The Great Mad Men Re-Watch, Part 7: God, Sex, and Irish Setters

God, sex, and Irish Setters: All the biggies are covered in the next three episodes of Mad Men. Join us now as we revisit Season 2, as part of our ongoing Great Mad Men Re-Watch.



Season 2, Episode 4: “Three Sundays”

Review Notes:

Beyond a few, fleeting glimpses of Don’s fundamentalist upbringing, the topic of God has so far been kept far at bay from the Mad Men universe. Until now, that is, in an episode that spans Easter week, 1962. We’re introduced to Father Gill, played by Colin Hanks, who is a progressive Catholic priest who corners a hungover Peggy at church. Gill solicits advice from Peggy on how to better communicate with worshippers, and she replies with lessons from the Don Draper School of Salesmanship: make eye contact, and speak in language people can understand. Later, in confession, Peggy's sister Anita tells Father Gill that she secretly hates Peggy for having conceived a child out of wedlock, and refusing to acknowledge it. Instead of attacking her, Gill shows kindness, handing her an Easter egg for “the little one.”

This episode is also a turning point in Betty’s relationship with her kids. She actually encourages Don to beat Bobby after he breaks the record player, and shows virtually no compassion after her son burns himself badly enough to earn a visit to the ER. When the kid tips a drink over with his toy robot, she demands Don do something about it, and Don does, smashing the toy against the wall, freaking the kid out. The scene where Don consoles him, and Bobby learns of Don’s own father, is particularly touching.

“Three Sundays” is also where Sally Draper, played by the amazing Kiernan Shipka, begins to snatch the spotlight. Bobby’s trip to the ER forces Don to bring her to the office; there, Sally covets Joan’s breasts, talks sex with Paul Kinsey, and drinks a glass of whiskey until she passes out. Basically, a day in the life of Roger Sterling.

Grade: B
I was never particularly fond of the Father Gill character. Too pious.



Season 2, Episode 5: “The New Girl”

Review Notes:

I love this episode. The title refers to Jane Siegel, the hot new secretary assigned to Don’s desk, but it really refers to Joan and Peggy, both of whom undergo transformative moments. Joan earns gasps and applause from the other girls, as she’s sporting a hefty rock from her new doctor fiancee. That development rattles Roger, and Joan stands up to him, and for the institution of marriage, in a memorable scene that plays out in his office.

Peggy is put in the unenviable position of bailing Don out of jail after he and Bobbie get into a drunken car wreck on their way to her beach house for a salty, sandy, sordid rendezvous. Bobbie, sporting a shiner, rooms with Peggy until it fades. Watching these two strong women, at completely different stages of their lives, feel each other out is nothing short of riveting. Bobbie, curious as to why Peggy would do all this for Don, asks Peggy if she loves him, and Peggy masterfully deflects. Then Bobbie gives Peggy some life-changing advice about insisting that Don treat her as an equal, and using her womanhood to her advantage. (“You can’t be a man. Be a woman. It’s powerful business when done correctly.”) The next day, when Don dresses her down in front of the men for not being prepared (jerk!), Peggy puts the advice to good use, asking that Don repay her the bail money and using his first name to thank him. New girl indeed! Later, in the second flashback to Peggy at the hospital where she delivered her baby, we learn that Don took it upon himself to visit her there, where he tenderly suggested she move on and forget she ever gave birth to a baby: “It will shock you how much it never happened,” he tells her. Spoken like a true lifelong impostor! Still, it’s a telling moment of bonding for the two principal characters.

Fun Finds:
– Freddie Rumsen playing Mozart on his pants zipper.

Grade: A-
Great work from Melinda McGraw as Bobbie Barrett, who you might recognize from Men of a Certain Age.



Season 2, Episode 6: “Maidenform”

Beginning with a contemporary pop song about a young Spanish virgin, covered in makeup and offered up like a gift to a king, “Maidenform” tumbles us deeper down the sexual-political rabbit hole. Playtex, a Sterling Cooper client, wants a campaign like Maidenform’s—built around sex and fantasy. An offhand observation by Paul that all women in 1962 could be classified as either “Marilyns or Jackies” results in a campaign that encourages women to be both: “The bra is called the harlequin, it comes in black and white. Jackie, Marilyn.” The Playtex people love the campaign but opt to stick with the conservative approach, and the men head out to celebrate at a strip club. Just like in the brainstorming session and subsequent casting call, Peggy finds her nose pressed up once again to the glass of the old boys’ club. But this is “new” Peggy, and she’s a little more open to Joan’s advice to “stop dressing like a little girl” if she expects to be taken seriously. She shows up at the club in makeup and a flattering, cleavage-baring dress that works wonders on her. Pete—who, earlier in the episode, slept with a bra model hopeful he met in the elevator—looks on, titillated at first, and then just frustrated and angry.

Fun finds:
– The episode begins with a montage of the ladies of Mad Men putting on their bras, set to a modern-day tune: The Decemberists’ “The Infanta.”

– Duck Phillips, contemplating downing a bottle of Johnny Walker, thinking twice of it, then abandoning his Irish Setter on a Manhattan sidewalk is simply devastating. The look on that dog’s face!

– The final shot of Don, sitting on the toilet, contemplating the joke his life has become after Bobbie says his bedroom prowess is a topic of conversation around town, is a keeper.


Grade: A-
The Duck storyline was particularly strong.



QUESTIONS

– The dark side of Sally has begun to surface. What do you think will become of Sally as an adult?

– Who is your favorite Don Draper secretary? Ida Blankenship is mine, even though our Re-Watch hasn't met her yet.



Episodes to watch for next Tuesday: "The Gold Violin," "A Night to Remember," and "Six Month Leave"




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