Email Roundtable #22 – For Immediate Release: Don Draper is No Superman

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In this edition of the Email Roundtable we take a look at the latest episode of Mad Men, “For Immediate Release”, and season 6 as a whole.

Katie: Briefly put, I thought “For Immediate Release” was one hell of a treat! I love the Don Draper that makes impulsive decisions without regard to consequences. But I loved Joan even more. Man, that was one great spankin’ she gave Don.

Jane: I loved this week’s episode. One common thread for me was being let down by the characters choices (in totally watchable ways). The obvious example is Don giving up the Jaguar account.  As Joan points out, her securing the account by sleeping with Herb was for nothing. Christina Hendrick’s performance when she confronts Don was searing.  He is trying again to play the role of the saviour but by taking away the account, Don cheapens her deed even more.

My heart also went out to Peggy whose choice to venture out on her own last season was also sabotaged by Don. The amazing reveal of him sitting in the office with her boss was  surprising and sad.  With the two firms merging Peggy loses her independence from Don. Last season she made the choice to leave and now Don is taking that choice away from her.

My other disappointment was Pete. His description of the “200 lb negro” erased all the good will I had built up for him last episode during his passionate civil rights speech. Maybe it wasn’t as authentic as I had hoped.

Kerri: I liked the episode too. I was going to ask you both about the Joan confrontation first. I was watching with G and I think he put it best by saying, “Doesn’t Don understand? She earned that account”. It was certainly a stand up and applaud moment in my books. I’m not sure how it will change the relationship with Joan and Don but I have a feeling she is good at keeping a grudge.

Katie: Don doesn’t understand, which is really disappointing. He thought he was saving her, somehow. We all know Joan can handle herself (see: how she treated Herb in “The Collectors”. Unfortunately, Don is too focused on himself to see that.

Jane: He stripped her of the only good thing to come from her sleeping with Herb. It was selfish, but I think you are right, Don has no clue what he has done. He is still the hero in his own eyes.

Kerri:  I like the way the episode places Peggy right back into daily contact with Don. I found that the merger was pretty much telegraphed as soon as Ted says, “Dammit!” when finding Don in Detroit at the same bar. This hasn’t ever really happened for me and Mad Men (being able to see the direction of a scene let alone an episode). But that didn’t really change my enjoyment of the episode. What are your thoughts on the merger and how it will change things? Was Don being too hasty in his decision to merge the companies? Does he even have the authority to do that?

Katie: I think Don and Peggy working together again was inevitable, but it certainly came sooner than I had expected! With the merger, Don has done his last great act in advertisement, I’m pretty sure. With Peggy as the head of creative, and a better boss in Ted Chaough, what is Don going to do?

Jane: Again Don doesn’t understand how his actions aren’t heroic in Peggy’s eyes. When he puts out his hand and says things will be better this time he thinks Peggy should be just as pleased with the merger as he is. I think it will change things for Peggy. The fact that she is sent away to write the press release speaks volumes about her role in the Merger. She is once again reporting to Don.

Kerri: I think you have hit on something important, Jane. Don and to a certain extent Roger are trying to play the saviour in this episode. It works for the company and the books but they let people, actual human beings, down.

On another note, I think it is interesting that Ted said he was jealous about Peggy’s new role. I wouldn’t say Peggy is moving down in the company but at this point it is hard to say. I’m certain she will be making more money.
One thing I found curious was at one point, Peggy says in the past she’s worked with people who weren’t optimistic, I can only assume she means Don. I wonder about that reading of Don and why Peggy would consider him a pessimist in the world of advertising. Was Peggy just trying to flirt with Ted?

Jane: That’s funny, I read that comment as Ted trying to make Peggy feel important rather than actually believing it. Maybe I’m the pessimist.

Kerri: Well, I’m always wrong about Mad Men so why break the streak?

Jane: Don has been letting people down a lot this season it seems. Do you think he is oblivious to all of it or that he just doesn’t care?

Katie: I think he doesn’t care. That seems to be the major change in Don this year. He isn’t doing any soul searching, or trying to improve his mental state. He seems to just be wallowing in his bad qualities.

Kerri: I think Don is partially oblivious but I don’t think he doesn’t care. I just think he cares about the wrong things. Looking like, as you say, a hero instead of how people will feel about his so-called heroism.

Katie: Did this last string of episodes seem slightly disjointed to anyone else?

Jane: I found the tone of this episode in particular to be less saturated in death than previous episodes this season. However that being said Megan’s description of Don as Superman leaping off a building gave me the chills. I couldn’t help but think of the opening sequence.

Kerri: I thought this episode was still pretty dark but it did feel a bit different tonally. I’m not sure that I can put my finger on why exactly.

Going back to what you said about Don, Katie, do you think it has something to do with people trying to foist morals on him? I’m thinking specifically about his new religious girlfriend.

Katie: It definitely could be, but he’s always had ladies in his life that question him — Rachel, Betty, (blonde woman). I want to say it’s boredom, but I do not understand Don Draper. And that’s a great thing.

Jane: I’m of the opinion that Don is so caught up in playing the hero that he feels his actions are always in the right. He doesn’t have time to get caught up in how people are affected by what he has done.

Kerri: Isn’t that just Don? He’s fine with taking over someone else’s identity because it benefits him. He’s fine to throw away everything that Joan has done for the company because the client was being a jerk about Megan.

Jane: He thinks he is the ultimate superhero. He also loves puppies!

Kerri: Any more thoughts about this episode specifically?

Katie: There were so many great things about this episode. If I tried to name them all I feel like it would just be a verbatim description of the plot, haha.

Kerri: I feel like there have been so many great character additions this and last season and now we’ve had some time to spend with them. Who has been your favorite new or somewhat underused character?

Katie: Michael (Virgin) Ginsberg. He’s just such a basketcase,  yet not. Takes care of his work and his father but can’t take care of himself.

I also love Abe. He’s my ’60s dreamboat. Too bad for Peggy there is human poo in the stairwell of their new place.

Jane: I don’t know if this counts but I LOVE seeing more of Allison Brie this season! She is a powerhouse and it is so nice to see her have the upper hand with Pete.

Katie: Trudy’s scenes have been consistently surprising and moving! Go Alison Brie!

Kerri: For me, I love Stan. He reminds me of a young, happier, hippy-er Ron Swanson.

Any final thoughts on where this season/series is headed?

Jane: Honestly, no. I love being surprised and Mad Men never lets me down.

Katie: Well, I thought Heinz Ketchup was going to be a season long arc, so what do I know? But I think Peggy will choose not to have an affair with Ted. Megan and Don will stay together.

Those are my two predictions.

What do you think, Kerri?

Kerri: My only insane theory (which I’ve already told you about Jane) is this:

On the very last episode of the very last season of Mad Men we find out that the entire series was a film directed by none other than Bobby Draper.Katie: Hahaha that’s a great ending.

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