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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

April 21, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Mad Men Monday: Don & Sally

Welcome back to Mad Men Mondays! And, after a thoughtful but slow-ish start last week, how interesting was last night’s episode? It was Valentine’s Day, and the only “I love you” that we heard came from an unexpected, heartwarming source: Sally, muttering the words to her dad after a drive back to school; an afternoon and evening together in which they didn’t exactly resolve their differences, but steps were taken. The relationship between Don and his oldest child has been a fascinating one over these seven seasons; she’s been, along with Peggy, the most consistently present female in his life, and one who originally (like Peggy, now that I think of it) adored him unquestionably. Now (I think?) around 13, Sally’s vision of her father is tarnished — seeing him in bed with the lady downstairs has that effect on a girl, and her unexpected appearance at the office brought even more confusion. But their conversation at the restaurant was touching — Don’s trying to be honest with her, something he doesn’t attempt with most people — and his joke about sneaking out without paying brought the two of them together, like conspirators, just for a moment. Things won’t be fixed in a day, or a season, but this daughter still loves her father (if she didn’t, why would she be so angry with him?).

(I hadn’t thought much, prior to this, about the Peggy/Sally parallel, but it does make some sense: the show’s most childlike adult (Peggy’s long been the youngest employee at SC, other than perhaps Ginsberg, and Elisabeth Moss plays her with an unlikely innocence that still shines through even after many years) and most adult-like child both worshipped Don in the beginning, both became angered upon seeing his flaws, both struggle to find a new, mature way to connect with him.)

Speaking of Peggy and childishness . . . well, I have to admit I laughed out loud at her hands-on-hips hissy fit over the flowers. (You know you’ve watched too much “Mad Men” when you remember that this isn’t the show’s first Great Floral Misunderstanding at the Office: remember Joan and Lane, a couple of seasons back, and  a bouquet with the wrong card attached?) As we saw in last week’s episode, Peggy’s desperately lonely and unhappy, and although she was infuriated at Ted for supposedly sending flowers, it was clearly even more unbearable that no one sent any. (And that she’d picked a bicoastal fight with Ted for no reason, thus losing the upper hand.) Interesting little peek into the lives of SC&P’s only two black employees — loved how Dawn and Shirley called each other by the other’s name, as other staffers surely do, despite the fact that the two women look completely different. A telling reminder, too, that Joan still has to manage the secretaries in addition to everything else she does — something that only Jim Cutler (who doesn’t know, presumably, how Joan got her partnership) notices and rectifies. Suddenly, and happily, Joan’s become a full-time “account man” with an upstairs office, Dawn appears to have gotten a promotion (how nice to see her smiling in her new office), Shirley’s been shifted to cranky Lou (good luck with that, Shirl), and did Peggy end up with the helium-voiced blonde whose name I can’t remember? I think so; that seems like poetic justice.

Though I enjoyed the brief glimpse of the Pete-and-Ted show in L.A. (what happened to mellow Pete of last week?), this episode began and ended with Don, who’s living yet another layer of a double life. He sleeps late, eats Ritz crackers for breakfast, watches “That Girl” (!) — and dresses up in suit and tie for Dawn’s arrival, after work, to give the impression that he’s had a productive day. His wife and children don’t know about his suspension; and he works hard to keep them from knowing — until Sally’s unexpected arrival. Now, forced to come clean when faced with Sally’s unblinking gaze (that Kiernan Shipka is pretty terrific, isn’t she?), Don discovered something anew: that he could tell the truth, and that she would still love him. Will he trust Megan enough to tell her, next? Does he want to go back to SC&P, or is there a way to slip out of his contract (as that schmoozy lunch indicated he might be thinking)? Could this master of duplicity find a way to live honestly? The season’s young.

Sola Bamis as Shirley and Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson - Mad Men _ Season 7, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

How could one bouquet of roses cause so much trouble? (Photo by Michael Yarish; courtesy of AMC.)

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