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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

June 17, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Mad Men Monday: ‘The Quality of Mercy’

OK, who else thought, during the first few minutes of the episode, that this blog post would be titled “They killed Kenny!” With so many “Mad Men” death rumors floating around, it would have been very like Matthew Weiner to take out, unceremoniously and without a hint of foreshadowing, the series’ sole cheerful, well-adjusted character. But while I was busy getting my mind around that . . . back Kenny Cosgrove came, only slightly worse for wear, to inspire a handful of Cyclops jokes and kick the Pete/Bob Benson conflict into high gear.

So  . . . the other Bob Benson shoe has dropped, so to speak. Bob, it turns out, is another Don, or should I say another Dick Whitman: His secret isn’t that he’s gay (though that’s true, too) but that he’s a former manservant who has fabricated a past into order to lift himself up in the business world. Virtually nothing in his personnel file turns out to be true — a report relayed to Pete by, of all people, Duck. (Hi, Duck! Speaking of people from previous seasons popping up: Who else thought that when the Miss Porter’s headmistress called for “Carla,” that we’d be seeing Sally’s beloved nanny again?)  “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” marvelled Duck, patting himself on the head for being the first person to actually check these non-facts. “I have,” says a grim Pete, who back in Season 2 tried to destroy Don for fabricating his past — only to find that Bert Cooper, quite wonderfully, didn’t care who Don was as long as he did good work. Perhaps having learned a lesson from this, Pete marched into Bob’s office and . . . strangely, announced that they would work together on Chevy, as long as Bob keeps his hands (and knees) to himself. The policy of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, perhaps? Memories of how badly the Don confrontation turned out? It was a puzzling, interesting scene; we’ll see, in the final episode, how it plays out.

And now we come to, I think, the central relationship in the series: Don and Peggy. It’s been fascinating to watch, over six seasons, how these two have circled each other: initially, as a remote boss and awed secretary; then as mentor and protegee; then, in season 4′s wonderful “The Suitcase,” as friends; then Don, as part of his own self-destruction, seemed to turn on Peggy — or, at least, to lose interest in her. (Perhaps he started to see himself in her, and didn’t want to see it.) Hurt, she left for another company — only to find herself, this season, swept back into Don’s orbit again. Now they’re at odds, particularly after Don told a lie to the St. Joseph’s Aspirin people to save the account — a lie that erased Peggy’s creative contribution to the ad. “You’re a monster,” Peggy told him, before storming out of Don’s office. Can this workplace “marriage” be saved?

A few more observations:

– Though the “big reveal” with Sally last week wasn’t really discussed, its ramifications are clear: Don, shown sleeping in a fetal position in the beginning and end of the show, has been made vulnerable by it. “You’re not thinking with your head,” he tells Ted; advice he now knows he should have given himself.

– Matthew Weiner’s Enormous Blind Spot, i.e. the character of Glen (played, not very well, by Weiner’s son), returned last night, to groans at my house. Anyone care to make an argument for this character’s existence?

– Did you notice the spiffy new Sterling Cooper & Partners logo on the door? You can also see it in this press release announcing the company name change, sent out by “Peggy Olson, Chief Copywriter” after last night’s episode. I love this “quote” on the press release:

“A name can mean a new beginning, a chance to see yourself as you would dream to be, and to leave the baggage you have accumulated over the years behind,” said SC&P partner Don Draper. “At least that’s been my observation.”

Only one episode left. I’ve enjoyed the past few weeks, but am a little underwhelmed by this season; it seemed to take much too long to get going. Still, I’ll miss it when it’s gone. How about you?

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