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Mad Men delivers its darkest episode

'Mad Men' went to some seriously dark places this week, and while the drama was the high, the story was downright distasteful. Just how important is Jaguar?

- Season 5, Episode 11 - "The Other Woman"

Mad Men went to some very dark places in this episode, and I have to say that I am still trying to shake myself free of this week’s story. The events that went down with Joan and Jaguar were downright deplorable and I think any respect that I may have had for Pete Campbell is completely gone. The fact that the other partners were willing to go along with the plan doesn’t speak too highly for them either. There was more going on in this episode though, as Peggy made a big decision and Don and Megan continued to fight.

The big event, though, was Joan spending a night with the head of the Jaguar dealers in exchange for the support of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in getting the ad business. Joan herself also received a five percent stake in the company, along with a vote as partner. Frankly, the entire story was beyond distasteful for me, and I’m trying to figure out if I’m more upset with the desperate men of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, or the writers of Mad Men. No one should be put in that situation, and while it made storytelling sense, I still didn’t like it. We can rest assured, though, that this is going to have some large scale implications as the show moves towards the end of the season.

Don was the one partner who did not support the dirty dealings with Joan, unfortunately he was heartbreakingly too late to convince her not to do it. It certainly says something when Don Draper is coming off as the pillar of morality in the group. Of course, to be fair to the rest of the partners, I’m not convinced that Don’s distaste was completely altruistic. After all, Jaguar was set to be his triumphant return to being a creative genius. Not only was he not responsible for the tag line or idea for the campaign, but now there is going to be the question in his head whether or not SDCP even had the best pitch.

The one thing that I can say is that it will be nice to see Joan wielding some actual power around the office. It will be interesting to see what she does as a voting partner with the rest of the men (who prostituted her out to get a client). The events of the episode are clearly going to have an impact on Lane, as well, who admitted that he had feelings for Joan, even suggesting that she demand a stake in the company. Are we going to see the two of them grow closer, or will selling herself only drive a wedge between them?

The writers did set up a nice juxtaposition, with Peggy also naming her price, in a completely different context. It’s hard to blame Peggy for moving on, especially with the offer that Ted Chaough gave to her in the diner. It was some nice acting between Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss when Peggy gave her notice to Don. I’m very curious to see how this move goes. Will Don look to get her back at some point? Will Peggy be miserable at CGC. I could certainly see the move as being Chaough just trying to get under Don’s skin. Does he even really want Peggy? The big smile on Peggy’s face as she entered the elevator at the end of the episode leads me to believe that this was probably the right decision for her.

Finally, Don and Megan continue to battle. They do, however, seem to be making progress. It was just in last week’s episode that Don was sniping at Megan about shunning advertising. In this episode they were talking about it calmly, Megan even teasing the writers working on the Jaguar campaign. It seems like there is always something for these two to fight about though, and this week it was back to Megan’s attempt to make it as an actress (with another reminder of the distasteful treatment of women in that time).

As we head into the end of the season there are certainly a lot of opportunities for a heck of a lot of drama. I’m looking forward to seeing how the season ends, even if this episode left me wanting a shower. How did you feel after watching “The Other Woman.”

Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

Categories: | Episode Reviews | Features | General | Mad Men | News | TV Shows |

8 Responses to “Mad Men delivers its darkest episode”

May 28, 2012 at 9:25 AM

So you have distaste for the partners and even the writers of the show, but not for Joan? Not one critical word? Interesting. I guess all the chauvinists aren’t on the show. Joan is not a victim. She’s as much an opportunist as any man on there and showed it.

May 28, 2012 at 10:45 AM

She’s a single mother. Can you really blame someone for looking out for their child?

May 28, 2012 at 1:01 PM

There is also something to be said for the impact of these men that she works with and, in many cases, respects even suggesting this. It has to have an impact on self image and self worth. As strong as the Joan character is she has been belittled and worn down many times over the course of this series (rape, giving a job she did well to a less qualified man among others.)

just my 2 cents…

May 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM

Also realize that Joan and the whole board was tricked by Pete. The board was told by Pete that Joan was amused by the idea, almost interested. Joan was told by Pete that the board voted on it. Don was told by Pete that everyone else voted on it. Yes, any sympathy I had for Pete went out the window this week. He’s slimy and disgusting.

I really hope Peggy isn’t gone for good. For all her faults, she’s the only character I really root for on the show.

May 29, 2012 at 6:59 AM

If what the men, especially Pete, did was disgusting then what Joan did was equally disgusting, personal reasons or whatever. Someone tells her 5 percent and she asks for that. She probably would have done it for two or three. She will have to look at them everyday, all knowing how she got there. It seems like the entire Internet wants to excuse her actions and make excuses for them. If the men are pimps, that makes her a whore….by choice. She’s not starving or destitute. She is not a victim. She wants more than she has and used her body to get it.

May 29, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Listen, apparently this bothers you. However, I think the whole point of the discussion is needs to be put in context of the era, beyond being a single mom. See past the pimp/whore labels and appreciate the complexities.

Joan is a realistic opportunist. She has no idealized fantasies about her place at SCDP. If she had said no, being aware of the precariousness of the firm’s finances, there would be a possible that the firm could fail without landing Jaguar, leaving her jobless. Even if the firm continued, there is still the possibility that smarmy Pete would blame her for the failure of landing the account and have her fired eventually anyway. The obvious reward is an opportunity for security, advancement, and power that would have never ever been available to her before. For someone who is well aware that her main power is sex, it is a difficult but understandable decision. Especially when you remember that she married her rapist.

The only person with no redeemable behavior in the matter is Pete. For awhile there, mainly in Seasons 2-3, I got past my whole Conner is a whiny tool hang-up, and he came across as sympathetic sometimes. But that is all done now. He manipulated everyone and orchestrated the whole thing with a seeming indifference to the weight of it. At least the other partners were torn about the disgusting nature of it versus the necessity for financial reasons.

May 29, 2012 at 8:59 PM

Can’t disagree as it relates to Peter. Just pointing people giving Joan a pass without examining her motives beyond “poor single mother.”

May 31, 2012 at 10:26 AM

I don’t think the show meant for anyone to come out of this looking good. Except maybe Don, but even his motivations can be construed as “I can win this business on my own,” though I also think his mom issues have something to do with it. But sex has come into play in winning accounts from very early on in this show. This is just sort of the natural extension of that, and I think we are meant to examine the motives of everyone involved critically rather than singling anyone out for our righteous indignation.

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