A great episode, and the acting is what really set it apart. Mr. Hamm, especially, is to be congratulated for an extraordinarily nuanced performance. Let's talk about what wasn't said, but was so obvious from Mr. Hamm's eyes:
There was a time Don thought he'd found Miss Right. Even as recently as last week, he counted himself incredibly lucky. When he married Megan, he found someone who knew his business and didn't want to retire. Not only that, she's a natural!
When Don tried to turn the office into an extension of his home life, he was rewarded by the realization that it was far better to keep doing business; Megan is a talented wife, a willing stepmother, and an excellent copywriter. She's everything he could want.
Megan knows about Dick Whitman and doesn't care. She is eager to please him, even if she doesn't know how. She's great with his work friends and both a direct and indirect (through Peggy) studen of the Draper style of advertising. In short, she's Galatea
, but ten times better since she already loves him back.
I could almost hear Don's heart breaking. I saw his shields go up as Megan told him she wanted to be an actress. He tried to convince her to hold on a little longer but it didn't take, and then his relationship survival instinct kicked in and he started telling her what she needed to hear. This may not be the end of the relationship, but it's the surest sign that the honeymoon is over.
It was in that moment that I stopped, at least for a second, thinking of these as characters and started thinking of them as friends. I felt so bad for Don; he may have realized that he won't ever come any closer to the perfect woman than that. I felt even worse for Megan. When Don starts straying she won't know what she's done to deserve it. (Not that she deserves it at all, but she'll feel the pain of betrayal and like everyone, think it's partially her fault.)
I also felt bad for Peggy who, as Don's protege and "work wife" has no idea why she is suddenly "at fault" for everything. She unfairly takes the brunt of Don's anger; I don't blame Don for blowing up but certainly Peggy didn't deserve it.
As Don sits in his easy chair listening to Revolver
, we see how firmly rooted in the past he is. He's talked about growing up in the 1930s, he doesn't really
know what 1960's pop sounds like, and now, he can't even make it to the end of a 3 minute song without turning it off.
Of course there's more going on here. Peter Campbell, that reprehensible slug that he is, sleeps with another woman who on the face of it is a mirror of his own wife. Why? Because he can? Because he's weak? There was a time we thought Pete would eventually grow up but all his growth has been in the wrong direction.
There is something about Pete with which I identify though. He's an "intergenerational." He's too young to be in "the greatest" generation and too old to be a "baby boomer." He was born in 1935, so can lay no claim to understanding the Depression, did not fight in the war, and missed rock-and-roll by "that much." He is the Mad Men
Generation X'er... and if you were born between 1967 and 1980 you know what I mean. Always following one dominant generational trend and predating another can get a little tiring. Think about it... although he doesn't know it, his generation will never produce a U.S. President, never change the face of politics, never redefine popular culture. His generation, like mine, is the period at the end of the previous generation's sentence.
Not, of course, that this forgives him one bit.
A final word, and that is that "Tomorrow Never Knows" is my least favorite track on Revolver
and not because it's poorly written. In fact it's quite brilliantly written, prophetic and (at the time) futuristic. It's just, in my own opinion, not very good music. It doesn't sound good. I wonder if Don Draper would have lifted the needle if he'd listened to one of the most incredible compositions of the 20th century on side A, "Eleanor Rigby." By listening to one side over the other, his perception of popular music may have been forever fixed.
And that's an interesting thought to end this episode.