Notes on a couple of intense episodes, after the jump.
I have had occasional doubts about "Mad Men" during the current season's tenth and eleventh episodes, the latter of which aired on Sunday night. Last night's show had several bits of dialogue which seemed too soapy, including that involving Don and Suzanne. But the show has a gift for making you think about things that aren't even on the screen at that moment; any scene with Joan and her husband, for instance, carries a threat of violence. And all of last night's episode played out with us knowing what Betty had found in Don's desk, and waiting to see how she would react -- and what he would do in response.
And what a response it was. With his carefully constructed disguise -- his Halloween costume, in fact -- in tatters, he finally shed the taciturn, dominatiing Don for the frightened and uncertain Dick Whitman within. As we saw in the hitchhiker-mugging of Don, and in his reaction to Italy relative to Betty's, the yokel Don has never been that far below the surface. And it came out, with Don speaking more honestly to Betty about everything, including his brother's suicide, than we have ever seen him be with another character. And even as all that was going on, the tension was even more marked because his current lover was outside, waiting in the car.
Of course, we were expected to wonder what Suzanne might do, only to be reminded at the end that she had no choice -- that her job was at risk from scandal, so she needed to get away. As dangerous as she was for Don, being so close to home, she was in that one respect perfect for him, too, since she needed to keep their relationship secret. (I know, we have had hints of that before, for instance when she would rush him inside the house. But just the way this episode clarified the terror inside Don, it made more specific that Suzanne is not without fear, either.)
I trust Jon Hamm as put his confession scene aside for use at Emmy time.
Elsewhere in the episode, Roger's reunion with Annabelle Mathis (onetime sitcom mainstay Mary Page Keller) was interesting for showing us how bruised Roger is, and once again what a sentimentalist rests inside; much the way he wrecked his marriage for an idealized notion of romance, he still carries a torch for Annabelle. And I wonder if his refusal to bed Annabelle was just about his being married, but also about his memories of Joan, and how not casual that relationship has proven to be for him, emotionally. And in an episode that was so much about people's masks and disguises, how fascinating to see that Roger's mask hides a much better person.
Then again, it appears that Don's hidden self may be better than his facade -- that his opening up to Betty will make an enormous difference in their relationship, and Don's with his family. He now can publicly recognize how much he loves the life he has built, as his morning-after affection for his wife and children indicated. Has Don been freed as a person -- and does that freedom come just as he has become more chained to his job?
Because, of course, he is now under contract. And over all this hangs the future of Sterling Cooper, which we learned a week ago is up for sale. Two episodes left to the season, and many issues up in the air, and I already hate the idea that there's not much more to go in this season.