Poor Peggy Olson. She was doing so well, the last time we checked in on her. But in the world of Mad Men, no one gets to balance work, love, and happiness. It’s just not in the cards.
Don asks Sylvia to remove her cross. She tells him she won’t, and he turns it around so he can’t see it. She tells him she prays for him to find peace. What she doesn’t yet realize (or maybe she does; Sylvia is an interesting character, beautifully played by Cardellini) is that Don Draper will never find peace.
All the main characters are tangled in complex collaborations, whether willingly or unwillingly, sexual or chaste. Everyone’s wrestling with guilt in this episode, handling and mishandling situations as a result. Don Draper is, as ever, standing at the center of the tempest, acting as though he’s a port in a storm when really he’s rocking harder than anyone else.
In the opening scenes of the episode – up until about seven or eight minutes in – everybody else is talking at Don, and he, that master of manipulation, doesn’t say a damn word. It’s eerie, actually. His wife, who’s evidently come into some fame from TV roles, is voluptuous and sexy in a way Betty Draper never was – and she’s reveling in it.
The last few episodes have unsteadily balanced a number of storylines whose interest is waning. Andrea finally chose a side, even as the Governor remained a static, iconic villain (he’s like one of those creepy clown punching bags – you hit him, he doesn’t stay down). Glenn and Maggie made up and provided a little, suspicious ray of sunshine in the midst of death and destruction. Rick waffled and moaned and still isn’t the hardass he tries to be. Michonne is still a frighteningly observant hard case.
We already know how the Governor functions, and we don’t need more evidence of his shortcomings as a human being. We don’t want Michonne to lose any of her badassery as she becomes more attached to Carl and Rick. We know Rick likes to play the hero. We didn’t need an entire episode to pound in these aspects of our characters.
In the suburbs, there’s a feeling of camaraderie. If you need a hand fixing the minivan’s broken taillight, Joe from next door can help you out. If you’d like a date night for Italian food and a romantic comedy in theaters, Christine from up the street can take the kids. No one ever shows up empty-handed to a neighborhood barbeque. With so many families packed into such a tiny space, who could possibly feel unsafe?