“There’s always a hierarchy.”
This is Roger’s response to his daughter Margaret’s idealization of communal life, and, the primary theme of this episode.
Communes were the hippie-anarchist dream. They failed for numerous reasons. First, as Orwell pointed out, everyone may be equal, but some are more equal than others. In addition, a society, regardless of its size, can not sustain itself if people just do what they want. This was the point of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents. People develop neuroses and coping mechanisms, be it gin or philandering. The alternative is chaos. So, Margaret may see the flaws and hypocrisy in her parents’ lives, but, she will discover that paradise is unearthly, and the monolith of rules and hierarchy is pervasive and inescapable.
Hierarchy can now be added to the list of Don Draper’s demons. The partners at SC&P are using it in their attempt to crush him. By knocking Don down in the hierarchy, they are using humiliation as a means of persecution. But, humiliation only works if one allows it to, because it is all about ego; the weaker the ego, the more susceptible the prey. And, it should come as no surprise to us that Don’s ego is fragile.
Peggy’s raise is her thirty pieces of silver. Don was always her mentor, even when, or, if you like, especially when, he was tough on her. Peggy will no longer be mentored; she will now be tormentor. Don may get crucified, but there will not be a third suicide.
This season’s most pleasant surprise is Freddy Rumsen. Can it be that Don instinctively knew where to turn in his hour of need, or was there just no one else? Don believes that he can’t show weakness in front of women; he did once to Rachel Menken, the department store heiress, and that was disastrous. But, for whatever reason, Freddy is an excellent choice. He has been through the wringer and survived, the perfect “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” coach. And, he also needs Don to help him get his place back in the hierarchy.
In the British crime film The Layer Cake, a crime boss tells Daniel Craig “the facts of life.” He tells him that you take shit when you’re born, you take shit when you go out into the world, but if you do well, you forget what shit looks like. The layers of the layer cake are the socio-economic strata of the hierarchy. Don is now being reminded of what shit looks like, and Freddy, who is tired of taking it, is trying to secure both of them a place far removed from the encroaching cesspool before it is too late.