Mad Men S5E5 “Far Away Places” [IB]

Now that was something. Mad Men does this kind of thing from time to time, but rarely is it done this well. Everything about it just felt so surreal and amazing to behold. I know I’m firmly in this show’s pocket, but I really feel like everything in this episode worked…and quite well.

The flagship moment of the episode is, of course, the LSD trip that Roger and Jane take. Some have called the hallucinations cheesy or overdone, but I’ve personally never seen such an understated LSD trip. There was no “Tomorrow Never Knows”-esque song leading us into the trip. It went straight and it was more revealing and terrifying for doing so. I thought the music in the vodka and the cigarette were nice touches.

It led to the honest revelation that Jane and Roger were unhappy and they agreed to split while high. Jane didn’t seem to want it as much sober, more likely fearing the unknown than actually wanting to stay together (and looking smoking, by the way), but they both ultimately felt it was best. What else did we learn? Jane feels like Roger doesn’t respect her or pay attention to her (both true) while also fearing that he thinks she’s a joke. Roger, on the other hand, shows that he still feels inferior to Don and Cooper. His insistence that he’s the man behind Don Draper always reeked of insecurity, but his drug haze confirms it.

Meanwhile Peggy has completed her transformation into Don by alienating Abe, making overly emotional pitches, browbeating clients, having anonymous sexual encounters, and sleeping in her office. It’s telling that none of the moments felt all that jarring to me. Her personality and character have so evolved to be Don that even a hand job in a theater seems normal. A lot of critics are saying that this was a move to please a man where she’d failed to do so with Abe and Heinz, but I took it more as a power play. She didn’t want anything done to her, she wanted to do something to the man. To be the one in charge of a situation when she feels powerless in the environment of the 1960s. What greater position of power is there than to have a man literally in her hands and at her mercy?

The most powerful sequence in her story comes post-movie during the late night work session with Ginsberg. He tells Peggy about his origins as an infant born in a concentration camp and adopted from a Swiss orphanage through a metaphor about being a Martian. It makes sense in a very Ginsberg way and it’s so vulnerable and affecting that I feel like I need to watch it again.

Of course what would a Mad Men episode be without checking in with Don? The groundwork of resentment that the show has been laying regarding Don’s disregard for his and Megan’s work ethic forms the kindling of their conflict. I’m not sure yet if this show is going to terminate this marriage this season, but they’re definitely showing that it’s terribly dysfunctional. Don has severe power issues and Megan confusingly plays into and against them. It’s a very tantrum-y thing to start shoving sorbet in your mouth, but what else could Megan do after Don shot down her every complaint about his lack of respect?

Naturally Don throws as big a fit after she callously (and accidentally) references his dead mother and Don drives away, abandoning his wife at the HoJo. Power dynamics continue to come to play though. Would Betty have just waited for Don instead of hitching a ride to a bus station and going to the city? One thing’s for sure, Megan’s not gonna let Don have the power of denying her transportation and she exercises her power in not responding to any calls.

What follows in the apartment is their ugliest, most violent fight yet. The two of them seem so very mismatched, yet Don seems to think she’s a fantastic wife. I’m intensely curious where the rest of this season (and that marriage) are headed, especially now that Bert Cooper has called Don out on his absentee work. Will we see a shift in Don a la “The Summer Man” or will he continue to atrophy away like Roger? Time will tell.






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