Last week on Mad Men, Don had to step in and comfort an office on the verge of mutiny after the McCann acquisition announcement, but this week I don’t think there is anyone optimistic enough to even offer platitudes. Wires hang from the ceiling, Shirley quits in (rightful) anticipation of racial discrimination and all that remains in the office are yesterday’s designs taped onto office windows.
Only the most corporate minded folks like Harry and Pete have adjusted to the claustrophobic, grey hallways at McCann, but “Lost Horizons” isn’t about those two. Roger assures Peggy that his dealings with McCann were purely business, i.e. a powerful company offered big money for their small agency, but somehow he forget that the small agency culture allowed for the growth and innovation McCann-Erickson can ignore with the inertia of already held accounts and name recognition.
Last week, Joan picked up on the distinctly not progressive McCann’s plans for her when Jim Hobart promised juicy accounts to all the partners – except her and this week we see she was right to be concerned. Although Peggy has always been the most outspoken beacon of feminism on the show, Joan has recently suffered the most at the hands of the ignorant men of McCann. After a disastrous transition meeting bringing on McCann’s Dennis to the Topaz account, Joan’s pursuit of fair treatment yields an unrelenting string of opposition to a female account executive despite her clear commitment and intelligence. She goes up the chain of command first to Ferguson Donnelly, who unabashedly agrees to help her if he can sleep with her, and finally to Jim Hobart who point black informs her neither Joan nor Peggy will keep their accounts intact after the transition. Early on Joan’s confidence and belief in the reason that secured her a partnership back at SC&P and causes her to turn down her new boyfriend’s willingness to support her should she quit. But unfortunately life isn’t always like an uplifting TV show.
Joan threatens Hobart with ACLU retaliation and that does get Hobart to sit back down on even kilter after standing over her threateningly, but he does is offer her 50 cents on the dollar of her acquisition money if she leaves immediately. The next day Joan tellingly takes a picture of her son and bids adieu to Roger, who in this new regime can’t save her. While we all appreciate the efforts of the Gloria Steinems and the Betty Friedans, a prolonged legal battle with the high probability of seeing a net loss just isn’t possible for Joan, a middle-aged single mom at this point.
The hardest scenes on Mad Men are the ones where we get reminded that the ’60s, and now the ’70s, was more than just day drinking and swanky suits. In fact it included quite a lot of hardcore sexism, racism and homophobia built into the infrastructure of American society. Joan’s symbolic departure dredged up some strong anger personally and yet her confrontational last episode (maybe?) draws a stark contrast with Peggy’s alternative mode of feminist defiance, thus offering hope that at least one SC&P female executive will defy the idiots at McCann.
Fans got a rare Roger and Peggy scene this week that along with Bert’s mystical appearance in Don’s passenger seat added a surreal tone to this week’s episode. Of course, McCann has been dragging their feet on getting Peggy over to the office by not having her office ready and screwing up all the other arrangements, but as a result she wanders into Roger playing the organ at the old SC&P office. Apart from the clear funerary dirge for the agency, Redditor gr8ver proposed a Phantom of the Opera comparison with Roger playing the role of the unloved Erik and Peggy being Christina. Don has been grooming Peggy to replace him since season one, but as Roger relays through a good ol’ World War II story, he is going to give her the final push.
Roger offers her Bert’s somewhat inexplicable painting of “an octopus pleasuring a woman” which she tries to deflect telling him, “you know I need to make men feel at ease,” but we all know that tack won’t work at McCann. At first Peggy sits rigidly in her chair listening to Roger talk at her, but a few vermouths later she rollerskates around the office to the tune of Roger’s organ. In Peggy’s final scene of the episode, she walks down the hallways of McCann cigarette in mouth, raybans on eyes and a tentacle porn painting by her side, all of which suggests the confidence Don has so obviously lost is hers for the taking.
Although Meredith has been gradually taking up the mantle of best secretary ever, the inkling last week that Don lost his mojo has come to startling fruition in “Lost Horizon”. At the beginning of the episode Jim Hobart tells Don he is the key to ratcheting up McCann’s game and of course Don warms to the praise until he makes it to the Miller Beer meeting where a dashing, younger man delivers a golden era Don pitch. The noticeably unnamed man paints a picture of the company’s target audience with the same zeal and confidence (or maybe more) that Don used to have.
Without anything like a support network or a strong sense of self, Don gazes out the window at the Empire State Building stewing on the potential of self destruction – and then actualizing it! What I mean by that is that Don drives to Racine in effort to catch the flighty Diana and falls into default mode putting on two different personas in an effort to extract information on her whereabouts from her ex-husband. In a final blow, Don doesn’t even manage to fool the ex because apparently random men turn up all the time looking for Diana. This week’s song choice, David Bowie’s 1969 “Space Oddity” underscores and perhaps foretells Don’s journey. By all accounts Don has finally snapped just like the song’s protagonist Major Tom he’s hurtling into orbit/ driving aimlessly towards St. Paul.
“Though I’m past
one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go”