MAD MEN “The Flood” Episode Recap
Apologies for my tardiness with this week’s recap; unforseen work.. blah, blah, blah. Let’s talk some Mad Men.
This week we enter the lives of our regular characters as they react to the news of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Before we get there though we have a period place setting as the show pushes each chess piece into it’s own right spot to allow for maximum variation of comprehension of this moment in history for our perspective.
Peggy is in the running for a new apartment in a much better neighbourhood. With that she has to deal with her relationship as it stands as she confronts her partner on his overall apathy to do with the proposed move. Don, and the rest of the firm, are off to the yearly advertising awards ceremony to sit in a room and be bored for hours on end applauding everyone getting up to the podium and wonder where all the scotch went. Michael comes home from a long day at work to be presented with a lovely lady that his father found and being requested to take her out for dinner.
Then it happens. It’s announced, at first in the Awards ceremony interrupting a speech about the race for the American Presidency given by Paul Newman (guess the producers didn’t have the balls to cast a look-a-like and film him close). The news begins to reverberate throughout all these stories in the show. From Pete’s very emotional response at the awards to Michael’s cynical “they had to do it” response at dinner. What disturbs me about all of this, is that while have Dawn and Phyllis now in the show, playing Don and Peggy’s secretary respectively, as the sole black characters who aren’t just the bus boy in a restaurant or the usher at the movie theatre we never get to see it from their eyes. Even when we see Henry being called out to the city to help quell the riots that’s all we ever see of that side of the story, a line of exposition. So when critics across the internet discuss this episode with a “whitening” factor of the topic at hand it’s hard to contest them.
At the same time it’s hard to expect for a show about — for the most part — a group of white characters to react any differently. We see Megan being emotional and cultural taking the children to a vigil, Michael analyzing the social aspect of it, Don ignoring the world and going to the movies with his son, and Pete and Harry having an argument about whether it’s a workday or not. There’s even an awkward hug from Joan to Dawn as she attempts to alleviate any guilt she has by physically expressing her compassion which just comes off as weird.
The truth of it all is that regardless of how you felt about how the show handled it’s core event; it failed not because it didn’t do it any justice but rather because it didn’t really do anything. I’m reminded that many seasons ago the show mentioned the death of Marilyn Munroe, and while it didn’t dedicate an entire episode to the event — if I recall — it did a very similar thing which is to tune us into how all of our characters felt about that happening. Here it just happens to be a lot of emotions that we as people who find a much grander sense of understanding that event irrelevant, but at the same time may have experienced if we were there in that moment without the knowledge we have now.