Mad Men – Episode 4-5 Review

Mad Men draws a wide variety of opinions, but the one thing almost everyone agrees on is Betty. People don’t like her–and for good reason. She’s cold, distant, and unpleasant. Betty reached a boiling point in “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.,” where we see the discontentment in her life come out on her poor children.

When Betty sees Sally’s new haircut, she’s angry, as Don correctly predicts, and goes further, not only yelling, but also giving Sally a huge slap across the face. By now, every viewer must hate Betty and it’s hard not to cringe at her behavior.

More and more, Betty has become inhuman, a one-dimensional woman who refuses to grow up and take responsibility for herself. And I’m beginning to question how important she is to the show. The previous two episodes were just fine without her. Betty is one of the weaker characters of the show, with little emotional response (other than frustration), no growth, and no real upside to the general enjoyment of the show. I don’t know about everyone else, but I wouldn’t blink an eye if she left the show in the near future (with an arc to wrap up her character). Where’s the turning the point for her? She can’t stay in this perpetual state of existence, can she?

I hope we got a glimpse when Betty meets with the child psychiatrist after Sally’s overly awkward public masturbation. Perhaps it wasn’t very subtle, but it confirmed that Betty is a woman-child fixated on herself and she’ll have regular meetings. Hopefully a child psychiatrist can solve Betty this time around.

While on the subject of Betty, I’d like to say a few things about Henry, a weird, interesting character. He’s only attached to the rest of the show through Betty, and has virtually no impact other than on Betty, Sally, and Bobby. He only exchanges pleasantries with Don, never a meaningful conversation that leads anywhere. But he’s a smooth talker and it could be said that he controls, or at least guides, Betty in a certain direction. He influences her actions, not as a husband, but as an elder, one who has prior knowledge from raising his own daughter. Through his experiences, he teaches Betty how to be a mother, and possibly, that could be Betty’s way to grow up.

At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, it was fun all around with pockets of drama. In many ways, it was like the Mad Men of old, when Don ruled in advertising and brushed off challengers with ease. Honda holds a competition for its business, introducing cross-cultural interaction–amidst talk of civil rights on the homefront, notably the violence at Selma. As a World War II vet, Roger is adamantly opposed to doing business with the Japanese–despite the company needing money and the war being over for 20 years–so the rest shuttle him off when the Japanese come around.

Needless to say, SCDP’s first encounter with them is hilarious. Neither side knows quite what to expect, but it’s fine–up until Roger returns. He spits out a few mean one-liners and angry gestures before leaving, all but destroying the mood. We get where he’s coming from, but it’s not until Roger’s heartfelt conversation (rant?) with Don and near fight with Pete when we see just how emotionally caught up Roger is, a reasonable response considering his circumstances, but not a logical one in the business sense.

The familiar, confident Don we know popped up in the episode and quickly got things done with limited resources. Knowing Roger had destroyed their chances of winning and that Ted Shaw is hot on his heels, Don tears apart his new rival, not with an advertisement, but a brilliant display of gamesmanship. He tricks Ted into thinking he’s making a television commercial, though it is all a ploy for Ted to spend extra money. In the end, Don forfeits the competition, not even attempting to win, while Ted shows his expensive commercial. And Honda doesn’t even choose a winner, leaving Don as the ultimate victor.

It was odd seeing Don in such high places throughout the episode. He is the savior to Betty’s villainess, the winning strategist to Ted’s gut-reaction tomfoolery. He even chats up two women without getting fully rejected. From this episode alone, it would seem like Don is doing fine, even with the divorce.

But every episode this season has been Don plumbing the depths of humanity, going further and further towards a climax that has yet to materialize. “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” marks a dramatic–and likely brief–pause in this path. It’s unlikely, in only the fifth episode this season, that Don would fully turnaround, but we’ll see what happens next week (another reason why it’s not the best idea to review shows like Mad Men week to week).

  • Maybe I was in an extra good mood tonight, but I laughed at least 5 times out loud.
  • “How does she not fall over?” LMAO
  • Don’s new secretary battling Pete for the package.
  • I don’t know why, but Peggy riding around on the motorcycle made me smile. 
  • In light of the two-blocks-away Ground Zero mosque, Roger’s attitude towards the Japanese felt almost too relevant. Just food for thought.

The TV Obsessed reviews over 40 shows on his blog The TV Obsessed

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