Last week on Mad Men we left the firm in a bit of a mess, with everyone looking forward to getting the Jaguar account and Lane Pryce stealing money from the business. If I were to say that things were going to get a lot better for those in the advertising world that would be a lie.
With Jaguar coming up the firm is going through the motions of making sure to appease their potential client as much as possible. Until of course a request, as blatantly as one has ever been made by a client, was made and it immediately puts these office men in the odd position of decided whether this is worth even entertaining. The client asks, nay, demands that an evening with Joan be the price of getting Jaguar as a client.
Joan is a beloved character by the viewers, but she’s loved even more by her coworkers in the world of Mad Men. She’s the mother figure that all the lower staff members as well as the partners accept as being vital to their existence even though she may never be as high ranked in the eyes of the rest of the staff. She has that unspoken power that you see in an office environment. She may not have the salary to do things directly, but she has the power to make almost anything happen within that office that not many partners could even do.
The issue becomes a strange ethical and moral dilemma. Pete wants this contract and presents the idea in a criminally off-handed fashion which is perfectly searching for a hint that there is a possible scenario where Joan would consider the idea and once he’s discovered that to be true he goes to that partners letting them know that this mystery situation exists, leaving it in their court to decide whether to take this leap or not. We get the expected reactions of Don playing the white knight for all that is good in this world flat out refusing to be a part of this and the rest of the partners sit in the middle looking for a price attached to this type of business.
At times I believe Don is able to be so good because he’s the only one in the office who never needs to get fully political. While he lives in the world of selling and persuading people he never has to buy them. At the end of the day Don lives behind his and his departments’ work and ability to produce a great product for their clients to sell their wares. Everyone else in the firm exists solely to get a man with a cheque into Don’s room for Don to sell them. So to them they’re just doing what they’re being paid to do. Even the likes of Roger – one who had a longstanding relationship with Joan – doesn’t oppose the idea.
In the face of misogynistic claims on the show, other than the obvious setting, I’ve always enjoyed using the shield of sex being an empowering weapon for women and when a character comes to realize that and use it in that vein I always applaud them. I adore these women, not because I get more sex scenes and even more of Joan, but because it’s no longer them being passive, but being aggressive and ambitious. Yes, it’s sad that this comes from their loins and not their talents, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Joan took up this mantle freely, while always being one of those women who knew in order to keep relevant and ahead in life she needed to remain proactive. She took the next step and made a conscious decision to make a comfortable life for herself all at the price of one night. I’m not claiming the reward was worth the price paid, I don’t claim to know what it would feel like to literally sell yourself, I’m saying that somehow making it more about her doing this for a greater benefit in life made it plausibly prudent of her.
I guess the final thing to talk about is Don and his other relationships in this week’s episode. Megan’s acting career takes a moment in the limelight as she goes up for an audition that could see her away in Boston for up to three months. While we all read Don’s reaction as stress from Jaguar related work, we do know – as we’ve been seeing all season with their relationship – that these kinds of things are going to be constantly coming to a head unless something changes between them.
Peggy, the girl from season one who started as a secretary for Don, has finally reached her limit. She’s spent the entire season, having already reached, being reminded that she isn’t Don Draper. She’s always seen Don – as she said – as a mentor that she aspires one day to be. However, as it’s been highlighted all season long, she’s never going to be that as long as she’s under Don. Not because she’s not good, or Don doesn’t appreciate her, but because she’ll always be beneath Don as an employee. Her resignation speech was so lovely and everything I’ve ever wanted to be able to say the day I decide to leave a particular job. I’ll probably write it down for when I next resign.
Probably the second best episode of the season and now we are in the home stretch of Season 5. Do your worst New York.