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!”
Ginsberg’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.
So 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?
Pete 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:
– 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
– 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).