Mad Men "The Monolith" Review: The Future's So Bright, They'll Have to Wear Shades

By MaryAnn Sleasman

May 05, 2014

Mad Men S07E04: "The Monolith"


Don was spotted reading the sexually explicit bestseller Portnoy's Complaint. The former Mrs. Sterling, Mona, lamented their daughter's "mucking up" of her one job in life: to find a husband. And Peggy was deemed the best candidate for the Burger Chef job because she has a vagina. Sexual politics have popped up on Mad Men from time to time throughout the series' run. It would be virtually impossible to set a show in the 1960s without a mention of the strides that women made with regard to their place in workforce, not to mention the the shift in the role of non-working women and the idea that there is really no right or wrong way to be a woman. Whether or not the newly christened Marigold is making the right decision for her son is a completely different argument, but when it comes to debating whether she made the right decision for herself, right now, she's in a good place. Will that change? Most certainly. But she sold me when she pointed out that she isn't locking herself in the bathroom with a bottle of gin like her mother used to do, and she's happy with that. 

In the Mad Men universe, women's changing roles have reached a point where the men in their lives are confused: When is Pete interacting with Bonnie the real estate agent, and when is he interacting with Bonnie his girlfriend? Can she be both at the same time? Does he want her to be? Does she want to be? Pete seems to delight in the self-sufficient aspect of Bonnie's persona; it's the polar opposite of Trudy. Pete has always been drawn to working women, or, in the case of Alexis Bledel's Beth, women who've found themselves unsatisfied with their socially sanctioned housewife roles. In a way, the society springing up around working women is proving equally liberating for the men who are willing to accept it. It wouldn't be at all surprising, given Pete's background, if we learned that he was raised to believe that a woman with a job, or a desire to leave the house once in awhile, was not the sort of woman it was acceptable to pursue. 

Since the start of Mad Men and the 1960s as a whole, the status quo that once dominated all things has slowly been flipped upside-down, and with the advent of sideburns, miniskirts, and office computers that require an entire construction crew to install, the future has arrived at SC&P and not everyone is thrilled with the altered view. Joan told Peggy that she doubted her gender or her past with Don had anything to do with Lou's decision to put Peggy in charge of the Burger Chef campaign. If she really believes that, she's either naive enough to drink the Kool-Aid or too blinded by her own rapid rise to the top that she's incapable of seeing where there are still very real, very wrong problems in the office, even for women of Peggy's stature and skill. At best, Lou, Cutler, Ted, and the others thought Peggy was the right woman for the job because she was a woman, but also because she was a competent woman who has done her time pitching taglines and proving that she can hold her own with the men. At worst: they're counting on her emotion to get the best of her, as well as her inability to control Don, mostly to get Don fired, and in Lou's case, both to get Don out of his hair and put Peggy in her place. I'm jaded enough with the men on this show to go with door number two. 

Don is also struggling to regain his place in the office and by some miracle, managed to make it the entire episode without getting fired-- though it was close, with the whole drinking-vodka-out-of-a-soda-can like it's homecoming weekend or something. He also called Lloyd, the computer guy, the actual devil, leading me to believe that Don and Ginsberg should totally hang out and get trashed while lamenting the loss of the orange couch, the creative lounge, and the vast conspiracy at SC & P to oust all the creatives, replacing them with shmucks like Harry Crane and Lou Avery. Lol, they're so screwed-- and the horrifying thing is that no one sees it except Roger, maybe, and Don, whom no one listens to anymore. Even the supposed "creative" one in the upstairs offices, Bert Cooper, is Team Toolbag all the way. 

The computer itself, a giant monolith dominating the center of the SC & P officers, doesn't have to be a bad thing. It is cutting edge technology that will change the landscape of the working world forever. However, the current battle being waged in the offices of SC & P-- and the mistake that both sides of that battle are making-- is that there is only room for one way of thinking and that one approach is inherently wrong, while the other is right. 

