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· Hall Of Fame
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Not intending to step on phrelin's toes, but I had a few thoughts on this episode that I wanted to get out...

Literally, this episode title refers to the soap opera "Dark Shadows," which Megan's friend is auditioning for (although I don't believe the title was ever mentioned). It had been already running in the late afternoon on ABC for a few months aat the time this episode takes place, and was already gaining attention as a campy, "gothic" drama that was a bit different than the other daytime soap operas -- although its most famous character, the vampire Barnabas Collins, wasn't added until April 1967.

It would be interesting to know if this episode was planned to air the same weekend that Tim Burton's film adaptation of "Dark Shadows," starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, premiered in theaters -- or if it was a fortuitous coincidence. (I don't remember fast-forwarding past any ads for "Dark Shadows" during this episode, though, so it seems that AMC's equivalent of Harry Crane may have dropped the ball...)

Aside from the literal meaning, this episode is chock full of metaphorical dark shadows, the obvious big one being that Don's past, including his marriage to Anna Draper, continues to cast a shadow over the present. (I'm sure phrelin will do a much better job than I would enumerating all the dark shadows in this episode...)

I'd also be interested to know if there really was a feature on advertising agencies in the New York Times magazine the Sunday before Thanksgiving 1966, and whether there really was a smog alert in New York City on Thanksgiving Day 1966. The latter didn't seem to have affected the Macy's parade -- incidentally, with the parade being on TV as Don and Megan sat down to eat, it certainly seemed that they were eating really early! (Of course, having spent so much "clearance" money on the Beatles song last week, I'll assume there wasn't much left in the budget for NFL game footage that could have been put on the TV instead...)
 

· Hall Of Fame
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I'm glad to see the thread started. No one will step on my toes. It was Mother's Day yesterday and we did not get home until 11:30 last night, so I haven't even watched this episode yet.
 

· Hall Of Fame
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I'm always impressed by the production details related to the period. Did anyone else notice the sounds in the background of Betty's kitchen? Did you find it uniquely nostalgic? I had to back up a few times because I wanted to hear them again. I don't think I've really heard those sounds in like 30 years.
 

· The Shadow Knows!
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I have to say, I found this episode a little weak. It was all foreshadowing, no action. I think when all is said and done, we'll look back on this episode and see where a lot of important plot threads started, but by itself it doesn't give you a lot to sink your teeth into.

We see more and more that the SCDP crew don't understand the younger generation. A competing agency gets pictures in the New York Times and it's presumably because they look like Herman's Hermits. We see the first of (likely) many fights between Don and Sally. We see what may be the first interaction shown between Megan and Betty, and we see Megan regretting her privileged life.

And, literally, on Thanksgiving Day, there are clouds nearby, toxic clouds that Megan doesn't want to let in.

But, you see, that's what I don't like about this episode. It seemed heavy-handed and overly obvious. As much as I've enjoyed Betty in the past, lately she seems to just stop the plot whenever she shows up.

Last week's episode was gut-wrenching for me... this one seemed procedural.
 

· Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.
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Yes, lots of nostalgia for us guys of a certain age, both auditory and visual.
The thing that struck me was that each character, with a couple of exceptions, showed a real mean streak.

And I don't think anything in that show is coincidental, even links to our present world.

I was in New Jersey in 1966, and have a vague memory of NYC smog alerts.

A seminal event for me, probably a few years earlier, was the Great Cranberry Scare. IIRC, the FDA came out a bit before T-Giving with a warning that cranberries caused cancer. Those poor bastards in the bogs! I didn't believe it, and had extra helpings that year. Later it came out that humans would have to eat pounds a day for years to possibly get an ill effect.
 

· Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.
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Stuart Sweet said:
I have to say, I found this episode a little weak. It was all foreshadowing, no action. I think when all is said and done, we'll look back on this episode and see where a lot of important plot threads started, but by itself it doesn't give you a lot to sink your teeth into.
What I might have said had I not supposed that I just didn't get this ep.! Agree with the other points, too, but this sums it up nicely.

Anyone else struck by the sheer meanness of words in this ep.?
 

· The Shadow Knows!
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The nostalgia is clearly intentional. I think everything there is intentional. Did anyone notice that Betty had a box of Life cereal and chose to ignore it? She's letting life pass her by!
 

