This week’s Mad Men episode, “At The Codfish Ball” (titled after Captain Hook’s screams) featured not only a return appearance by grown-up Alex Mack, now a series regular, but also her character’s father, who just so happened to be Leland Palmer, the relentlessly-f***ed-up father from Twin Peaks (aka actor Ray Wise).
Needless to say, anyone who’s watched Twin Peaks had the same semi-shocked reaction last night:
I’ve enjoyed pretty much every episode of this Mad Men season so far, and this week’s episode was no different, highlighting one of the aspects of Mad Men that the series does particularly (and unfortunately) well: Showing the characters’ unparallelled abilities to find a reason to be depressed in the midst of complete joy.
We have four concurrent, happy-turned-depressing stories:
Story #1: Abe asks Peggy to move in with her, and Peggy reacts with hushed excitement because 1) She thought a proposal might’ve been coming, and 2) Her mother absolutely won’t approve (what is this, the sixties?) I partly blame Peggy’s unhappiness on Joan’s terrible advice that when a man insists on a dinner, it’s usually for a proposal or a breakup; personally, I’ve insisted on hundreds of dinners in my lifetime, often involving significant others, and all with the primary motivation of really wanting dinner.
Story #2: Megan finally sells the nearly-lost Heinz account by coming up with her own idea and tag-team-pitching it with Don, but she’s still unable to celebrate unselfconsciously in front of Peggy, and her father interprets her advertising success as further evidence of her giving up on her acting dreams. Does any literary character not have an excruciating relationship with their father? If I told my dad the equivalent good news about my job, he’d be like “Good job!” then we’d talk about the NFL Draft for 20 minutes. Does the “Reasonable dad who says ‘cool’ then just talks about stuff” character exist in any dramatic tv shows / novels / father’s day cards? I guess when you’ve pushed your wife towards servicing strangers at a blacktie party behind one easily-openable double-door, it’s easy to lash out.
Story #3: Don accepts an award from the American Cancer Society and finally gets to shove some moral-goodwill into his wife’s advertising-unapproving parents’ faces, but is then informed at the end of the episode that no big businesses will actually hire him after how he stabbed American Tobacco in the back. Hang in there, Don! If I remember my history, Mohawk Airlines will become the world’s biggest airline by 1970 then change its name to Wal-Mart and only continue to grow.
Story #4: And of course, Sally gets to dress up, wear makeup (briefly), and schmooze with adults, then ultimately witnesses the horrifying, immature underbelly of the people she’s admired and been taught to obey. I experienced the same “Adults may not always be right” epiphany when an aunt asked me “You ever seen that According To Jim show? He’s pretty sick, but he’s hilarious.” I still think my moment was more horrifying.
Mad Men Episode 507 thoughts? Favorite / least favorite parts? Thoughts on Season 5 so far? Examples of happy paternal relationships in dramatic tv / literature? Leave ‘em all in the comments.