MAD MEN Recap: “The Flood”

     April 28, 2013


I was a little more than fed up with Mad Men last week, and as a few others have pointed out, what makes this season so difficult is not only Don’s refusal to grow (more on that later) but also the fact that the party is winding down (smoking and drinking is now bad for you!), and let’s not even get into some of those godawful fashions.  But “The Flood” was a very interesting episode, and actually a really great one, that spent another hour focusing on the reactions of the characters to a huge historical tragedy.  Though Don stays in stasis, the rest of the characters seem to have really gone somewhere, for good or ill.  Hit the jump for why “it’s a shameful, shameful day!”

mad-men-season-6-episode-5-jon-hamm-roger-slatteryGinsberg’s father tells him that when the Biblical flood waters came, the animals got onto the ark two by two.  ”You gonna get on the ark with your father?” he taunts him, after Ginsberg ends his date early and doesn’t seem interested in any more.  ”The Flood” was, in part, about who you call when the flood waters are rising.  In the wake of a tragedy like the assassination of an inspirational leader, where do you find your comfort?

On the positive end of the spectrum was Peggy, firing on all cylinders.  She doesn’t get the condo she wanted, but maybe, as her real estate agent says, it just wasn’t meant to be (despite the tragedy opportunism for a low bid).  What was more interesting though was how it affected her relationship with Abe, which has gone on without much comment.  They’re both working, but it’s Peggy’s salary that allows her to purchase a home, and Abe stays supportive, but out of it.  Though when Abe casually throws out that he didn’t see them “raising their kids” there, Peggy can’t control her beam.  Peggy wants to have it all, and so far there doesn’t seem to be any reason why she can’t.

mad-men-season-6-episode-5-jon-hammSo Peggy has Abe, and Ginsberg has his father, and Don, it would appear, has the bottle.  At least, that’s Megan’s read on things, and she’s not far wrong.  When tragedy strikes, Don is immediately focused on D.C. and Sylvia, distraught at being unable to reach the Rosens, watching the news for hopes of D.C. mentions that might assuage his fear.  Per usual, Don has misplaced feelings.  Megan wins an award for SCDP and no one cares, especially Don, which is sad.  She looks after his children, who he then admits he doesn’t really love (except maybe Bobby, but maybe not after Bobby expressed his fears that Henry could be shot).  Don’s emotional revelation about faking his feelings towards his kids left me cold.  Get your shit together, Don.  Nobody’s crying for you anymore.

Even though Megan calls Betty “some piece of work!” Betty has actually been on the upswing as Don has been on the down.  She’s genuinely supportive towards Henry, and this time doesn’t allow her children to watch the TV coverage like she did after the JFK assassination.  Though she requires Don to pick up the kids, is it of any wonder?  He did forget them, and he does ignore them (and also, Betty has a tendency to call him during times of crisis).  His time with Bobby was sweet, but I suspect their moments of bonding are short-lived.  For Sally it’s too late, and for Gene, well, who even remembers about him at all?

mad-men-season-6-episode-5-linda-cardelliniPete phoned Trudy, who doesn’t need him, and his outburst at Harry reflected his alienation.  Harry is a shit stick though, and while the real estate agent’s opportunism over everyone being upset was borderline, Harry’s was over the top.  For everyone else though, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death hit them harder than I expected it would, given their general disregard of African Americans.  Both Dawn and Peggy’s secretaries found solace in their work though, which in a way perhaps is their way of defying convention and their part of being a part of the Civil Rights movement — insisting on being treated like everyone else, expected to come into work, etc.

Black characters, who are shown occasionally on the fringes of the show, were again shown on the fringes of Don and everyone else’s world — diner cooks, ushers.  Though the main characters feared the rioting, they also seemed to have a lot of empathy for the cause itself.  Joan even kinda hugged Dawn, which was probably one of the bigger payoff moments of the entire series.

“The Flood” stayed true to Mad Men‘s business as usual this season, but also managed to find some hope and positivity among the rubble, particularly for the female characters (a rarity!)  It was a shameful, shameful day, but the flood waters do eventually recede.

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

mad-men-to-have-and-to-hold-jon-hamm-jessica-pare– More odd guest appearances: Harry Hamlin as Peggy’s new Roger, and Ethan Rom from Lost (that is not the actor’s name, and I apologize for not knowing it, but he’ll always be an Other to me) as crazy Randy, who spoke to MLK’s ghost.

– Ginsberg is Woody Allen.  That diner scene was 100% Allen.

– I really liked Peggy and Megan bonding.  That was sweet.  But what was that look Ted was giving Peggy?  Is something going on there? (on his end, anyway)

– Joan was stunning in this episode.  I love it when she wears her glasses.  I had to chuckle too, as well as roll my eyes, at the meta-jokes explaining why we couldn’t “see” Paul Newman clearly

mad-men-season-6-poster– Megan is actually growing on me this season.  Too much of her last year soured me, but she’s been ok so far.  She even made me laugh when she lambasted her father and his “Marxist bullshit.”

– Betty holding up her old dress (remember when she wore that??) made me think of when I pulled out some of my own dresses this weekend.  Hard truths!