· Registered
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trainman said:
I'd also be interested to know if there really was a feature on advertising agencies in the New York Times magazine the Sunday before Thanksgiving 1966, and whether there really was a smog alert in New York City on Thanksgiving Day 1966.
On the day after Thanksgiving 1966, I had to take the subway into Manhattan to get my HS yearbook photo taken. (I don't recall why this wasn't done in the school--perhaps I missed the original photo day.) The trip and photo shoot were uneventful, but I recall that it was exceptionally warm for late November in NYC. I traveled with just my suit jacket, no overcoat. I don't recall the smog alert, but a thermal inversion fits into my recollection of the day.
 

· Hall Of Fame
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We finally watched the "Dark Shadows" episode last night, so now I can participate in this thread. This episode would be easy to dismiss as nothing seems to move forward. But it was as complex as any episode this year, a subtle but carefully crafted hour of television drama.

The primary character story arc of this episode was about Sally Draper.

The themes for the night were about:
  1. Hubris, how even those who are really important to the building of a civilization fade and die, and the civilization they build will follow in time; and this rule applies to the minor organizations and their "important" leaders within the civilization.
  2. Toxicity, how the air can become toxic figuratively and literally, endangering relationships and human lives.

Sally Draper desires to understand and actively participate in her life and hopes for the comfort, if not happiness, that should accompany having achieved that desire. And yet, every element of her story arc was based on her reactions to the other characters.

She finds a "friend" in the youngest adult regularly in her life, Megan. Sally has to create a family tree and Megan, an isolated limb extending from the tree, gives her creative guidance. It is a "happy" scene.

At the end of the show, we have the usual song playing through the credits. This one was easy for me to recognize - Maurice Chevalier singing "Sweepin' the Clouds Away":


The lyrics are:

Don't go 'round moping, hoping happiness will come,
That's not the way; it doesn't pay!
If you want happiness, just help yourself to some,
Why don't you try to take life the way I do:

Let the whole world sigh or cry,
I'll be high in the sky,
Up on top of a rainbow,
Sweeping the clouds away!

I don't care what's down below,
Let it rain, let it snow,
I'll be up on a rainbow,
Sweeping the clouds away!

I have learned life's lesson,
Fighters who always win,
Are those who can take it right on the chin and grin!

And so I'll shout to everyone,
Find your place, in the sun,
Up on top of a rainbow,
Sweeping the clouds away!​
Proud as punch, Sally will be taking her family tree back to her other home. Weiner makes sure we don't miss the "two home" impact on Sally's generation when he has brother Bobby Draper eager to give thanks at the Thanksgiving meal: "I'm thankful that I have two houses and they're both really big and I got a new sled."

But before that happens, Betty and Henry have to pick up the kids and it turns out that Betty is forced to go into Megan's apartment (it's Megan's in spirit and feel, not Don's). We see the apartment through Betty's envious eyes and then we see a trim Megan through Weight Watcher Betty's jealous eyes.

At Betty and Henry's home, Betty goes through some papers of Bobby's. She looks at a drawing of a whale that had been harpooned three times but was smiling. Does Betty see any self-image here? Weiner does for her - an injured whale smiling. Anyway, Betty turns it over discovering a note written by Don: "Lovely Megs. I went to buy a lightbulb. When I get back, I'll see you better."

Just in case you might miss the fact that this was the key scene for the primary story arc, Weiner adds a voice over of Don reading the note.

And so it is the ugly Betty we know who reacts by hurting Sally in order to hurt Megan and Don. She tells Sally she needs to add to the family tree her Dad's other wife, you know, the third one. Gee whiz, didn't Megan tell you about her.

This seemingly set in motion the destruction of Sally's relationship with Megan and with Don. Accused by Sally of lying (omitted truths held back from a child even for good reasons are perceived as lies when discovered), Megan explained as well as she could this tidbit of information. When Don learns of this he strikes out verbally at Megan and starts to call Betty.

Megan, perhaps wise beyond her years, stops Don by pointing out that Betty was poisoning all these relationships from 50 miles away and just waiting to see the fallout. ("Poison" was a brilliant analogy to use around Thanksgiving.)

