Spoiler Alert Thursday: Mad Men, The Phantom

I hated this episode so much.  

It didn’t make sense to me at all that Megan would ask Don to help her land the Bartlett shoe gig.  (And also — suddenly she’s an acutely depressed, falling-down drunk?)  Sure, she used her relationship with Don to get a job once before, when she convinced Don to promote her from secretary to copywriter.  But that promotion exposed her to endless ridicule, contempt and resentment.  And now she wants to put herself in the same position, in front of the same people?  For a shoe commercial?  Not to mention the fact that her entire acting class will know that she promised to help her friend and then turned around and stabbed her in the back.

Joan’s little confession about Lane also rang false to me.  True, Joan has slept with co-workers before, and of course we just had that ugly incident with the Jaguar dealership guy.  But Joan is a woman who is strategic about the deployment of her sexual power, and careful about containing it.  She keeps tight control on how people treat her and talk about her.  Yes, she ended up having sex with the dealership guy, but she did it because it netted her a partnership — and she was horrified to know that the other partners were discussing her on those terms.  And now she just opens up a conversation with Don about how she should have had sex with one of the partners to keep him happy?  I don’t buy it.

It was as though the show wanted to end on a note where the three working women on the show — Megan, Joan and Peggy — are all on an upward professional trajectory, but also wanted to make a point that their accomplishments are tainted by sex.  (The latter part of that construction doesn’t work for Peggy, although maybe that’s why the show threw in that bizarre shot of the dogs rutting in the hotel parking lot, tainting Peggy’s otherwise-perfect business trip.)  But in order to get the stories to fit the theme, the episode had Megan and Joan acting in ways that didn’t quite fit their characters.

Also out of character:  Pete’s unexpectedly self-aware, thoughtful speech to Beth in the hospital room.  This season had too many tidy speeches in general.

Feel free to make your predictions for season six below.  I understand that Adam is in charge of the betting pool.

2 thoughts on “Spoiler Alert Thursday: Mad Men, The Phantom

  1. Totally agree re: Megan — she seems like a basically ethical person, who wouldn’t leapfrog over her friend and also wouldn’t need to hear Don’s argument that she doesn’t want it that way — she simply wouldn’t want it that way.

    Since Megan is tormented in this episode by her mother’s visit, you could argue that this is Megan seeing herself as her mother sees her–fundamentally afraid of not being talented, leaping on shortcuts to validation–as compared to seeing herself through her father’s eyes, where she’s an artist who got distracted from her dream. But I don’t think that has been sufficiently developed. I don’t think the show has come down on one side or the other as to whether Megan’s any good as an actress, which I like.

    I found Joan’s reaction easier to believe. In her last encounter with Lane, he made a lewd comment–comparing that to their year of deeply friendly flirting, and considering his role in her making partner, I think it might be easy for Joan to think of herself as a life preserver.

    Season Six predictions:
    – Having witnessed Joan’s wily rise to power, Pete will accumulate a majority share in SCDPH by giving Cooper erotic coconut-oil massages in the construction team’s break room.
    – Ginsberg will blow the Jaguar account.
    – Leaving the RJR factory in Richmond, Peggy will be kidnapped by vengeful tobacco tenant farmer. After walking 200 miles out of the wilderness back to civilization, she will look at herself in the mirror and sigh, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” making ad copy history.
    – Working on Dow Chemical will drive Don to start drinking napalm, up with a twist.
    – Roger, having taken LSD on his own, will grow his hair to his shoulders and start calling Harry Crane “narc.”
    – Sally, having become a woman at the end of Season 5, will become a man.

  2. I wasn’t so critical of the episode or the season. It seemed like Megan turned out to be a better character than we had a right to expect. Note also that, aside from their blow-up fights, this is the only real setback she’s experienced since marrying Don — and it’s a slow-burn, every day kind of thing. My experiences on the academic job market made me sympathetic. Most days it’s kind of okay, and then suddenly one day it really, really isn’t.

    The stress of a judgmental mother who’s sure you’re going to fail obviously contributes to the creation of a “really not okay” type of day, particularly when she’s left alone. I can certainly see having a drink to take the edge off when you get a disappointing rejection, then having it snowball because there’s no one home to give you any pushback. I don’t think we’re to take that scene as evidence that she’s suddenly a raging alcoholic — she’s a young woman who let things get out of hand on one particular day.

    It probably would’ve been better for her emotionally to approach the problem like a normal person and keep her day job while pursuing auditions, instead of giving herself nothing to do but stew and worry during the “hurry up and wait” periods.

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