Countdown to Mad Men: The Many Shades of Joan Harris

Each day this week, I’ll attempt to offer an in-depth look at Mad Men's core characters by highlighting the five moments that have defined, so far, their arcs, along with predictions of what might happen to them in the coming season. After all, between the Beatles coming to the United States, the Civil Rights Act, and the expansion of the Vietnam War, 1964 can only make for some majorly dramatic television.

Today, we'll discuss the beautiful Joan Harris, whose life seems to grow more complicated with each passing episode.

1. A Caged Bird

Episode: Season 1’s "Babylon"
Obviously smart, Joan knows how to play the game of using her incredible looks to gain control in what is very clearly a man’s world. So it irked her on a fundamental level to see the less sophisticated Peggy get ahead on smarts alone. Joan was seething with resentment when she delivered the message that Peggy would get to use her “industrious little mind” to write copy for the Belle Jolie account. It must have further stung to receive a caged bird from Roger as a symbol of how he wanted her all to himself. It was at this point that Joan began to question the rules.

2. The Ring

Episode: Season 2's The New Girl
Not even Roger’s warning about how marriages quickly grow stale could wipe the beaming smile off of Joan’s face the day she excitedly showed off her engagement ring at the office. In fact, it’s hard to remember another time in the series that Joan has ever seemed so happy. No doubt she was thrilled by the idea of finally getting out of that office. She was even friendly to the new girl (and future trophy wife to Roger), Jane.

3. The Rape

Episode: Season 2's "The Mountain King"
I don’t doubt that Sam Page, who portrays Joan’s then-fiance and now-husband Greg, received threat letters after his character forced himself on Joan. It was just plain devastating to see her as a victim at the hand of her supposed dream man. From that scene forward, Joan’s once-confident and untouchable demeanor was transformed into one of disillusionment.

4. Ce N'est Pas Magnifique

Episode: Season 3’s "My Old Kentucky Home"
Joan begrudgingly agreed when Greg asked her to play the accordion in front of his colleagues. She played and sang "C’est Manifique," an enchanting French tune about love and marriage, charming the dinner guests. But it was in her gaze that her disappointment in her husband was blindingly apparent. While on the surface it seemed perfect, their marriage is definitely on the rocks.

5. Seeing Red

Episode: Season 3's "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency" and "The Gypsy and the Hobo"
On Joan’s last day at the office, she saved a man’s life after he was run over by a tractor, making her completely invaluable. We would have expected nothing less from the all-knowing Joan. Thank goodness, too, that she knows exactly when to stand up for herself and smash a vase over her pathetic husband’s head. By doing so, she hopefully made very clear to Greg that, yes, she does know how it feels to want something her whole life and not get it.

So where does that leave us?
Joan has returned to work with the so-new-it-was-founded-in-the-season-finale agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and is feigning enthusiasm for her husband, Greg, who has just signed up to serve as a surgeon in the army.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here, but Joan and Greg's relationship is not long for this world. I’m guessing Greg will be sent off to serve in Vietnam. And, with Joan’s returning to work, I suspect that her romance with Roger Sterling will be rekindled. Maybe he’ll take her to go see Goldfinger!

Comments (3)
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Jul 23, 2010
I think this season we'll (and maybe even Joan herself) will realize just how valuable she is to these men. We'll see her demanding a lot more respect from them and will come to learn that they definitely will not be able to strive without her help. It may not happen this season but I see her forming a bond so strong with these men and this company however that she will make an extremely large sacrifice on her part to see the company continue to strive (something that only Joan will be able to do)
Jul 22, 2010
I agree. She is gorgeous. Joan is one of my work role models. I can't wait to see what happens.
Jul 21, 2010
christina hendricks is one of the most beautiful girls to ever exist!!! she is a goddess!!