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The women are back in 'Mad Men'

Posted by Swati Gauri Sharma  April 21, 2013 11:53 PM

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Talk about changing times: Remember when Peggy and Joan were secretaries and Don would have secret conversations with his wife Betty’s psychiatrist?

Now, we see Peggy accomplishing so much that her former boss is spying on her presentation, and we see Joan as a partner-- a role model to some, still a secretary to others.

And, most importantly, we see the men of “Mad Men” struggling with these women and their success.

Here is a breakdown of the episode:

Well, Don had a bad day. I was surprised Don even took the Heinz ketchup meeting, but sometimes, prestige, and Pete, get the best of you. We saw Don battle with the women in his life. Not only couldn’t he stand Megan’s onscreen romance, it seems he hasn’t even tried to watch his wife’s show. There was a moment when Don at least pretended to be supportive. But with her newfound success, he has moved away from being a caring, modern-day husband. To top it off, losing Heinz to his rival and once protege just hit him harder.

But, here’s a thought: Let’s say Megan never had those sultry scenes. And let’s say SCDP won Heinz. Would Don have been happy? Probably not. He hasn't been at ease with himself, ever. Before his work would provide some happiness. At one time it was Megan. As Sylvia said, she prays for Don to find peace. He knows what he’s doing is wrong (hence telling Sylvia to take off her cross necklace), but he seems to steep himself deeper in wrongdoing. He’s becoming more mean, more insecure, more jealous than ever before. Sorry, Sylvia -- it doesn’t seem like Mr. Draper will find peace anytime soon.

Peggy. She’s reaching new heights in new company, but at a cost. I loved her friendship with Stan and how she forced him to treat her as an equal. This friendship-ending move hurt Peggy, but she will move on. It doesn’t seem like she’s slowing down soon, and although she does sound very Don-like in her pitches, let’s hope she doesn’t become him.

Joan. Oh, hi Joanie. We’ve been waiting! Joan is seeing the backlash of that one night and how it made her partner. She sees it in how Harry spoke to her, and no one could really come to her defense. She saw it in the way her visiting friend looks up to her. She sees how her mother fondly praises her. I don’t think Joan would be happy having a man at her side -- they’ve only let her down. But I do think that she’s still struggling to find her footing at SCDP, and in her own personal life. She’s one character I have hope for, despite the missteps in her past. Also, I hope she and Dawn become besties.

Dawn. As Don falls deeper into darkness, here comes Dawn, whom I hope we see much more of this season. (Also, she’s hardworking, and she’s in a world where she stands out, where everyone is foreign to her. But she’s trying to make it work, in a real and honest way. I want to see more of her world. We got a small glimpse, and it was a welcome one.

Notes on history: Don is against Vietnam, yet Dow Chemicals is one of their biggest clients, and the only company providing materials for bombs in Vietnam. They’re hated by the public, probably by Don, but that’s business, right? There was a brief mention of Robert Kennedy in a newscast. His assassination is (probably) months away. Stay tuned.

Finally, the women are back. They’re ambitious. They’re smart. They’re struggling, and it’s a pleasure to watch.

What are your thoughts on the episode? What did you think of Harry's outburst? Leave your thoughts in the comments here, and feel free to email: swatisharma@boston.com, or tweet at me: @swatigauri.

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