Enter the innately clever Sally we have come to know. She hears Megan emphatically talking to Don. She realizes she was being used by her mother to hurt two people she loves. And so when she's back at Betty and Henry's for that Thanksgiving meal, in response to an all too obvious inquiry about Anna in the family tree, she describes a fictitious, happy family discussion where Megan and Don explain everything and share photos of Anna with her.

Don't go 'round moping, hoping happiness will come,
That's not the way; it doesn't pay!
If you want happiness, just help yourself to some....

Betty, now alone in the kitchen, angry and crushed, has just experienced her daughter defending her own happiness. Only Betty doesn't even know it.

"Look on my work, ye mighty, and despair," Michael Ginsberg says to Stan and Peggy, full of hubris.

"You should read the rest of that poem, you boob," Stan retorts.

And indeed, Ginsberg with his Jewishness - a key to one story arc in this episode - should be better informed.

Ozymandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".​
"Ozymandias" represents a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses II's throne name. It is during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II many historians believe that the Book of Exodus story of the Jews slavery in Egypt occurred.

Stan recognizes that the lesson of poem is that taking pride in accomplishment is hubris, that in time everything goes away, not only the individual but the civilization.

About civilization, American civilization in 1966. In New York City, our civilization's cultural center, Megan tells Don not to open the apartment window because the air is toxic. Toxicity surrounds their Thanksgiving what with Betty trying to poison relationships. But, in fact, the air was toxic, fatally toxic to some New Yorkers.

From a NOAA paper:
During Thanksgiving week of 1966, much of the eastern United States was dominated by an anticyclone of the type that in past decades would have been associated with pleasant weather. In recent years, however, such systems have often been accompanied by objectionable concentrations of air pollutants in urban areas. In the metropolitan area of New York City, SO2, concentrations reached alarming levels especially from November 26 to 25....

During November 23-25, the average SO2 concentration in metropolitan New York City was more than three times the 24-hr standard! In connection with this episode, Glasser et al. (1967) concluded that 24 excess deaths per day occurred in New York City during Nov. 23-29, 1966. On no day of this particular week were there fewer than 254 deaths. This was the only 7-day period from November 1 through December 10 in 6 yr (1961-66) during which this was true.
And so we have Weiner using Jewish characters to tell us that the company's principals, in order of age oldest first, Bert Cooper, Roger Sterling, and Don Draper are isolating themselves from the people and the changes that can make a difference in their business.

They sense there is a problem, but instead of effectively mentoring and building with the key, talented younger people in their company - Peggy Olson, Ken Cosgrove, Harry Crane, Michael Ginsberg, Stan Rizzo - the old guys use them for personal gain and abuse them as people. It has become a toxic environment, one from which Megan hopes to keep at arms length. But Jane Sterling couldn't keep it out.

And here we have to look at Betty, already feeling a sense of life escaping her, not only because of Sally growing up, but because of Megan and because of Henry who says to her about his work: "I bet on the wrong horse, Betty. I jumped ship for nothing."

Betty, of course, does wonder if Henry was a "wrong horse." But at least she brings some of the Weight Watcher New Age self-help philosophy to the discussion: "This is a setback. You're always thinking about other people and then you're angry because no one's thinking about you. But I am. It's so easy to blame our problems on others but, really, we're in charge of ourselves. And I'm here to help you. As you're here to help me."

Here I have used the term "New Age" rather loosely, but Weight Watchers was founded in 1963 with a heavy emphasis on the support group approach encouraging confession of a self-diagnosed addictive overeating pathology. To a certain degree this seemed to be the formation time for groups experimentally merging a wide range of philosophies, religious disciplines and psychological techniques. Don't ever underestimate the impact of this time on American philosophy, still evident in the current political and social divide. Read the entire Wikipedia article on the Esalen Institute.

I could see Betty at an EST program by the mid-1970's, effectively working her way beyond her worst personality traits.

Which leads us to the so-called Seven Deadly Sins, "wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony." Now that we've gotten Betty's weight problem in focus, we have them all.

There was so much in this episode, a lot of little things, but some of it big. For instance, Manischewitz. We learn from Roger they sell wine to Jews but now want to sell some to normal people. Deciding he needs Jane's Jewishness: "How Jewish? Fiddler on the roof -- audience or cast?" Ginzberg's sign-on-the-side-of-busses idea to show the lower half of folks under the window with cases of Manischewitz under their seats.

