“Mad Men” Season 6, Episode 9: The Better Half

“Poor Meaghan, she doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.”- Betty

Woah there, Mad Men... just when I thought things couldn't get anymore dramatic... BAMMM. In truth, a lot of the drama that surfaced in this episode has been a long time coming. But it was still a lot, all at once.  Arlene, Megan's boss, sums the episode up pretty well when she says (with embarrassment), "Everything as it was."  This episode is all about how the characters struggles to change and move forward-- with the constant temptation to return to their old habits and selves. In the end, it's up to you to judge how much they've really changed. Is is possible for everything to be "as it was" or have things changed for good?

Pete Campbell, get those sideburns in check

I figured I should start off with the most pressing issue in this episode—Pete Campbell’s sideburns. Seriously, Pete… I regret ever praising this look. At first, I was amazed by the way the sideburns complemented your scumbaggery. But, come on Pete, it’s called MAINTENANCE. Each episode, they’ve grown longer and distanced themselves farther from your face. They look like they are about a day away from making a break for freedomland—isn’t there at least one aspect of your life that you can tame?

Screenshot by Sameet Dhillon/Gavel Media

Unruly is an understatement.
Screenshot by Sameet Dhillon/Gavel Media

Peggy In the Middle

Once again, we have Peggy in the middle of the ongoing power struggle between Don and Ted. They have this weird “work triangle” going on, and it needs to end. The episode ends and begins with Peggy stuck between these two men.  This is one of the first times I’ve actually seen Don actively seek out someone’s approval. He wants Peggy on his side, and she’s unwilling to give in.  Their relationship has shifted from “boss and protégé” to “challenger and challenged”. Don is constantly pushing her to pick a side, and yet even when it appears she has, she ends up back in the middle. At the end of the episode, we see Peggy standing alone between their two offices. Will she choose a side? Or take a stand against these domineering men?

BETTY DRAPER IS BACK **DUN-DUN-DUN**

The fancy-dress-wearing-updo-loving-stepford-housewife is back with a vengeance. HIDE YOUR KIDS (and your husbands). I knew this was coming.  Betty is doing everything from flirting with people from Henry’s work to reigniting an old flame with Don. The spawn of satan is really out to prove a point - that she’s still beautiful. At the end of the day, that’s all she really had going for her. And once she lost that, for a brief period of time, she really had nothing. She spent most of the episode proving to herself, and the people around her that she’s still got it. Don gave Betty her ultimate verification.  Betty’s newfound confidence and “happiness” are rather unsettling. Nevertheless, it’s not going to last—that much we can count on.

 

DUN DUN DUN Screenshot by Sameet Dhillon/Gavel Media

DUN DUN DUN
Screenshot by Sameet Dhillon/Gavel Media

“What an old tune. The boss in love with his protégé.  Is this all me? Because that’ll help.”- Ted

UH-OH. Ted and Peggy sittin’ in a tree. Saw this one coming as well. For a while, during previous seasons, I was convinced that Don and Peggy would fall in love. But then it became obvious that Peggy was the only part of Don’s life that was somewhat stable and close to a “healthy relationship”. And honestly, Don is way too messed up for Peggy. Peggy and Ted feel right though. I’m actually a strong supporter of this. The issue is, Ted is no Don Draper. He is actually, as Peggy said, a “good guy”. He isn’t going to throw his life away to have an affair with Peggy. He acknowledged his feelings for her so they could both move past them and I think this really takes Peggy by surprise. She wants to be with him, and she isn’t used to interacting with someone who has morals and a sense of commitment to his wife. She isn’t used to people doing the “right thing” and it is actually quite shocking and upsetting to her. At the end of the episode, Peggy is left confused and alone. Ted must be feeling the same way but he is good at hiding it.

 Father Abraham had 7 sons

Don actually does something semi-fatherly in this episode when he visits Bobby at camp. While he’s there, he eats dinner with Betty and Bobby. Bobby starts singing a song he learned at camp and Betty and Don join in. Is it just me or was this one of the first times we see Don acting like a father, and actually enjoying it…? They looked like a family for a few moments and it was a nice change from the eeyore-esque Don that we’ve become accustomed to.

 

Screenshot by Sameet Dhillon/Gavel Media

Screenshot by Sameet Dhillon/Gavel Media

That was cold, Abe

Really, you break up with Peggy while you’re in the ambulance? Classy. Ok, I guess she did (accidentally) stab you but still…the woman has put up with a lot from you. Also, you haven’t showered since last season, and the wannabe-Beatle look just really wasn’t working for you.  Goodbye to you, and your handlebar mustache, too.

 BETTY AND DON….NOOOO!

As Don creeped into Betty’s bedroom, I was literally yelling at the screen. I know I should probably hate him just as much as I hate her but….nope, that just isn’t the case. I was afraid of what Black-Widow-Betty might do to him….but I actually think their “walk” down memory lane was good for a few reasons. Firstly, it left them both with some closure. Betty needed to have sex with Don in an unemotional way. Now, outside of their marriage, she understands what they were and who he is. And it makes her feel powerful. Don honestly needed to get this out of his system. Betty was always there, in the back of his mind, because he is Don. Secondly, it gave them the clearest conversation they’ve ever had. While they were lying there, it seemed like they had their first honest conversation…and the writing was excellent. Thirdly, this little rekindling brought us a step closer to understanding Don Draper. He says, “Why is sex the definition of being close to someone.”  Yet again, we come closer to understanding Don’s unhealthy relationship with sex. To him, true intimacy is something that goes far beyond sex. Sex is just another casual activity for him.

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Poor R.S.

I have such a soft spot for Roger Sterling. He is so lovable and yet so flawed. In this episode he continuously tries to prove himself as a father. He tries to prove that he is a good grandfather to his daughter, and a good future father to his secret child with Joanie. He fails on both accounts—taking a toddler to see Planet of the Apes doesn’t exactly win you grandfather of the year. Even so, I don’t see Roger giving up anytime soon. Maybe he’ll give up on his grandson but not on Joanie. They have such a history, and Roger has always been persistent—that’s the only way he has ever gotten anything from Joanie.

Sirens!

This episode was FULL of siren sounds. At times, it was hard to hear the dialogue because of all the noise in the background…are they just trying to make a political statement about the time period…? Or is this foreshadowing something…?

Bob Benson

Ok, but really…what’s your deal? Are you Mother Teresa or is there some sort of personal gain behind all these random acts of kindness? Seriously, this guy is planning something big. I feel like some sort of inception $h#t is going to go down at the end of the season, and Bob Benson is going to be behind it all. I have my eye on you.

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