Mad Men Season 6 Episode 7 Review – Man with a Plan.
Warning. Contains SPOILERS!
Every so often, Mad Men neatly encapsulates various themes and strands of a person’s storyline into one simple phrase. At the end of season 5, for Don Draper, this phrase was “Are you alone?”. Half way through season 6, everything we need to know about Don’s relationship with the world around him is captured in Peggy’s admonishment of him: “Move forward”.
Indeed he should. Man with a Plan sees the return of ‘Evil Don’, the name I have given to this, the darkest side of Don’s psyche. We have seen Evil Don bubble to the surface a few times throughout this season so far, but more often than not it loses its way between ‘Pathetic Don’, ‘Emotionally Dead Don’ and ‘Can’t Keep it in my Pants Don’ so we are often left a bit annoyed, but more often just sorry for him. But for many viewers, especially the ladyfolk, tonight you will shake your head and call him a bastard through gritted teeth.
Don overhears Sylvia and Arnold fighting, and she later tells Don “I need you, and nothing else will do.” This sparks an exploitative power game from Don, as he meets Sylvia in a hotel room, telling her she exists only for his pleasure, commanding her to fetch his shoes, dress, undress, wait in bed, don’t read a book and all sorts of crazy sexy dominance, essentially fitting her into the prostitute template in which he seems to like his women. We roll our eyes as Sylvia goes along with it all, especially when she asks ‘Are we going to eat?’ and Don tells her to take off her dress. Nothing is more important than dinner! After a while she seems to tire of this, and tells Don that their affair is over. Don pleads for her not to end it, revealing again his basic problem that he only respects and is attracted to women who reject him.
In an interesting parallel to this storyline, Pete is also having issues with a women he is keeping in a room all day. But than woman is his senile mother, and that room is his apartment in the city. Initially this seems like your average ‘Pete is a loser, Don is cool’ storyline but with more thought it becomes more than that. Yes, Pete is spending his day running after his mother while Don is in a hotel room with a beautiful woman. But when we look at how messed up Don’s relationship with women is, we can’t help but think if his mother wasn’t a prostitute who died giving birth to him, if she was still alive for him to run around after, he may not be the mess he is now. But who knows – Pete seems pretty miserable too.
Meanwhile SCDP take the CGC team into their now shared workspace (hilariously introduced by Cooper’s unfinished welcome speech “In closing, ….. “) and there isn’t quite enough room for everyone, leading to a great moment where Bert Peterson gets fired, again.
Shown up against the likes of Roger and Don, Ted has something of the ‘trying-too-hard, hip school counsellor’ about him, but he is undoubtedly representative of a more progressive character in the workplace, being nice to women and respecting office meeting times etc. Perhaps threatened by this, Don takes him a bottle of whisky and tops up Ted’s glass a number of times as they brainstorm the new ‘margarine’ account. Later Ted makes a bit of a fool of himself as he clearly can’t handle his drink like Don (like anyone could). However Ted gets the upper hand in the ‘cool’ stakes as he flies himself and Don to a meeting in his own bi-plane, where we see Don trembling with fear as Ted kicks back and slips on his aviators. Aw yeeeeah.
In this weeks Bob Benson news, his relentless niceness finally pays off as he helps Joan with an illness at work, in the process inadvertently saving his own job. Way to go Bob!
Finally, in case any of the viewers are in danger of forgetting the deep misery that runs through so much of Mad Men, the episode ends with the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.