Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen Mad Men Season 7, Ep. 6 – “The Strategy.”
“What if there was a place where you could go where there was no TV. And you could break bread, and whoever you were sitting with was family.” – Peggy
For years Mad Men has featured idyllic families being used to sell products while the creators of those ads have lived much different familial realities. This week, “The Strategy” finally dealt with that divide.
The families of Mad Men have never fit into the cookie cutter forms of their advertisements, but the differences have never been more pronounced than this week. From proposed arrangements to long distance marriages to the shaky waters of the nearly divorced, none of the families we saw this week could relate to the Burger Chef family Peggy pitched.
One of the major themes of Mad Men, indeed the entire purpose of it’s setting, is change: those who resist change, those who embrace it and how regardless of reaction, it will come anyway. As the modern family changed, the advertisements had to change with it. Truthfully, families never resembled the families being sold to them. The true change was the media accepting that families would rather see their own reality instead of feeling inadequate against an ideal.
But in the Mad Men world that meant these particular advertisers accepting that their own families never did, nor never would, resemble their fantasies. And in true Mad Men fashion, change came at the hands of something very familiar.
Peggy’s reaction to Don’s return, while understandable, was harsh. Yes, Don has treated her horribly, but if she was truly disgusted by Lou’s reign of mediocrity than Don should have been welcomed back with open arms. Because as much as Don abused Peggy, he also brought out her best work. It was only a matter of time before he brought it out again and I’m so happy that time finally came.
Part of Don’s floundering has been a result of his feeling untethered. Throughout his many years of living a double life he had his relationship with Anna, and then with Peggy, to ground him. But his extended stay at rock bottom isolated him from that sort of relationship. He and Peggy working together again, Don guiding her and Peggy so obviously relieved to find the rapport so easy to fall back into speaks more towards Don future than anything else.
Because sometimes a father whose daughter doesn’t even recognize him, a man who drives away everyone who tries to get close to him and woman who never had the chance to create a family to alienate can come together and form their own little family around a fast food table. Sometimes a couple that gave away their son can break bread with a boy who was given away and, for a moment, be part of the family they could have had. And sometimes that’s the best happiness you can hope for.
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