This season of Mad Men has, week to week, been a question of “what will this episode bring?” After last week’s infuriating offering, there wasn’t a lot of excitement for the fallout this time around. Yet, the show surprised us with one of the best episodes this season. It was tight, it was surprising, it was self-reflexive and was deeply referential to past seasons of the show and past relationships. Mad Men has been exceptionally uneven this year from week to week, but “The Quality of Mercy” was a reminder of how good it can be. Hit the jump to find out if there’s a hooker who will accept travelers checks.
“The Quality of Mercy” was largely about acquiescence and escape. Kenny, in possibly the greatest (and somewhat surrealist) running joke in the series, finally acknowledged that getting shot in the eye was a good final straw to end his relationship with Detroit and Chevy. Remember the car crash? And their other shenanigans? The line about them wanting to stop for lunch on the way to the hospital was such a great bit of writing. We didn’t need to see it, but the suggestion of it perfectly illuminated the characters of the Chevy execs. Pete, for his part, uses the opportunity to find an escape from New York and his faltering personal life (both with Trudy and his mother), and also to bring his situation with Bob Benson to a head.
Ah, the question of Bob Benson. Spy? Murderer? Homosexual golden boy? A new version of Don Draper, it would seem. Hailing from the backwoods of West Virginia (thanks, Duck), “Bobby” tried his luck everywhere he could, falsifying his resume and hoping no one would notice. SDCP, it turns out, “was dumb enough to not ask questions.” They may well be better for it. Pete is one of Mad Men‘s best characters, and exceptionally underrated because of his worm-like demeanor. He’s opportunistic, and he can be surprising. Here, he made what might have shocked a lot of viewers by acquiescing to the inevitability of Bob, Don and their kind. Except this time, he has Bob on his side. Their final conversation seemed to boil down to, “I know who you are, don’t fuck with me,” perhaps indicating, “but take down whoever else you want.” Well played, Pete.
Don and Ted continued their sparring, and since Don can no longer have an affair, apparently he wants to make sure Ted suffers, too, especially since Don has always considered Peggy “his” (though not romantically, as he is quick to always point out). Don sabotages Ted several times, first with the Sunkist deal and then with that heart-stopping comment to the St. Joseph’s executive about how Ted pushing them was “personal.” This is where Don essentially shoved his balls his Ted’s face, said, “LICK,” and then backed off and said it was Gleeson’s final pitch. Scallywag. He chastises Ted, who seems to acquiesce to the reality that his relationship with Peggy was inappropriate and potentially jeopardizing his relationship with various accounts as well as his own standing within the office. Ted is everything Peggy wanted from Don, with a bonus. He’s a good man, a supportive mentor and is really in love with her. She was right to lay it all out on Don in the end after he ruined all of that. She doesn’t owe him anything anymore.
The two men “fighting” over Peggy was a reflection of Sally and the skirmish between Rollo and Glenn as well, with Glenn acknowledging his protective feelings for Sally, even if they aren’t romantic (like Don and Peggy). Here though, Sally forced the issue between them, and her smirk with Glenn toppled Rollo was reminiscent of Betty, pleased at the fact that she became the center of attention, got what she wanted, and had two boys fighting over her. Her relationship with Don may be forever fractured, just like his with Peggy; and like Peggy, she feels she owes him nothing (as she tells her mother in the car, “my father didn’t give me anything”). He taught you how to make a Tom Collins though, Sally, and that has seemed to come in handy.
Sally wished to escape from the home life that she finds out is so common among girls from her background, just like Don wants to escape from the life he’s built for himself that he no longer identifies with. He sleeps separately from Megan and drinks all day, unable to watch her soap opera and stand her character begging “him” to listen to her. At the end of “The Quality of Mercy” he curls up, defeated, in stark contrast to the Peggy and Don bonding episode so lauded in the past, “The Suitcase.” Don’s world continues to fall apart, and he’s becoming passe, being replaced by the Teds and Bobs of the world. Last week Sally told Don he made her sick, and this week Peggy calls him a monster. Is it possible that Dick is finally getting the message that Don needs to go? And what will that mean?
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Apologies for the late posting, friend had a bit of an emergency last night but all is well. Thanks for being patient!
— Harry is such a troll, and I loved Megan’s reaction to him calling and the fact that he actually did try to (and maybe did) pay a prostitute with travelers checks.
— “Great Cesar’s ghost!” – Jim Cutler, and my new exclamation.
— Don put on some great performances this week, pretending to be humbled by his actions with Sunkist and then lying about Gleeson. That’s what “those types” do!
— I forgot all about the burglar and her fight with the Model UN friend. Poor Sally.
— Don was so quick to throw money at the Sally problem, wasn’t he?
— Glenn, who is played by Matthew Weiner‘s son, is a little less creepy but still even more wooden than January Jones (but for her, it works in this role).
— “Pretend that tree is Ralph Nader ” – Chevy exec. Seatbelts are good guys, come on.
— As someone who has had to wear an eye patch in the past, I wish I had gotten one that looked that pirate-y. It was actually just a kind of bird’s nest of white gauze.
— “And I almost threw you down the stairs when you mentioned his friend” – Pete to his mother.
— Don being made to whine like a baby was so, so perfect, especially with him ending the episode in the fetal position.