Mad Men-The Quality of Mercy-Kevin Rahm

No one does a penultimate episode like Mad Men. “The Quality of Mercy” was loaded with intrigue, and there was more than one conflict to concern yourself with. As Don and company barrel toward the sixth season finale ask yourself: Is anyone on this show capable of mercy?

The Players:

  • Director: Phil Abraham
  • Writers: Andre Jaquemetton and Maria Jaquemetton
  • 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

Episode Title: “The Quality of Mercy”

Sally redesigns her future while her father copes with her absence. Elsewhere, Peggy and Ted put on blinders while Bob and Pete have it out.

The Good:

  • Crocodile Tears: The crowning glory of last night was the continuous conflict between Pete and Bob. With Ken shot in the eye by the, “fat yahoos in cheap suits,” in Detroit, Pete snakes into Chevy. His assumption that the partners would kick Bob Benson off the account is immediately rebuffed. This leads to the whispered confrontation that won the night.  Shaking hands and smiling, the men drew their lines in the sand: Pete reiterates his homophobia and Bob proves he’s not a push over. He claims his knee touch was a show of admiration and not attraction. His rapid fire Spanish implies Manolo is his lover. However once Pete digs up the truth—Benson is anther fraud like Don—he’s ready to abandon his job until Pete plays a surprising hand. Instead of hastily outing Bob, which proved unsuccessful in the past, Pete plans to work him. As long as Bob remembers Pete’s off limits of course.
  • Daddy Issues: Skipping weekends at Don’s isn’t enough—Sally wants to go to boarding school. Betty is more than happy to oblige so she can live vicariously through her daughter and Don doesn’t hesitate to pay. For a fleeting moment we worried that the mean girls of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Alma mater would devour her; instead even greater terrors are realized. Sally sinks to their level quickly, dragging Glen Bishop out of the past to bring the young harpies the liquor and marijuana they want. When Glen slinks off to bed one of the girls and his partner Rollo attempts to fool around with Sally. Here we see her descent. Jealous not to have Glen’s attention she jumps at the opportunity to win him back and exaggerates Rollo’s efforts. The cigarette on the ride home with Betty was the peek: little Sally is gone forever.
  • Virtue Lost: How is it possible that Ted was completely ignorant of his love for Peggy?  He seemed genuinely shocked when Don confronted him at the end of the night, pointing out that Ted’s not thinking with his head. Yet his and Peggy’s gleeful obliviousness carried them to the movie theater in the middle of the day and everywhere throughout the office.  Peggy’s Rosemary’s Baby based campaign was genius, but if Ted wasn’t wrapped up in adoration he might have remembered to keep track of the expenses. It’s awkward at this point, everyone can see how taken they are with one another.  Ted’s abrupt abandonment of Peggy after Don’s lecture won’t be the end of this. Someone will get hurt and at this point it’ll be Peggy. Whining about how virtuous he is didn’t lead her to the obvious assumption that Ted won’t leave his wife. 
  • Monster: Don begins and ends the episode in the same position—fetal. Obviously, there are more mother issues a foot. Any relationship with a female has shades of maternity for him. Curled up in Sally’s bed at the start, drinking vodka and orange juice and skipping work, Don is pining for his daughter. Sally’s yet to tell anyone, but putting her distance between them left him with another ruined bond. Don’s rightful assistance with Ted’s behavior affectively crushed whatever was left of Peggy and Don’s relationship. Her infatuation blinded her to Don’s honorable intentions; seeing red she called him a monster before stalking out of his office. Cowering into a ball on the couch in response as the episode closed, the crumbling of Don Draper cannot be ignored. Last season, his creative flow dissipated; this season every part of his unstable psyche is wasting away.
  • The Other Shoe: Megan’s unhappiness was etched into the few scenes she was in. She’s resigned herself to her husband’s drinking habits, but his lust for work and disinterest in her are too much to bear. It was all facial expressions, sideline glances and tone that gave it away. For this Jessica Parè should be championed, her displeasure was felt more clearly here than during her confrontation with Don on the balcony weeks ago. 
  • BFF: The contentious relationship between Sally and Betty has been well documented. This season, Betty has been making an effort to be a better mother. Though it started with caring for someone else’s child, any effort will do. Though at this point the mothering looks more like befriending. Their banter on the way to Miss Porter’s was slightly hostile, but still not as familial as it should have been. On the way back was worse. Sharing cigarettes and begging for gossip left us with the impression that Betty regards her daughter as a comrade instead of a child. She should be more concerned with Sally’s smoky remark about her father; blanching is all well and good but ignoring a glaring problem will only make it, and Sally, worse.
  • Coincidences: For the second time this season an episode has begun with Ken seemingly dying, only to ecru some affliction instead. Both times were because of the pigs at Chevy, though that’s not what’s concerning. It’s no secret that Ken’s a fan favorite, so why does Mad Men continue to tease us with thoughts of his demise? They’ve never been gun-shy about pulling the trigger before (pun intended) so why now? We doubt Ken will be able to escape death a third time, if that’s what they’re ambling towards. Yes, this all could have been their exasperating way of leading Ken to give up Chevy, which he did last night. Still, we worry that there might be something more gruesome in store for either Ken or someone else in the SC&P family.

The Quotable:

  • “She has good manners with everyone but me.”—Betty
  • Betty: “Jacqueline did well twice.”  Don: “So did you.”
  • “Just trying to see if he’ll respond to any idea other than hers.”—Michael Ginsberg
  • “They’re fat yahoos in cheap suits! I’m done.”—Ken
  • “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”—Ted
  • “You should watch what you say to people.”—Bob Benson
  • “You like trouble, don’t you?”—Mandy
  • “My father’s never given me anything.”—Sally

Overall:

“The Quality of Mercy” was fleeting. The mercy Don showed Ted and Peggy netted him no such return from his former protégé. The clemency Pete awarded Bob comes with strings attached we’re sure. Glen’a return seemed to quiet the rumors that his father fired him last season. Stan was noticeably absent from the creative meeting, perhaps so we would focus on Ted and Peggy and not the amazing chemistry between her and Stan. Even with the many conflicts of last night’s episode, we’ve been wound up for what yet another confusing preview makes out to be an earth shattering conclusion.

Rating: 10/10

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

What did you think of the episode?