We're moving Forums to the Community pages. Click here for more information and updates.

Mad Men: Pride Comes Before a Fall

Mad Men S05E09: “Dark Shadows”

Mike Ginsberg quoted “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Clearly, he was aiming for badass, but Stan put an end to that with his advice that Ginsberg read the rest of the poem. There are only three more lines after the ones that Ginsberg invoked, but you only need to go one further to see Stan’s point, “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck...” The line paints the reality behind the idealistic notion of power and prestige: It all dries up. Man’s greatest accomplishments ultimately turn to dust.

In Ginsberg’s case, he has yet to even truly find the status that he was certain the Sno-Ball account would get him. Stumbling upon Ginsberg’s work folder, aptly labeled “Shit I gotta do,” Don felt his dormant creativity itch for the first time all season. He presented his own campaign beside Ginsberg’s, an intellectual play on the idea of a snowball’s chance in hell, against Ginsberg’s more kid-friendly slapstick approach, and despite the lukewarm response to his devilish idea from the rest of the creative team, Don forged ahead with both pitches. The little devil that lived on Don’s poster manifested itself in the real world when Don deliberately left Ginsberg’s art in the taxi on the way to the presentation. Ginsberg’s hard work, his greatest of accomplishments (so far) were, for all intents and purposes, laid to waste before they were even fully realized.

To be fair to Don, it’s not that his devil campaign was bad. The Sno-Ball people loved it and SDCP picked up the account. However, the less-than-enthusiastic response from the rest of the creative team, and Don’s own decision to eliminate the competition before a fair fight could even commence, betrayed the anxiety underlying Don’s accomplishment. I repeat, it’s not that the devil campaign was bad, it’s that it just wasn’t the best. Sno-Ball is a product to be aimed at children. How many children are familiar with the “snowball’s chance in hell” saying? Furthermore, how many are familiar with it to the point where they'd instantly recognize the reference in Don’s work and see the humor in the ad? While Ginsberg’s snowball-to-the-face-of-authority campaign was juvenile, the product itself was created with kids in mind and didn’t need an overly intellectual joke to sell. In fact, we have yet to see if Don’s campaign actually does manage to sell Sno-Balls on the level that the client would consider a success.

King Don returned, quickly assuming his role as THE creative force at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but judging from the exchange between Don and an irate Ginsberg in the elevator, maybe Ginsberg finished reading “Ozymandias” after all. When details concerning just how Don won the account became clear, Ginsberg told Don that he felt bad for him. Don flippantly replied, “I don’t think of you at all,” which on its surface sounds like a signature Don-ism, but in the context of Don’s ongoing struggle to find and maintain his creative niche and doing so via underhanded tactics rather than his own accomplishment, it felt almost like pure bluster, going through the motions, forcing himself to exude a confidence that isn’t there because it needs to be there for the image of “Don Draper” that Don projects to be complete.

The former queen of the Draper household clashed with her successor when she intercepted a mushy note from Don to Megan. It probably didn’t help that Bobby had drawn a picture of a harpooned whale on the back. Betty has taken the steps to start losing the weight that tormented her in “Tea Leaves” but it’s a hard road, and her ex-husband’s new wife is like, super hot. “Dark Shadows” took place in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, 1966, and while discussing things to be thankful for at the Francis table, we realized something that we kinda knew already: Betty’s happiness is entirely dependent on the unhappiness of others.

Betty had her own “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” moment after a bout of jealousy over the note—combined with hurt over the picture and yet more jealousy when she caught a glimpse of the slender and svelte Megan getting dressed—compelled her to help Sally out with a family tree school project. Sally had forgotten to give Anna Draper a branch, you see.

At first, it looked like Betty would win. Sally raged at Megan for not telling her about Anna, then raged at Don, but Sally has been slouching toward adulthood all season long, and unlike many children, Sally seems to want to go there willingly. She has her rough patches, but she’s a bright kid and as such, knows how powerless children ultimately are. Maybe it’s an effect of talking to Creepy Glen, another kid whose parents seemed, at times, to use him as a pawn against one another, but Sally is starting to see the flaws in her parents and accept them. Once Don explained the Anna situation—leaving out, of course, the part with the identity theft—Sally calmed down.

