Last night, Mad Men continued to impress from both sides of the country. “A Tale of Two Cities” brought change for more than a few members of the new agency. Underneath that there was a dark realization that’s been plaguing everyone for some time. It seems the future is creeping closer, and one of our beloveds will be unable to escape.
- Director: John Slattery
- Writer: Janet Leahy 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, Harry Hamlin, Shaun Rylee, Danny Strong, Teyonah Parris, Spencer Garret, Mike Damus, Gary Werntz
Episode Title: “A Tale of Two Cities”
Roger, Harry and Don travel to California for new business. Back at home Joan snags a new client of her own. While Ted is busy in Detroit, Jim Cutler plans to shake up the home office.
- Untested: Hanging around for no apparent reason has paid off for Bob Benson. He’s closer to a legitimate role in the company. After an outburst from Ginsberg and Roger’s departure, Cutler stuck Benson on the Manischewitz account meeting. The move seemed like punishment for Bob witnessing Ginsberg’s blatant disrespect, especially after Benson had to peel Ginsberg off the office floor. Manischewitz put the agency in review but Cutler put Benson on Chevy.
- The Powerless Partner: When Joan’s “date” turned out to be a business meeting, she changed from giggling girl to sharp woman. Her potential with Avon was meant to bring her clout with her peers. Peggy’s faith in Ted is ill-suited again; he immediately tried to pass Joan’s lead off to smarmy Pete. Predictably, Joan kept Pete from the meeting but we weren’t prepared for her novice actions during the formal sit-down with Peggy and the client. The head copy writer handled herself well, but she and Joan finally aired out some old grievances. Scolding Joan for shutting out Pete gave Peggy a chance to remind her how cruel she was when Peggy went from secretary to copy writer. Animosity didn’t stop the two from protecting each other in the fallout. Pete’s wrath tattle telling to Ted could have been detrimental had Peggy not intervened.
- Making Friends: Partying in Hollywood means recreational drugs and quasi-family reunions. Roger’s former cousin and employee-for-a-day gave him someone to spar with, literally and figuratively. Daniel J. Siegel, a huge writing success in Hollywood, lets Roger’s short jokes win his girl’s favor. His hippie shtick fades when Roger tries to take Lotus; the crotch shot left Roger looking like the old man out. That left Don overindulging on the hashish nipple—though Roger mentioned tripping five times means we’ve been robbed of quality viewing. He saw Megan as he wishes she was: long haired and okay with sharing him, pregnant, and happy to quit work. The jarring sight of PFC Dinkins armless and confessing his demise heralded the realization that Don was face down in the pool drowning. You’d be hard press to see a clearer peek into his mind.
- Two Cities: Using Charles Dickens’ literary gem as the episode title opened the show up to comparison. The most obvious was the parallel between New York and L.A. The universal viewing of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was fodder for more than one. Megan and Don’s opposite reactions to the national drama—indifference and emotional—thinly veiled their contrast in fundamental beliefs. Peggy and Joan’s ascension was compared, with Joan’s Jaguar decision always outweighing everything else. Of course there was the us/them of the merged company; with the new additions dividing and conquering the unguarded other city.
- SC&P: It might have looked like Ginsberg’s crusade against Cutler’s lack of politics sparked the dirty dealings, but Cutler’s had a slick look about him from the start. Using Ginsberg’s outburst as an excuse to lay waste to the SCDP staff has heavy handed consequences. His cavalier attitude towards the loss of Roger’s Manischewitz account was worrisome, but even more so was his acquisition of Bob Benson. Benson’s allegiances may lie with many in the SCDP family, but he’s not dumb enough to pass up an opportunity like Chevy. You can bet one of his favorites—Pete—is going to have a problem with that. Ted is bothersome here two; he warns Cutler against dividing the firm but we think he didn’t protest enough. His complacency makes him responsible, especially since the two crafted the idea of an agency name consolation prize together.
- Pothead Pete: We all know Joan’s acquisition to be a triumph, validating her already secure position within the company. However for Pete, it was just another decision that pushed him further from the fray. The beauty of the final scene was lost on no one. A defeated Pete sinking to the levels of those he looks down on, smoking Stan’s grass on the couch in creative. In Pete’s case this might be an improvement for him.
- “We’re conquistadors; I’m Vasco Balboa and you’re some other Mexican. We’re going to land there and buy whatever they have with the beads in our pockets. Our biggest challenge is to not get syphilis.”—Roger
- “Look, we’re sorry your last girlfriend hurt you. We’re in your office right now.”—Roger
- “Are you tripping? I’ve done it five times so if you’re trying to see through me just know that I am this handsome and this rich. Don’t worry about your hang-ups.”—Roger
- “Dying doesn’t make you whole. You should see what you look like.”—PFC Dinkins
“A Tale of Two Cities” was filled with the dark happenings of not only a person at war with oneself, but a company. A line has been drawn in the office of the newly christened SC&P, and we fear those we hold dear will be worse for it. How wonderful it was for Joan to take a risk in the right direction, and for Peggy to remind her of their past. We rather liked Pete’s defeat, but are still wondering where he’s headed. Of course our focus was more on Don, and near death experience in a place that used to hold so much joy. Until last night, California was like a retreat. It was a place for Don to be with Anna, to relax and to marry Megan. The image of him face down in a pool is burned into our brains, foreshadowing the worst for our antihero.
Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.
What did you think of the episode?