Don's pre-drunken rant at Lloyd offered the first glimpse of compromise-- short-lived, though it was. The rational camp at SC & P believes that the quantifying capabilities of the new computer will render the annoying creative types obsolete. They don't have to wait for Stan to smoke a bowl and come up with an idea that might sell a lot of crap to some housewives in Hoboken. The computer will just tell them who to target and how. It takes the guesswork out of the advertising equation, but it also takes the art out of it-- which is where Don's disgust comes in. He asked Lloyd, "What man laid on his back counting stars and thought about a number?"

Lloyd countered with, "He probably thought about going to the moon."

Perhaps Lloyd intended for his answer to fall strictly in the pro-rational, pro-technology, pro-science camp and it can certainly be interpreted that way, but the idea of going to the moon in the first place is an inherently creative one. The space race spawned an entire segment of American pop culture in the 1950s and 60s. It was an adventure that captivated the world for almost two decades. Yes, it took an enormous amount of rational thinking, math geniuses, engineering all-stars, and literal rocket scientists to make it happen-- but it also required a great deal of creativity, and people daring to think that it was a thing that could happen. The quest for the moon is the ultimate symbol of the limitless possibilities available when daydreamers and number-crunchers collaborate. 

No good will come of SC & P's one-or-the-other approach. The world that Mad Men exists in is much more complicated than the one it started in, but those complications are only as good and as bad as the individuals in question make them. As predicted, Don lost his shit at the idea of Peggy being in charge of him, but came around to working within the new system after nearly losing the return he fought so hard for. It's an increasingly blended world in 1969: from traditional female roles colliding with the non-traditional, to the technological making sweet, sweet, space-race love with the philosophical, to the past and the present trying hard not to hurt each other anymore. Don Draper is the man who freaked out when his son wore a dead man's hat; he now hangs a dead man's Met's pennant on his office wall. After being a square for at least the past two seasons, it seems as though Don Draper is finally at least trying to put his finger back on the pulse of the world. 



EXTRA TAGS FOR PEGGY


– When did Cooper become such a dick? 

– "We're getting a computer. It's going to do all sorts of magical things, like make Harry Crane seem important" —Roger

– Wait... so why did Cooper get so pissy about Don proposing new business? I don't recall that being one of the rules. 

– Next week: Betty smokes a cigarette! Ginsberg acts crazy! Lou is a jerk! 


What did you think of "The Monolith"?


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  • CoreyChapman1 May 06, 2014

    That '69 Mets team could symbolize Don's resurgence both spiritually and professionally. They were baseball's punchline until their miraculous run in the Summer of 69. Don pinning that tattered pennant to his office wall was important- it was a tribute & reminder of Lane.
    We tackle this, the mismanagement of Marigold, SC&P;'s own HAL, and more on the latest episode of Mad Cast. The show can be streamed at www.madmenpod.com or on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/mad-cast-s7-e4-the-monolith/id500685789?i=310805733&mt;=2

  • ben45tpy May 06, 2014

    This was a really strong episode. It's been a long time since there's been a Mad Men episode that was as clear and effective as this one. Don and Peggy's upended dynamic was enthralling, the computer resonated thematically on so many different levels and tied together the Don bringing in a new client and the creatives persecution stories well. And Roger's trip to the commune was also terrific, especially being body-slammed in the mud - hope I can track down an animated gif for that. The creatives persecution is so interesting and looks like it will be a big theme this season. It's intriguing to try to figure out just how things came to this when the agency (and its previous incarnations) had been so creative before. I can't believe it's just Don's after math, there's something really interesting going on here.

    I'm thinking that one of the big reasons this episode was so much better was that Peggy managed to lighten up a bit and caught a bit of a break. Of course it might have really been a backhanded compliment but it helped. Her mood can affect the whole show. Sometimes I think the show's more about her personality than anyone else's. After all she is/was sort of an audience surrogate. I'm feeling bullish about the show now, although the half season shenanigans are still going to be a problem.

