This episode was all about things falling apart and disasters. Obviously. I had read or heard (but can’t remember where) after last season that the writers had wanted to skip Kennedy’s assassination because it has been touched on so many times on different programs. This may be the seed of the rumors (also after last season) that suggested the show was going to jump a couple years between season 2 and season 3. In any case, all of the foreshadowing of things falling apart, disasters, destruction (grandpa Gene telling Sally all hell was going to break loose anyone?) were leading up to this episode apparently.
-Before we get to the disasters… With carnage all around her Peggy seems to be in a pretty good place. We had never gotten confirmation that she decided to live with Lizzie from Undeclared and we didn’t know she was seeing Duck on a regular basis (her excuse for leaving, “I have to go to the printer” was the same Don used in season 1 when she was his secretary). Both were revealed in the span of about 10 minutes. I was wondering this afternoon if the Duck/Peggy thing was his heavy handed attempt to convince to leave Sterling-Cooper. It still could be, I guess. “Duck’s not married.” “Oh, then why are you with him?”
-First up in disasterville, Pete finding out that Ken Cosgrove will be made Head of Accounts. Initially, Trudie wanted him to stay, but that changed by the end of the weekend. In much the same way I don’t understand why Pete (and his terrible personality) is considered such a good client services professional, I don’t understand how Ken can be any good either. He’s a bimbo, a published bimbo, but a bimbo. Maybe if we ever saw them servicing clients, we’d understand.
-Margaret’s wedding. Back in episode 2, we saw the draft invitation for the wedding with a date of 11/23. This made it clear that Mad Men would cover Kennedy’s assassination. What wasn’t clear was what would happen to the wedding. Only half the guests showed up, and no one felt like celebrating. In case you missed the connection to this episode’s theme, Roger even said on the phone later that it was a disaster. We also got to see a high society 60’s wedding, complete with a toast from the father of the bride into a father-daughter dance. The band leader shows that wedding bands haven’t changed that much when he cajoled everyone to join them.
-I was surprised by the reaction to the Kennedy assassination and it’s unlikely there would be a similar response these days. Most of the people in the office didn’t vote for Kennedy, but even Bert Cooper seemed riveted to the coverage. It was definitely a different time, and the sadness among everyone is a stark reminder. That Betty (who didn’t vote for him) and Carla (who did) could both have the same tearful response was a very strong way of illustrating the feelings in the country. (As Trudie said, “You don’t just shoot the president.”) I was curious about Pete’s line, “It felt for a second like everything was going to change,” almost as if he had started to like Kennedy’s policies. I may have misunderstood what specifically, politically or otherwise, he was talking about.
-When Pete and Trudie were talking about going to the wedding, Trudie said, “There’s a system.” Referring to Pete’s understanding of what other people call the game. I’d love to see a book written by Pete called ‘The System – 40 Rules for Business Success’.” Pete not wanting to go to the wedding has more to do with him not getting the promotion than Kennedy, though.
-Don and Betty, Don and Betty, Don and Betty. I wish their relationship hadn’t been made a focal point of the show. At this point, the show is unable to cover fresh ground unless they do break up. If they don’t, it will be an annual theme, Don and Betty, relationship in trouble, Don apologizes, from the heart this time, Betty accepts, but still resents, rinse, repeat. How many times are we going to see Betty wrinkle her brow and have Don try to soothe her before walking away condescendingly? My issue is that I don’t think Don gives a shit about Betty. Everything about his character, his philandering, his desire to run constantly, not wanting to be tied down, leads us to this conclusion, so why all the consternation? He just doesn’t want to lose the picture perfect family life. In the same vein, Betty has always been superficial and child-like, so what’s sticking in her craw now? How about this for next year? Don apologizes, Betty accepts, and then all of the time we WOULD have seen Don and Betty marriage in crisis, we can see Sterling-Cooper action shots of client pitches and meetings instead.
Prediction for next week? Well, no resolution. I’ve seen talk of Don and Co opening their own advertising house. I don’t see how this works on a practical level. (And thanks to commenter Dorf for reminding me of the legal level. Don can’t leave without breaking his contract.) Too many characters would have to be jettisoned. Peggy seemed poised to be a major part of this season at the end of last year and nothing really this year. Pete’s been on the verge of leaving for the entire series, he can’t go with Duck unless there’s a way for them to continue working with Sterling-Cooper somehow. Everyone wants Sal back, obviously, but in what form. Man, I guess anything can happen.