Mad Men-The Better Half-Jon Hamm

Last night Mad Men went to camp. “The Better Half” had Don distracted with his family, and his newly thin ex-wife. That allowed for Peggy to take center stage, but her choices may have left her without any options.

The Players:

  • Director: Phil Abraham
  • Writer: Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner
  • Cast: Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Morse, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton, Kiernan Shipka, Christopher Stanley, Jessica Parè, Kevin Rahm, Jay R. Ferguson, Mason Vale Cotton, Ben Feldman, James Wolk, Mark Moses, Charlie Hofheimer, Elizabeth Rice, Joanna Going, Brendan Patrick Connor, Michael Rose, Shaun Rylee

Episode Title: “The Better Half”

Roger spends time with his family while Joan takes a trip.

The Good:

  • Beautiful Betty: Back to her fighting weight Betty regained her power over men. Her response to her husband’s associate’s come-on was a reminder that she’s never been above sideline action. But the tryst she had would be with Don during a visit to Bobby’s camp. It’s summer on Mad Men and after a little conversation and a lot of mosquito bites Betty and Don rediscover their passion for one another. Take note of Don telling Betty she’s as beautiful as the day they met, which surely wouldn’t have happened while she was fat. Betty needed to mount him to put Fat Betty and all the ill feelings from the divorce behind her.
  • Missing: After another failed attempt to bed her by her coworker Arlene, Megan finally found her spine. Upon Don’s return she voiced her concerns over how absent he’s been from their marriage. Like when she complained about a rough day at work, he did little to quiet her fears. When she finishes worrying over how to handle playing twins on the show, all he offered was an unconcerned, “Tomorrow is another day.” When confronted by Megan, he just kisses her and acknowledges his desertion. No promises of change or better days ahead should make it clear for her. That doesn’t mean she’s ready to accept that he’ll always be absent, forever at arm’s length. 
  • In The Middle: Peggy’s attempt to never let Don best Ted, pushed Ted into confessing his feelings. He’s more concerned with getting rid of them, while Peggy wants things out in the open. Meanwhile Abe’s subway stabbing and the rock through his window continue to outline the couple’s inherent differences. Things came to a head when Peggy accidentally stabbed Abe in the stomach. His choosing to end it while riding in the ambulance salted the wound Ted created the next day. Peggy’s expectant delivery of her new single status was met with, at most, polite disregard. Don’s earlier scolding was true: Ted doesn’t know Peggy. If he did, he’d realize that despite the moral quandary, she’d pursue a tryst. Ending the night standing between Don and Ted’s offices, with no mentor seeking her and no man admiring her, Peggy is truly alone.
  • The Parents: Joan and Roger’s “not speaking streak” ends when they put a kid in Roger’s arms; obviously that meant Kevin would be an issue. It happens fast—when he takes his grandson to see Planet of the Apes Margret forbids him from being alone with the boy. The dismissal drives him to his illegitimate son’s home, only for Joan to turn him away while Bob Benson looked on. At the office she makes it plain: she’d rather have the idea of a father figure in the absentee rapist Greg than rely on the unreliable silver fox Roger. How things will proceed is beyond us, but the season will feel incomplete if more light isn’t shed on their open-ended drama.
  • The Curious Case of Bob Benson: Joan and Bob’s relationship has progressed to day trips to the beach with Kevin. We use the word relationship for lack of a better one; things looked platonic but it’s hard to imagine any man remaining that way around Joan. Their getaway afforded Bob the info to wedge his foot further into the door with Pete Campbell.  There was a brief moment in Pete’s office where it felt like he might reveal his dastardly intentions. Instead, he provided the name of a reliable nurse that brought his father back to health, winning himself more brownie points. 

The So-So:

  • Headhunting: Our pointless venture into the land of headhunting gave us face time with Duck Phillips and Harry a chance to talk of tickling testicles. Crane’s mention of an esteem boost sent an uneasy Pete straight to a meeting with Peggy’s former lover. In the midst of business, Duck impresses upon Pete the importance of family. His banishment from his family is still a secret. The meeting brought attention back to Pete’s unclear management position in the still nameless agency. Regardless, Duck’s presence is still puzzling; literally any cast member could have insisted Pete deal with his familial issues. Unless Pete is considering leaving the company, we fail to see why Duck was necessary.

The Quotable:

  • “I’m thinking of how different you are before and after. I love the way you look at me when you’re like this. But then I watch it decay. I can only hold your attention for so long.”—Betty
  • “That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.”—Betty
  • “You’re scared. You’re a scared person who hides behind complacency.”—Abe
  • “Your activities are offensive to my every waking moment. I’m sorry, but you will always be the enemy.”—Abe

Overall:

“The Better Half “gave us a little Bobby and a mere mention Sally; we agree with Henry, she’s like Don only with a little cold Betty mixed in. There were some particularly prolific moments like, Megan’s director’s description of her character being two half’s of the same person trying to get the same thing different ways. That could have been an explanation for the war inside Don, or the difference between Hero Peggy and Antihero Don. Betty saw her ex-husband clearly—her pointed pillow talk could describe Don’s relationship with all women.  The real mystery was the article Abe continued to mention. Peggy’s already been left in the cold thanks to Ted. A public embarrassment might hurt her even more.

Rating: 8/10

Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.

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