Mad Men "The Quality of Mercy" Review: Nobody Likes a Tattle Tale

Mad Men S06E12: "The Quality of Mercy"


OMG I thought they killed Kenny. Show of hands, until we found out that the Dick Cheney shotgun blast to the face Mr. Cosgrove sustained in Detroit wasn't fatal, were you worried that he was a goner?


Those bastards. 

Anyway. *Clears throat.* The quality of mercy is not strained, according to Shakespeare, meaning you can't force someone to grant it. It's meant to be given freely, but not necessarily easily, as Don and the gang on Mad Men began to realize in this week's penultimate episode of Season 6. And depending on where you stand, conflicting motivations can make mercy appear to be something different altogether. Don clearly thought he was being merciful to Ted and Peggy when he telephoned the St. Joseph's people about their budget problems, and maybe a small part of Don really was trying to be the responsible businessman ensuring honest dealings with his clients—but his primary motivation for getting involved with that account was to humble Ted and Peggy. 

It's getting hard this season, honestly, to find anything new to say about Don's actions week in and week out. He destroys everything he touches—often very deliberately and often with little to no consideration for how his actions impact those around him. In retrospect, Don's fall wasn't sudden at all. He's been in a slow descent since about Season 4, and every time we've believed that Don has hit his personal rock bottom, he's proved that he could go further still. Even here, with the closing image of Don Draper in the fetal position on his sofa—knowing Don, things could potentially get much worse... especially as his roster of allies and acquaintances-who-don't-hate-him continues to shrink. 

The Don Draper in "The Quality of Mercy" was a scared Don Draper. Our first and last shots of him both focused on a large man trying to be a very small man on an even smaller piece of furniture, most tellingly, that bird's eye view of him sleeping in his daughter's unwanted bed in the opener. After the events of last week, Sally has completely rejected her dad and finally decided that neither parent is worth her time, asking Betty and Henry to ship her off to boarding school because she hates everyone—and also because she wants a good education—but mostly because she hates everyone. 


His once adoring daughter has rejected him. His ex-wife doesn't care enough about him to even bother hating him anymore. His current wife doesn't really need him. His goomah probably isn't going to call him back (we all hope). His influence at the firm is on increasingly shaky ground, and to top it all off, his former protege, his pet copywriter, the star he "discovered" way back when... is besties with the enemy. It was hard enough for Don to stomach when Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler Gleason and Chaough were separate entities and Don merely had to know who Peggy was giving her talent to. Now it's right in front of Don all the time—and now even on his sick day, too, with a side order of office romance. So Don decided he needed to destroy it. BUT IT'S FOR THE GOOD OF THE FIRM, YOU SEE. 

And the thing is... it is. Ted wasn't thinking with his upstairs brain and Peggy is so wrapped up in her crush that she's incapable of seeing any of Ted's flaws for what they are (though to be fair, when you stand Ted and Don side by side, Ted still looks like a saint in comparison). It's not like Ted and Peggy went over budget by a few bucks—they practically ignored the budget altogether and didn't appear to even try to stick to a price the client had agreed to. Don did the right thing... but he did it for the wrong reason, because he's an ass. 


Don was a tattler this week. Those cool kids on the other side of the building didn't include him, so he tattled and got them in trouble. Then he smashed their toys—by barely trying to save the ad and then only doing so by essentially stripping Peggy of her credit. Ted responded by throwing a tantrum and hiding in his office. Peggy responded with name-calling, "You're a monster!" and Don—confused as to why no one appreciated him for "doing the right thing," curled up on the sofa for an angry, misunderstood nap. 

In contrast, the situation over at Sally's boarding school sleepover of horrors seemed strangely more mature, even though they broke like 80 house rules and Sally was basically assaulted and OMG GLEN. 

Guys, I have loved Glen Bishop for the little weirdo that he is since his first appearance on Mad Men. So did I scream like a little fangirl when he climbed through that window with booze and pot in tow? I sure did. HI GLEN! MISSED YOU!

Like so many lovable freaks in this world, our little Glen has grown up to be a bit less incapable of talking to other human beings and sadly (for Sally) he looked downright smooth compared to her. The interview process at Miss Porters apparently began with a formal interview with Betty, Sally, and some important lady, continued with Sally sitting in on some classes, and then concluded with an overnight with some real live Miss Porters students. Nobody told Sally that the third part required party favors, but it was okay because she called Glen and he delivered. He also brought his friend Rollo, who was kind of skeevy. 

Despite Sally's rejection of her father and her insistence that he never gave her anything, Sally's experience at Miss Porters implied that Don actually gave Sally several things—though unfortunately, they all kind of suck. 


