for the first time all season) about his complicated feelings for his children, I thought that I might be watching the most honest depiction ever of what it means to be a father. Getting the girl pregnant is essentially an everyday task for the virile male, and while the mother-to-be likely forms some connection with the being inside her over the course of nine months, the father does little more than wait for the child to enter the world. When he or she does, can you really blame the man for not instantaneously adoring the stranger in his midst (especially if he had the tortured childhood of Dick Whitman)? So it’s no wonder that Don, the King of Fakery, only played at loving his oldest son. But whether it’s the shared experience of taking in the film or Don seeing his son capable of the empathy that is often foreign to him, Don has a moment of clarity and feels what he always thought a father should feel. Will it last? Can Don get past Bobby’s concern for Henry, who is currently the more consistent father figure in the boy’s life? Who knows. But for a brief moment, Don solves one of the many mysteries of his life. An unspeakable tragedy will do that to a person.