Of course, there was the "Dark Shadows" element, with the show doing casting calls (the show began airing June 27, 1966) as portrayed by Megan's friend running through the campy script. The new movie did come out now, but as we have discussed in another thread, the TV show's star Jonathan Frid died on April 13, 2012.

But, of course, the title is about the the shadow over the primary "Mad Men" characters. Remember, there are only four episodes left this fifth season but supposedly we'll get seven seasons (six for sure), even if they don't appear on Dish Network (see the thread Dish to drop AMC?).:eek2:
 

· The Shadow Knows!
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Well done, Phrelin. You haven't convinced me of the subtlety of the episode -- in fact you seem to acknowledge some of the heavier-handed aspects of the episode's storytelling, but that does nothing to keep me from congratulating you on an excellent piece of writing yourself.

I think for me the issue is that all these things are already known. The episode fails to convey the anticipation of turning a corner or the sheer horror of taking one too many steps off the pier. In short, it lacks:


Although it does share that clip's somewhat trademark lack of subtlety ;)

I get it, Mr. Wiener, it's almost 1967. The clock is moving inexorably toward the culture clash, and our friends are on the wrong side of the fight. So... on with it then!
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Stuart Sweet said:
I get it, Mr. Wiener, it's almost 1967. The clock is moving inexorably toward the culture clash, and our friends are on the wrong side of the fight. So... on with it then!
I figured you were getting frustrated, Stuart. After all you noted regarding the first episode of this season:
Stuart Sweet said:
I was disappointed that the time jump wasn't longer, but seeing the fresh fashions of '66 made the disappointment a bit more tolerable. Don's apartment is fantastic; I'd decorate that way myself today. There's still a chance that the show will move briskly forward as the season progresses.
It obviously isn't moving briskly forward. I hope the next two seasons move along in time - perhaps starting in mid-'68 and mid-'70.

Maybe followed by a movie set around Don's 70th Birthday in 1996.
 

· Hall Of Fame
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I remember that Thanksgiving well, having just moved out of my family home and into Cambridge, MA with my GF. I hopped in my topless MGA and rode out Rt. 2 in the shockingly warm, hazy air to amazingly find a country store open with fresh turkeys. I took it to right my family home in Arlington for an intimate holiday respite from its usual dysfunctional household. But I was free for the first time in my life, this was my first GF, and hell, it was freakishly warm and eerily still all day. Never forget that T-Day.

Awesome analysis, phrelin! A classic.
 

· The Shadow Knows!
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phrelin said:
I figured you were getting frustrated, Stuart. After all you noted regarding the first episode of this season:It obviously isn't moving briskly forward. I hope the next two seasons move along in time - perhaps starting in mid-'68 and mid-'70.

Maybe followed by a movie set around Don's 70th Birthday in 1996.
Guilty as charged. And I now have an image of Don living in suburban Long Island with an oxygen tank at his side, shaking a cane and advising slackers to get off his lawn.
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
lucky13 said:
On the day after Thanksgiving 1966, I had to take the subway into Mahattan to get my HS yearbook photo taken. (I don't recall why this wasn't done in the school--perhaps I missed the original photo day.) The trip and photo shoot were uneventful, but I recall that it was exceptionally warm for late November in NYC. I traveled with just my suit jacket, no overcoat. I don't recall the smog alert, but a thermal inversion fits into my recollection of the day.
Thanks to you and Maruuk -- on another forum, someone found that there was indeed a feature on ad agencies in the New York Times magazine before Thanksgiving 1966, just as depicted in this episode (and it of course didn't mention SCDP at all :D ).

So both my questions have been answered in the affirmative. Obviously, I shouldn't have doubted Matthew Weiner and the rest of the writing/research staff.
 

· Godfather
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Great job Phrelin, Trainman and everyone else.

My favorite line of the episode? The exchange between Mike and Don, as they leave the elevator. Mike reproaches Don for not presenting his idea during a successful pitch, uttering, "I feel bad for you". Don rejoins, "I don’t think about you at all".

What happens to Mike? Does another agency poach him? Will Don feed off Mike's creativity to attain a higher level? How will Peggy react to the dynamics?

One thing is clear. In order for Don to be as successful as he's been in the past, he's got to embrace the changes taking place. And given his scrappy background, I expect him to do so.
 
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