I don't think that there is, or that there's meant to be, any kind of romantic connection between Sally and Glen, but I do think that Sally is very possessive of Glen, as well as the idea that he's her friend and her special somebody and when he brought the girls their goodies, he did it because Sally asked him to because he cares about Sally and not the random spoiled rich girl he ended up with behind that closed door. Sally was visibly disappointed to be left with Rollo, certainly because he was a drunk creep, but also because Glen was devoting his attention—even if it was romantic attention that Sally didn't necessarily want—to another person. What if Glen ended up liking the new girl more? What if he stopped answering Sally's calls and jumping to fulfill her every command because he found someone else to love more? It doesn't matter that there's zero chance of a Sally/Glen future, just like it doesn't matter that there's zero chance of a Peggy/Don future—whether the involved parties want one or not. 

Sally's predicament mirrored Don's in that she too did the right thing—calling for help before Rollo went too far—but with an inkling of the wrong intentions. She interrupted Glen and Whatserface, reasserting her place as the object of Glen's affections... even if those affections aren't romantic, even if she doesn't seem to want them to be romantic. It was a childish response, but unlike Don, who retreated further into a childlike state following his encounter with Peggy, Sally embraced her experience as an "adult" one. In the end, everything was fine: The kids didn't get caught, Sally was accepted by the school, and no relationships were irreparably damaged, at least as far as we can tell. 


The award for Closer to Grasping the Concept of Mercy Than Everyone Else But Still Kind of Missing the Point goes to Pete Campbell for his treatment of Bob Benson, whose unveiling as Dick Whitman Redux was an improvement over last week's underwhelming "surprise gay (maybe)" revelation, but still kind of... idk. I'm torn. I don't want to say that it takes away from Don's special snowflake status, because realistically, there's no way that he was the only person in the entire world ever who decided to bullshit his way into another life, but to have two different people fake their way into the same agency (basically), at roughly the same time, on the same series just feels kind of... repetitive? 

Whatever. We haven't seen enough for me to truly whine yet, and despite the been-there-done-that aspect of Bob's story, there's actually quite a bit that can be explored with him, like how would Don respond upon finding a man who took a very similar path as Don making himself comfortable in Don's own house? Or even Pete's predicament: Clearly, he learned something from his experience with keeping Don's secret in the past, but his approach to Bob is very, very different in comparison his attempted blackmail of Don. He actually had the upper hand this time and everyone knew it. 

Pete is still (barely) in a position of superiority over Bob. By the time Don's secret came to Pete's attention, Don was untouchable, but for as much as everyone loves Bob, Bob isn't quite at Don's level yet—and Bob knew it when Pete confronted him. He was prepared to be run out of the agency and even had to ask for clarification after Pete's rambling, bitter mess of a pardon. If Pete really wanted to get rid of Bob, he probably could have, but unlike the situation with Don, where Pete was laughed out of the office when he tried to bring Don down, it's actually beneficial for Pete to have Bob in his corner, and there's still time for Pete to exert some control over the newest stray to wander into the SC&P offices. 

I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful—and messed up—friendship. 

I'm also really pumped that Bob didn't get booted. His sinister side is showing... and it's AWESOME. 



NOTES

– This week's WTFLOL Mad Men moment: I mean, shooting Ken in face was kind of randomly hilarious once we determined that he wasn't dead, but I think I'm gonna have to go with Don going "WAH WAH WAH" like a baby just because I expected him to tell Peggy and Ted to screw off and not actually do it. 

– Megan's glee over the scandalous nature of Ted and Peggy at the movie theater: shut up, Megan. It's cute that she's all judge-y considering how she ultimately became the newest Mrs. Draper.

– Megan Draper Death Watch: So much Rosemary's Baby action. SO. MUCH. 

– Seriously, I WAS REALLY WORRIED ABOUT KENNY FOR LIKE HALF THE EPISODE, YOU GUYS.

– What do you think the point of constantly portraying the Chevy executives as a bunch of morons is? As we all know, the Vega ended up being a giant failure and almost folded the company. The '70s were rough on American car companies due to an inability to adapt to changing consumer needs, plus a crappy economy, plus stiff overseas competition—gee, that doesn't remind anyone of another super-recent time in history does it? 

– Who is Bob Benson? I don't actually think we'll go there, if only because we've already done it a hundred times with Don and in the end, it didn't really matter, so it matters even less when it comes to Bob. But still... where was Don's cherry-poppin' whorehouse located again?  

– How good is this "Mad Men in 7 Seconds" Vine post by Tim Siedell? (You may need to click the image to play the clip, and be sure to turn on the sound for the full effect!)

 


What'd you think of "The Quality of Mercy"?

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