Sally saw Don trusting her with an adult concept while Betty continued to treat her like a child and a game piece. Not only did Sally return to the Francis household calm, collected, and without any juicy news of her bombshell completely ruining the holiday for Don and Megan, but she went the extra step at dinner, reducing Betty to the child and elevating herself to the adult. Betty started to eat as soon as the food was on her plate and Bobby chastised her for eating before saying grace. Sally jumped to Betty’s defense, telling her brother that their mother was “just hungry” the way one would defend a little kid who started digging into the stuffing before anyone said amen. When Sally said, “it’s okay, she’s just hungry,” it sounded like, “it’s okay, she can’t control herself,” and it applied to every facet of Betty’s personality. She can’t control her eating. She can’t control her rage. She can’t control her child.

And like a petulant child forced to participate in what she saw as a cheesy Thanksgiving family tradition, when it was her turn to be thankful for something, Betty stated that she was thankful that she had everything she could ever want and no one had anything better. The only thing that would have made that moment more complete would have been if she’d ended her rant by stomping her feet, crossing her arms, and refusing to talk to anyone for the rest of the meal.

Notes and Questions:

1. Did something in your brain short out a little when Alexis Bledel showed up half-naked in Pete Campbell’s naughty daydream? Rory Gilmore, get inside and put a shirt on before your mom catches you! It just doesn’t compute. Is this what it was like when Leonardo DiCaprio went from Growing Pains to The Basketball Diaries?

2. I think my favorite moment in the entire episode was watching Betty Francis inhale whipped cream straight from the can.

3. “Dark Shadows” was a '60s soap opera (with vampires!) and with that reference in mind, did anyone think the plot was a little soapier than usual with the Roger/Jane hook-up-of-angst-and-suck and Betty’s hilariously sinister machinations of mass destruction?

Comments (17)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Rogers' comments about 'bankrolling the company' and needing to 'carry less cash' were priceless! (no pun intended). How rich is that guy anyway? And how? They can't be paying THAT much.
Reply
Flag
I loved the elevator scene with Ginsberg and Don.
Reply
Flag
Great piece MaryAnn! Love the recap. But to your question about Alexis Bledel, and her erotic advancement; did you not see "Sin City?" She played a doe-eyed prostitute with a heart of gold. Besides which, all little girls grow up, and when they grow up to be that gorgeous, I say take the girls for a walk whenever the hell you want! Hahaha Great episode, Sally is officially one of my top 3 favorite characters!!
Reply
Flag
What's going on with Peggy in this season? Her screen time feels very limited, it seems she has no role anymore in the firm...
Reply
Flag
Betty has been gone for a few episodes but came back with major bitchiness this episode! Love to hate that chubby chick!
Reply
Flag
I second the inhaling the whipped cream part - it kinda crumbled me (if this translates). However, what I didn't like was the audio on the flipping through Bobby's drawings - how could they not notice that in post?

Anyway, another great episode after a slow start for Mad Men!



P.S.: brain shortened out, yes.
Reply
Flag
Mad Men background noises have always been really loud, i think intentionally. You always hear the crumpling of a sofa or a zipper, louder than the voices even; not to mention the breathing, every time 2 people kiss it's like they're grasping for air, and there's no mics on them so they must be hamming it up in post to really get the feel of the place by any means.
Reply
Flag
Glad I'm not the only one who noticed how loud those papers were! I thought maybe paper was just louder back then! ha! It made me sad to see her with the whipped creme and then spit it out. So sad to see her upset and fat. :(

Loved it when Don said, " I don't think of you at all" classic.
Reply
Flag
Great episode all around. Everyone's story line was entertaining and well written. I like seeing Don fight for his position at work. He hasn't been showing up at work like he used to. We also got a Betty storyline which was as petty as usual (that is a good thing.) I also like seeing Jane and Roger being decent with each other. I know Roger messed up at the end, but I would like to see them being civil through the divorce.
Reply
Flag
I've been complaining about Don's lack of work ethic all season. I can only hope this new found rivalry with Ginsberg changes that. Seeing Don go though his process has always been a high point for me.
Reply
Flag
I really liked Roger and Peggy's elevator confrontation. While she's pissed at him now for choosing Ginsberg to help with his new secret project, Peggy is fast becoming just as obsolete as Sterling is already.



Here's hoping they both realize it and work together on something more important to the company.
Reply
Flag
Sally is awesome!



"Are you going to make yourself cry?"



Snap!
Reply
Flag
I totally agree! She is starting to show that she is Don's daughter to the tee!
Reply
Flag
Couldn't agree more. Like a young Betty.
Reply
Flag
Staff
She was so BRUTAL! It was great.
Reply
Flag
Oh Betty!
Reply
Flag
I still find it weird that they released an episode called Dark Shadows just as the remake movie came out.
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook