Mad Men Recap: "A Tale of Two Cities

Mad Men Recap: "A Tale of Two Cities

Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen Mad Men Season 6, Ep. 10 – “A Tale of Two Cities”.

It’s hard to argue that a show whose opening credits feature a man falling out a window doesn’t rely heavily on death as a narrative. There have been significant deaths almost every season and the clues leading up to Lane’s suicide paid off, giving way to even more feverant theories about Megan suffering a Sharon Tate-esque fate and sinister undertones that may or may not exist beneath Bob Benson’s perfectly coiffed exterior. True, the amped up air of dread surrounding the proceedings could be nothing more than a heavy hand with the “life gets real scary in 1968” theme, but I am of the mind that Matt Weiner wouldn’t toy with us like that.

So let’s talk about that hashish hallucination.

Because its only 1968 and no one has realized that you can “just say no” yet, Don happily accepts hit or two of hashish. But clearly it was more than even two because next thing we know Don’s seduction of a random, groovy blonde was interrupted by an equally grooved out Megan. She tells him, “I quit my job. I couldn’t bear to be apart”. This seems to warm Don’s heart but not as much as her next “surprise”. She pats her belly and when Don’s asks her what she thinks it is she replies, “A second chance.”

But, Megan is suddenly replaced by PFC Dinkins, the solider from Hawaii that Don stood up for. He’s missing an arm, oh and also his life. Don is confused. If he’s dead why is his arm still missing? “Dying doesn’t make you whole. You should see what you look like.” Cut to Don face down in the swimming pool.

When Hallucination Megan first found Don at the party she said, “Everybody’s looking for you” and similarly, Dinkins mentioned, “My wife thinks I’m MIA, but I’m actually dead”. Both comments call back to Don’s own wartime mix-up that has afforded him his new life. The idea of the death as escape has been haunting Don all season, from the Royal Hawaiian pitch that he couldn’t see was selling suicide to his drug fueled, blacked out escape. Now, in another drug induced haze, he actually almost died (thankfully Roger was feeling heroic).

Did he jump in the pool on purpose? Or was it his subconscious trying to alert him to some hidden ailment? On the plane ride back he had the same cough that plagued him a few episodes ago and triggered his (almost) emotional breakdown. Have the smoking and the drinking and the drugs finally started to take effect? Or maybe it was one big set up to allude to Megan being pregnant thus adding another point to the Sharon Tate Theory. Or maybe it was just some really strong hashish.

One thing for certain, the drug fever wasn’t predicting a downturn in business. While the cats were away the mice did indeed play, and they managed to be more successful at it than the cats.

After an awkward yet hilarious run in with Ginsberg, Cutler decided that he wanted to spend as little time with the copy “dynamo” as possible and pushed the Manischewitz meeting off on Bob Benson. See, hang around long enough and people will give you the work they don’t want to do. But, regardless of the reasoning, Bob saw this as his big break and happily came up to the plate. He effectively calmed down an even more paranoid than normal Ginsberg and never once dropped his nice guy shtick. Is it all part of his cover? Who knows, but it got him on the Chevy account and for now I think that’s all he cares about.

But Bob wasn’t the only minor player getting to play in the big leagues; his girlfriend/gurrlfran/first victim landed her own big fish.

Joan’s make-up consultant friend Kate set her up with Avon’s new head of marketing for what Joan thought was date, but turned out the be “even better”. Though, Kate might have mentioned it was a business meeting so Joan could have been a little prepared. Luckily, Joan is never thrown off for long and managed to secure a second, more formal, meeting with the make-up heavyweight. She took her lead to Peggy who immediately took it to Ted despite Joan’s concern that it would be taken away from her, and then Ted immediately took it away from Joan and gave it to Pete. Looks like Ted and Don might not be so different after all, huh Pegs?

But Joan wasn’t one to take his lying down (no pun intended) and “accidently scheduled the meeting without telling Pete, effectively squeezing him off the account. Peggy was outraged, as she so often is at the ruthfullness of her co-workers, but went along with. Not surprisingly Joan is a natural accounts man and not surprisingly Pete did not take the betrayal well. But really, if anyone needs a joint, it’s Pete. Maybe he’ll finally mellow out.

But, what was surprising was Peggy’s reaction. She seems to think that all women are lucky enough to work their way to the top on talent alone, but Joan is there to remind her that not all women have it so easy. Also, surprising, was that for all the humiliation Joan suffers from her ride to the top (pun a little bit intended this time), she assumed that’s how Peggy got there as well. Despite the minor argument, Peggy still saved Joan from her verbal lashing and, just as Joan predicted, in the end she got to keep the account thanks to the established relationship. Now hopefully Avon actually does call. It’s time for Joan to prove she deserves her partnership.
Behind the Candelabra is currently airing on HBO and HBO GO.

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