Mad Men

Season 4 Episode 5

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

8
Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Aug 22, 2010 on AMC
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (5)

8.9
out of 10
Average
164 votes
  • Live by the sword, die by the chrysanthemum

    8.0
    It's been a couple of episodes since we've gotten a look at Betty's side of the divorce equation, and as one would expect, it is not pretty. Understanding is a three-edged sword, as they say, and while Don and Betty continue to dig into their respective positions, Sally's behavior reflects the ugly truth. This is war by proxy, all too familiar to many in modern society and a nice parallel to the Vietnam situation percolating in the background.

    This episode is dripping with irony. Don has a serious issue with the notion of psychiatrists, yet he finds comfort from talking to a lovely young woman who fulfills that very role. Betty seeks out psychiatric help for Sally, yet ends up getting just as much help from the child psychologist as her daughter stands to receive.

    Betty has often been more sympathetic when compared to Don, but on her own, she is an individual with astonishingly stunted emotional and psychological growth. Part of the problem is Don's desire to create the image of the perfect family. Betty was young when she married Don, and there has always been the sense that she never really grew up; she just took on the role that was expected of her.

    Time has worn down her ability to maintain the image, and now she is in a position where she has to find herself. That is a by-product of Don's narcissism, but the resulting behavior falls right on Betty's shoulders. She is revealing the same lack of maturity and identity that has plagued Don for much of his post-Dick Whitman life. The end result is a mirror image of Don's protracted disintegration.

    In counterpoint, we see yet again that Don is most effective when playing the game of managing perception. He pulls a qualified victory out of the jaws of defeat through careful examination of expectation. As others have mentioned, the irony is that the creativity that Don's maneuvering requires is something innate; even as Dick Whitman, he would have this talent.

    As noted after the previous episode, Pete continues to ride the Don Draper learning curve, though without that inborn talent; he wants so desperately to play the same game, but he doesn't perceive the cost. Roger plays the counterpoint role nicely, true to his character background. In fact, given his comments about the civil rights movement in the opening moments, he would appear to be positioned as the voice for the socially conservative elements of society.

    In other words, "Mad Men" continues along its path of easy excellence through near-perfect character development. It's astonishing to think that this show gets basement-level ratings.
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