  • romothink May 05, 2014

    To write a review and either ignore or be oblivious to the forthcoming MIracle Mets of 1969 is highly negligent. Don is at the bottom, and, like the Mets, will climb to the top by the end of the season. I absolutely LOVE how Freddy is being utilized. The once hapless drunk has certainly proven to be Don's professional guru, while Sally looks to be his maturing anchor at home. Megan will get chopped up or Betty will do something negligent to one of her children - just when Don has "won the pennant" and figures out how to remove Lou. Could Don take all of Creative away when the current amalgamation burns up behind IBM and the inevitable failure of the Chevy Vega - and start a new firm;Draper, Campbell, and Olson?

  • BelleForrest May 05, 2014

    That Met's banner may be a symbol of what happened in that office. Lane Pryce hung himself rather than to face the shame of losing his job, of becoming a failure in his wife's eyes, a disappointment to his own standards. I am very concerned that it might be an omen of what is to come for Don, but I hope that those that predict this are wrong. Don may still feel very responsible for what Pryce did. Some people feel that Don was too hard on Lane Pryce, and should have just given him another chance to pay back the money he took, instead of just asking for his letter of resignation.

    Perhaps the writers want us to see that Don could have always taken the easy way out, as Pryce did. Maybe Don Draper will successfully fight his way back, get back all those things that used to give meaning to his life. Aren't we all rooting for him? I hope the writers don't reward our loyalty to Don by having him jump off the roof in the last scene of the last episode of the last season. Argh.



  • ben45tpy May 06, 2014

    I doubt Don will get in as desperate a situation as Lane. Lane's main issue was he did something very bad and couldn't handle the repercussions. Don's unlikely to do anything egregious and is unlikely to commit suicide, it's not really his personality type. But I'm sure they could find plenty of other ways to kill him if they want.

  • BelleForrest May 09, 2014

    I suppose you are right, but what possible purpose would it serve to the story as a whole if they kill Don off. That would be such a colossal disappointment... to this viewer anyway.

    I don't expect a rosy, everything is perfect and tied up in a bow conclusion. But I would still prefer to imagine Don continuing on with life's struggles, evolving and adapting as he explores the next decade and beyond, instead of being dead and buried.

  • BelleForrest May 05, 2014

    Why after all these seasons does it seem as if Don has been given a chance to learn a lesson from everything that has happened to him, but he still fails to learn anything. He still seems to fault others for his problems, hold grudges, rebel, fall back into the bottle, etc. He still has not been able to prioritize his life, and discover that if he just commits to doing his job, what he does best, then all the other priorities will fall in place. He seems to just want to be able to do whatever he pleases without seeing that he is his own worst enemy.

    The Met's banner is more than just the symbolism of the ”miracle” Mets finally winning a pennant in 1969 (I had to look that up!). And perhaps it will be a miracle if Don manages to stick to those absurd rules that guarantee failure. But the Mets banner belonged to Lane Pryce because that is his office after all. The banner may also represent the struggles that Pryce went through to fit into a different culture, to feel as if he were a contemporary of those he worked with every day. Don is also now a stranger in a strange land, the landscape has changed and he will never be able to change it back to the way it was.

  • ABCRobbieB May 05, 2014

    Yawn. Has it only been 4 episodes, feels like it's been on for ages. Too many characters u-turns and dead-end plots.

  • cheersnorm May 05, 2014

    Wow! we get a lecture on feminism. I don’t hate your review because I have a dick. I hate it because I have a brain.

    Your review is a subtle sexism message that men are weak dimwits and woman are stronger and better. Why don't you review the Lifetime movies.

  • ben45tpy May 06, 2014

    Hi, I also have a brain and because of that I know that your interpretation is 100 parts your projection 0 parts MaryAnn's review. The only part of the review that was negative at all towards men was the motives for the partners teaming up Peggy and Don and that situation was very complex, factoring in Don and Peggy's past, the partners' lack of confidence in Don and Lou's contempt for Peggy, amongst other things. Your conclusions are without merit. And yes I have a Y chromosome.

