I thoroughly enjoyed tonights episode. Whenever we see Don Draper in Dick Whitman form it always serves to breathe humanity into the character(s) Jon Hamm and Matt Weiner have created. This season thus far has seen Don falling into a downward-spiral personally and professionally, and while he continued on that slope in The Good News, it was reassuring as a viewer to see Don truly connecting with those around him. Punctuated by refreshing humor and vulnerability from the usually reticent Lane Pryce, Joan Harris, Greg Harris and Don Draper, the episode successfully examined the dual nature of the personnel and the personal and the conflict that arises when the two collide. Jared Harris, the standout of the episode, was a perfect example of this. The prim and proper Brit, crushed by the weight of a deteriorating marriage, the headache of managing a fledgling agency and a lack of social intimacy, let all of his pathos and drunken humor loose in the presence of the similarly broken Don, to both tragic and hilarious results. Joan too found herself floundering by way of her own predisposition. Joan, equal parts defensive and aggressive, motherly and distant, courteous and biting, was caught in a turmoil of identity, rendered powerless in her work by Pryce and physically powerless by the good doctor Greg. Every bit of her armor had fallen away, and in finding herself helpless to fix herself, much like Pryce, Joan was laid bare.
Which brings us to Don. Don is chameleonic in his ability to shift in manner and presence depending on his surroundings because Don is a character, a cipher, and as illusory as the promise of the products he sells. Dick Whitman is his antithesis and center. As Dick and in the presence of the widow Anna Draper, he is no longer a sketch but a fully formed idea. He speaks openly of his marriage and his faults, preferring to tend to honesty rather than betrayal. Thus seeing his last vestige of a hope for normalcy in the character of Anna literally wither and die, and his betrayal to circumvent it, made for possibly the most tragic implication in all of Mad Men.
The Good News was a staggering study in the stripping away of the walls that the characters have built for themselves to give way to their own nature. For all of Mad Mens praise for its period attention to detail, it isn't as often noted for its greater achievement- examining what it means to be human and the timeless battle for the reconciliation of all of our moving parts. This episode is the perfect example of why i watch this show.