Season Five Recap

“How’s the City?”

“Dirty.”

With this one word, Sally, though only privy to one “dirty” act, summarizes one aspect of this season’s episodes.  Harry dreams of lechery, yearning for young girls at rock concerts, Lane is titillated by a provocative photo in a lost wallet, pilfering it for his private fantasies, a brothel visit where Pete’s macho fantasy is satisfied, if only briefly, as the Richard Speck murder of eight nurses eerily sinks into the American subconscious.

When they reintroduced of Sally’s childhood friend, they gave us a way of showing us what’s on her mind.  This was similar to Peggy’s opening up to Dawn earlier in the season. In both instances, we get to see what is going on in their minds as they open up to minor characters.

Prior to this, to show us what was on Don’s mind, they used a journal (when he was bottoming out), a dream (murdering a lover) and waking images. These methods of portraying interior monologue are being used increasingly, initially to show the inner workings of the once mysterious Mr. Draper.  The dream of murdering the lover shows Don’s desire to destroy adulterous thoughts; then, there is the open elevator shaft, which could represent his fear of losing Megan, as he could not follow her after leaving SCDP.

Don is now showing himself as a real man, the kind of man Pete aspires to be, but cannot be because he is clueless.  Pete is not a man for many reasons. First, he is not kind.  Second, he treats prostitutes like objects; Don treats them like ladies.  His ineptness as a man is symbolized by that pathetic toolbox of his, and how he fumbles about with it.  But there may be hope. Lane has initiated him into manhood by, as Peggy so eloquently put it, “kicking the crap” out of him. Pete must get past his self-loathing, and his exquisite explanation to Emile (Megan’s dad) is a step in the right direction. Pete’s latest sexual encounter will test him severely, because married women of that time (and perhaps all time) are quite ambivalent about extra-marital affairs. Pete is treading on dangerous ground, and he lacks the circumspection and restraint for it.

Now, turning to pre-marital affairs, I didn’t think Abe is using or misleading Peggy, as her mother believes.  On the other hand, I don’t think he is thinking about the long-term, either in one way or another. He is just living in the moment. It is unclear what Peggy is thinking. Is her preference living together or marriage? Possibly it is marriage, but her insecurities made her agree to Abe’s proposal.  I felt her reaction to his proposal was a muted surprise, but not disappointment.  I don’t know, though.  In any event, if her preference is marriage, she should be clear about it, and hold out for it, like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I think often people just don’t want to be decisive because they truly do not know what they want, and they don’t want to admit it either.

Then, of course, there is marital dysfunction.  With the help of LSD, one dysfunctional relationship has come to an amicable (so far) conclusion.  Roger had a transcendent, a sacred experience, sees himself clearly, possibly for the first time in his life.   Life is a struggle between the sacred and the profane, the sacred meaning the spiritual and devotion to what is true, and the profane meaning the sensual and materiality.   Excluding those who are cloistered, most people spend most of their time on the profane side. It is exceedingly difficult to live “in the world” and adhere to the sacred.  Roger’s behavior is typical of those who experience transcendent moments of lucidity (the sacred); it fades into the backs of their minds, and they resume their former behavior, when prompted, as he was by Marie. Now, Roger has returned to the profane, a little wiser, perhaps, but still caught up in its grasp.

(Perhaps Roger should have done it a second time, only this time with Joan. Then both of them could run off to SF with their child, who they will rename Star Sterling.  They can get a place it the Haight, live off the remains of Roger’s fortune and Joan’s military benefits, and hang out with Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead.  (For more on this please refer to The Electric Kool- Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.))

Of course, the prize for the most dysfunctional household goes to the Francis’. I am glad we haven’t heard from them in a while.  I am tired of Henry and the hostility between Betty and Sally, and was fearful that we might begin to explore the etiology of eating disorders.  Plus, this was the second time that Betty thinking of Don has upset Henry. How long is this going to go on?  I am also tired of hearing Sally complain, “I hate her! I hate her!” It hasn’t helped that this complaint has expanded to both women in the Francis household.

Emile and Marie, the newest characters, have the longest running dysfunctional marriage, a psychological S & M contest, though they seem to have adapted.    I do think Megan seems too well-adjusted given her parents’ relationship, but it may explain her kinkiness.

Last Sunday’s episode began on the train, with Pete reading   The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, which came out in 1966. Having read this book twice, I can tell you that Pete would never have read this book, or even gotten half way through it as seemed that he had; it is too out of character. (Perhaps only Cosgrove would have.)  Now, the episode ended with Don listening to The Beatles’ Revolver album.  What did this mean?  Was there a connection?  Clearly, neither Pete nor Don was ready to receive their messages. Or were they just two cultural artifacts of 1966, so we would know where we were?

The Crying of Lot 49 has been called “the last Beat novel,” and Revolver can represent the coming of the psychedelic age, presaging the Summer of Love.  So, was this a way of indicating a transformation of the cultural milieu, from Kerouac’s physical odyssey to the Beatles spiritual quest?

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2 responses to “Season Five Recap

  1. DENNIS

    IN DEFENSE OF PETE

    It’s better (more manly?) to be “Pete” than it is to be Don Draper. The negatives recently attributed to Pete–cluelessness, unkindness, boorishness, ineptness, and self-loathing–are more than matched in Don Draper throughout the seasons of Mad Men. The difference between them is that Pete is under thirty and has heard of Thomas Pynchon.

    The 1960’s as reflected in COL49 and Revolver were indeed a transformation of the cultural milieu. It was the rebellious post modern cravings (chaotic, personal, dangerous) versus the established modern world (permanent, rational, safe). Pete’s the one who’s aware, at least, of the book, while Don Draper merely drops the stylus on the latest Beatles and pours himself another drink.

    Oedipa Mass, at the end of her journey is sitting alone and alienated, waiting at the auction, unable to comprehend what’s real and what’s not. Eleanor Rigby is wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. “Ah, look at all the lonely people.” One of which is Pete, just as “clueless”. But, Don Draper is the smug establishment. It’s better to be Pete only because there is still a chance he will not grow up to be Don Draper.

    • Don Draper read Frank O’Hara’s poem “Meditations in an Emergency” in the Season 2 Finale. I don’t think Don is smug establishment; he’s been poor, and he’s been rich, and he prefers rich. He doesn’t seek social status; if anything he would prefer to avoid it. He also engages in risky and dangerous behavior, like picking up hitchhikers, taking drugs, and excessive adultery. If Pete does not grow up to be Don, it won’t be for lack of trying.

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