One could argue that, if it addressed any at all, Mad Men’s theme this week was a continuation of that in “The Better Half” – reappraisal. With “A Tale of Two Cities”, that reappraisal took a far subtler turn. Set against the background of the DNC’s failure to make ending the Vietnam War a platform priority at the 1968 convention, the episode was all about introspection and attempts at betterment.
We were pleased to see Joan taking center stage on this one, as it’s been far too long since she got a fair showing. She was also the most introspective and most determined character throughout. When presented with an opportunity, she looked at her life and saw it wanting. Her attempts to better her situation by advancing herself in SCDPCGC (now Sterling Cooper & Associates, thanks to Jim and Ted and their attempt to smooth things over with S, C and D) were great to see, and the myriad reactions to her ‘audacity’ were an interesting glimpse at the perceptions people (including Peggy!) had of a secretary trying to branch out. We were delighted by Joan’s betrayal of Pete, and rejoiced when she insisted on working the account herself. Her demeanor as she sat and took Ted and Pete’s accusations and disapproval was perfection. We’ve never liked Joan more. We also look forward to seeing how this arc progresses. Will Joan win the company the Avon account and, if she does, how will she fare running it?
Last week, the writers played around with Pete’s dissatisfaction with his life. So what’s new, right? This was different. For the first time, he was evaluating his position at SCDPCGC and wondering if it was enough for him. Wondering if he was being respected enough. Wondering if he should turn elsewhere for validation and employment. This week drove that home in a big way. “A Tale of Two Cities” left Pete feeling excluded. Bypassed by Joan, overridden by Ted, dismissed by Don… Pete’s got to be feeling like even more of a waste of space than usual. We have to wonder if Continue reading