  • cheersnorm May 07, 2014

    Let me see we have young boys shooting other young students, we have a very high baby-momma generation, we have millions of young men that never knew their father, we have AID's, we have millions of elementary school boys on Ritalin. Compared to a time when roles were more defined.....I am sure if we are headed in a good direction.

    There needs to be a gay chromosome defined, we can name it after you.

  • ben45tpy May 07, 2014

    I thought we were talking about a TV show, Maryann certainly was. Anyway it seems you want to talk about society at large and yet you do so by largely bashing men, in fact your last comment makes men seem like weak dimwits. If the male identity is so broken then it would be pathetic and lazy to blame it on feminism. After all in most areas men are still dominating and feminism in the most part has changed women, not men. If men are at fault then we need to take responsibility, man up and fix the problems, not whine and make excuses.

    And calling me gay because because I called BS on your comment just shows that you're more interested in being abusive than the facts.

  • jerlouvis May 06, 2014

    You really shouldn't brag about having a brain after saying something stupid.

  • pajaneiro May 06, 2014

    So... isn't it a fact that middle-class women's integration into the workforce was a crucial change (socially, economically, etc...) in 1960s America? How is that "a subtle sexist message that men are weak dimwits and woman (sic) are stronger and better"?

  • abdulay31 May 05, 2014

    The way Don is treated around the office shows the lack of loyalty (barring Roger) from the old gang. He made a mistake due the arrogance he is quite known for but even during his heydays Don supports his colleagues when in the wrong like Pete in s1 when he had the chance to fire him or Pryce in s5 when he swindled the company's finances.

    I cant stand Bert Cooper as in the earlier periods he was the voice of reason so his rudeness towards Don is a complete 360 to his character.

    Lou is the only one justified to treat Don in a bad way as he feels threatened with his position and putting Peggy ahead of Don is a sure way to ignite Don to get himself fired. All in all solid episode to one of the best shows at the moment.

  • MarlboroMagpi May 06, 2014

    I agreed but this is real life office politics. Sad but true. Its all about the income generated and now they are doing fine without Don.

  • AnnaJachimczak May 06, 2014

    Out of the two people you mentioned Don being loyal to, one is dead and the other one was actually pushing for Don to do thr work on the account. The others currently in charge, with exception of Roger, do not owe Don anything and see him for the liability he is.

  • ben45tpy May 06, 2014

    He also supported Joan, he was the only one who thought it was a terrible idea for her to sleep with a client.

  • ToddMurray May 05, 2014

    How can anyone be shocked and disappointed that agreeing to new BS strings would lead to new BS consequences? Penance or not, it was a stupid decision on Don's part and now he has to deal with it (or not, as he almost got himself fired).

    Yes, Bert Cooper is just about the most worthless old coot. He hasn't done any actual business since Season 1, has he? What's he even there for, outside of being a named partner they can't afford to buy out right now? How is this any different than Don not doing any work and continuing to draw a paycheck? Which brings me back to how Don should have simply asserted his role as partner and founder on his way back in the door.

    I'm having a very hard time giving a crap about Peggy this season. And I've always been a huge fan of Peggy. At least she sees the world for what it is, even if it's the most pessimistic version of reality, as opposed to Joan.

  • cheersnorm May 05, 2014

    Well said. I did like the fact that Bert was the only one to tell Don to his face he didn't want him there.

    I am waiting for Don to turn this around, to get back on top of the heap. I worked in an office where the boss was not likeable, a true badazz, ruthless and cut throat, but competent, smart and respected. Don is the true badazz boss you got to love, the true underdog role right now. Peggy is now officially annoying.

  • pnnf May 05, 2014

    "When did Cooper become such a dick?"
    My guess is his newfound dislike for Don came when Don risked Cooper's livelihood by risking SC&P.;
    I was actually worried Cooper would fire him without buying him out or anything, seeing as Cooper knows about Dick Whitman.

  • ben45tpy May 06, 2014

    He's still a dick.

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