Mad Men "A Day's Work" Review: The Truth Will Set You Free... Eventually
It was just another day at the office on Mad Men this week. Don slept until noon on a Thursday. Cutler casually promoted Joan to an upstairs "account man" office. Peggy continued to steadily spiral toward a nervous breakdown—and while, to some extent, it's been a long time coming for her, I'm having a hard time enjoying much of anything that Peggy gets up to this season. The Valentine's Day flower mix-up was slap-sticky, and Peggy's over-the-top response was petty. But since Peggy hasn't been in her right mind yet this season, in a roundabout way, Batshit Crazy Peggy works.
"A Day's Work" was a busy episode, featuring an extended secretary shuffle and a 100-percent more racist Bert Cooper. Dawn may no longer be the only black employee at SC&P, but Shirley's addition to the team is hardly a symbol of a more progressive working environment—at least not a willing one, anyway. It's easy to sometimes forget that the reason Dawn was hired in the first place was basically a publicity stunt gone wrong, and "A Day's Work" went a long way toward reminding us that Dawn and Shirley's presence at SC&P isn't always seen as a positive thing by their co-workers. On the surface, they appear to take things in stride: joking with one another about how the rest of the staff apparently gets the two of them confused, putting up with the whimsical relocations at Peggy and Lou's requests. However, their willingness to simply go with the flow for the sake of keeping their jobs is waning. They know how crummy their co-workers are, and while it's awesome that Joan apparently bestowed Dawn with her old Head of Personnel title—complete with an office and everything—I hope it was a sincere gesture and isn't later revealed to be a backhanded effort to shuffle Dawn out of sight of the elevators, per Bert's request.
At the heart of SC&P's Valentine's Day of Misery, the question of honesty colored everything, from Peggy and Shirley's sitcom-esque confusion with the roses to Don and Sally's accidental father-daughter day. The rule of thumb in elementary school was always "Honesty is the best policy," but in the world of Mad Men, it's oftentimes really not—which, in a way, is a different kind of brutal honesty and the foundation for the life that Don Draper has built over the years.
Subsequently, that life has started to crumble, and as we've seen with the sleeping-'til-noon, pitching ads via Freddy Rumsen, the roach-infested bachelor pad, and listless bicoastal existence, Don doesn't know what to do with himself. When the old way of doing business failed him, he tried the honesty thing, and that blew up in his face, too... except with Sally. Don described his mistake to Sally, claiming that he said the "wrong thing to the wrong people at the wrong time" (which is also a pretty succinct summary of "A Day's Work" itself). Don was talking about telling people the truth, but in Sally's case, the times when Don has said the wrong things to her have always been in instances in which he's lied. Sally craves honesty, particularly from her parents, and she doesn't seem willing to let Don even lie on her behalf, as evidenced when he asked her what to write in his note to her school and she said, "Just tell the truth." Currently, Sally is the one character on Mad Men who isn't repulsed by or afraid of the truth.
Despite her current "sour teenager" shtick, Sally represents hope in the future. She always has, and of all the Draper children, not only has she always been the one Don seems closest to, but she's also the one who most understands Don in return. She doesn't always want to, and even though gets Don more than most people do, she certainly isn't willing to blanket-forgive all of the crappy things he's done lately, including the affair with Sylvia. However, she is able to interact with her father, despite everything she knows about him. This flies in the face of everything Don believes about the world, and at the end of the day, when he dropped Sally off at school and she actually said that she loved him, you could readily see how startled Don was, as if he'd never considered that someone could know all of his bad traits and not run the other way. But who can blame him, really?
In California, Pete's delight at bringing in a new account was short-lived, as the New York office decided it should be run through by Bob Benson first. Ted was hardly a shoulder to cry on, and his, "Just cash the checks. You're gonna die one day," smacked of a more cynical version of Don's "THAT'S WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR" to Peggy a few years earlier. Ted has lost the ability to put on a happy face and lie his way through the day, though it's debatable how much longer he can grump his way through work. More and more, Ted mirrors Don in his experiences, his desires, and his demeanor. Is he going to eventually experience Don's mental health crisis as well? Maybe. I could see it. Don has tentatively begun the process of rebuilding his life (again) and seems to have someone resembling an ally in Sally. Ted, so far as we know, has no one.
"A Day's Work" was another wandering episode, expanding on the journey that last week's season premiere embarked on without taking many steps to drastically change the scenery. We're still in the process of "getting there," wherever "there" may be.
– Kiernan Shipka is so awesome.
– Lou Avery is such a dick.
– Was anybody feeling the Peggy story this week? It just seemed so cartoonish to me.
– LOL @ "masturbate gloomily," though.
– Don is marking the levels in his booze bottles. That seems healthy.
What did you think of "A Day's Work"?
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