Spoiler Alert. Season 3, Episode 11:
In a season – as in an era - that’s been all about the first awkward movements of grappling female ascendancy, last night’s episode left us with a simple message - for now at least – wifey always wins.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these may be short-lived, or in Joan’s case, hollow victories, but in each of the three storylines last night, it was the matriarch that won out. Roger shunned the drunken advances of his horse-pulverizing Annabelle Mathis, because hey, he actually seems to love his wife; Joan smashed a vase over her stupid undeserving-of-her-greatness husband’s head and he finally realized she’s a pretty good catch; and Don left Miss F sitting in the car, putting an end to their strange little Alice in Wonderland affair. (Is she the gypsy and he the hobo of the title?).
Joan, Betty and Mrs. Silver Fox, all had their day, but as with everything in the world of Mad Men, we were left with a sour taste in our mouths, because frankly, we just don’t believe it.
Joan became a fresh re-imagining of Annabelle Mathis - already on the plane with the wrong man (who up and joined the Army without even asking her) in her version of Casablanca. Betty saw the true narrowness of her options when the family lawyer laid out cold what divorcing Don would really mean, and though Roger may no longer have eyes for Annabelle, surely it’s only a matter of time before he finds himself snuggling in Joan’s ample bosom once again? Could those two really be meant for each other?
The mythical shoebox finally yielded its secrets after almost three seasons. The scene between Betty and Don was masterful, and it was utterly satisfying to see him shaken, fumbling, dropping his cigarette on the kitchen floor and finally reduced to tears. Betty was able to thrown out some killer lines, in particular when Don told her he could explain, she came back with the zinger, ‘you’re a very very gifted storyteller.’ Ten points Betty.
If Miss F represented the light to which Don was drawn then Betty, here, was very much about the darkness. Or, to put it a better way, Miss F was fantasy, Betty is reality. In a nice little moment of symbolism Miss F left the lights on in her apartment to greet Don when she went out to buy groceries and Don later came back to the Draper household shrouded in darkness, even though Betty was already home, lurking in the shadows. Surprise honey!
I think I felt genuine sympathy for Don last night, I think… it’s hard to tell. That great back shot of him hunched at the sink in his pajamas was, to me, the clearest representation of the broken man. He was haggard, bleary-eyed and undone, with nowhere else to go. It was also particularly interesting that when he called Miss Farrell to end the affair, he finally called her by her first name, Suzanne, thus cementing her in adult reality at last. The end of escapism.
But more than anything what was clearest last night is that Don will, forever and always, return to Betty. She is his centre, his weight, his home
Finally Weiner couldn’t resist leaving us his trademark closing nudge nudge wink wink last night, when the kids went trick or treating and the man who answered turned to Don and Betty and asked, ‘and who are you supposed to be?’
Line of the week: Betty to Don: ‘You don’t get to ask any questions.’
Next week: Mrs. Silver Fox gets mad about Joan.
Diligently construed by E. Nolan
Photo by Carin Baer