– Was Pete’s silent delivery man the first Asian featured on the show?

– Bobby and Don at the movies was precious, especially Bobby’s reaction to Planet of the Apes and his comments to the usher.  Is Bobby a little OCD though?  Was that implied?

– Dear Diary: April 5, 1968. Don had a real feeling (just one).


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  • Addison

    In response to the delivery guy being “the first asian featured on the show”, you are wrong… If you recall, the agency made a pitch for Honda, featuring some rather uncomfortable moments involving Roger and his WW2-view of their potential new client.
    And I just remembered another instance as I was typing — in the first or second season, the guys played a prank on Pete when they stuck an asian family in his office along with a chicken.

    • Allison Keene

      Ahhh right right, thank you! I remember the Honda pitch now … gods that was uncomfortable … I don’t remember the chicken though, I need to go scour the internet for a clip.

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  • Alan B

    Jesus, TV critics! How do you know if a character won’t grow this season if YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ALL THE EPISODES? It’s like criticising every single chapter of a book, saying ‘Oh my God! I can’t believe the character DID THIS.’ The truth is you don’t know anything about the character’s arc until you’ve seen every episode of the season.

    • Allison Keene

      Believe me, I’m hoping for it every day. Maybe after 6 years it’ll finally happen! He did just have his first feeling! For some reason I’ve just been super fed-up with Don this season.

  • astro

    also don and the chinese waitress who he declines to sleep with.

  • Lance

    Allison, I think you are being a bit too hard on Don (though there’s admittedly a _lot_ to fault him for).

    Don has problems connecting with people. It goes back to how he was treated as a child, Dick Whitman, the worthless son of a whore who died giving birth to him. He’s finally gotten to the point he can love himself, but he hasn’t grown enough to the point he can easily love others for who they really are. Plus now he’s consumed by thoughts of his own mortality, kind of like Roger, which doesn’t help the situation any.

    You’re right to point out how horrible it is that Don wasn’t initially able to feel anything for his children (but we all knew this already, right? Going back to when Don had to get hammered drunk just to build his kids’ playhouse back in Season 1, I think). But again that’s not a choice, he’s just so unused to loving someone else. When it happens between him and Bobby, he feels it so much it hurts, that’s how unused to it he is.

    I feel like it’s not too late for Don to salvage his relationship with Bobby. It’s Sally who I really feel bad for.

    • Allison Keene

      You’re right, I’m probably being a little hard on him. Does he love himself though? I’m not so sure. I think the whole thing with Sylvia just killed any sympathy I had for him this season, but I’m willing to reconsider!

      I agree that it’s too late for Don and Sally to really have a bond, which is sad. I was really hoping she would connect with someone other than Glenn, hah.

  • HV

    But it’s notable that Peggy’s secretary ultimately was happy that Peggy said she could go home while Dawn insisted she’d rather be at work than at home. Also, while Peggy’s offer of a hug was accepted readily and emotionally by her secretary, Dawn looks confused and uncomfortable when Joan embraced her…it didn’t seem like such a “payoff moment” to me as much as another example of how, despite certain headway, the whites of the show don’t always know how to interact with their black coworkers.

    • Allison Keene

      Haha you may be right about Dawn being uncomfortable, but then again I feel like it was just a super awkward hug (I think Dawn is a little scared of Joan, too). BUT! on the heels of last week, with Joan and Dawn bonding a tiiiiiiny bit, I thought it was a good moment for Joan to actually reach out, especially because she’s not always responded kindly to African American characters in the past.

      • HV

        It definitely was a nice thing to see Joanie reaching out, and I am looking forward to them developing Dawn’s character more (and her relationship with Joan) through the season.

    • Kyle

      I agree HV, also i think it really shows that all black people did not react the same way. Just like any other group of people they are individuals, and acted each based on their own experiences. not a cliche. Mad Men is one of the best written shows on TV.

      • HV

        Agreed. While the episode still focused on its central characters, I appreciated that the couple of black supporting characters were not written/treated in a pat way. It’s subtle because they’re on the periphery of the show to begin with, but it was handled well.

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  • Sheila

    Alison, I think you missed an important part of Don’s speech when he was talking about his children. He did say initially that, when they are first born, he was just sort of faking the feelings. But then he said, “Then one day they get older, and you see them do something, and you feel. And the feeling you were pretending to have, it feels like your heart is going to explode.” Now, perhaps I am interpreting this incorrectly, but to me it sounds like a man who is surprised to find himself falling in love with his children, and all of the complications that abound with that. I so clearly remember, when baby Gene was born, Don getting up in the middle of the night, and rocking the baby to sleep. Yes, Don is a frustrating and flawed man, but who among us is not flawed?

  • Sandy

    I was fully expecting Trudy to beg Pete to come home, but I was so proud of her for not letting him come back. Although I had to go in to my office at DISH Sunday night, I didn’t let that stop me from watching my Mad Men. I streamed this episode live to my phone with DISH Anywhere, and I was able to watch it like I was at home. I love the new themes that Mad Men is taking on, and I’m glad that I don’t have to wait to watch them later.

    • LOLwat

      Product placement?

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