Mad Men Episode 3 Review – “The Monolith”

Computers and communes: the late 1960s were a crazy time. Mad Men‘s most recent episode got its title from the computer that SC&P got for the office, but it was Roger and Mona’s road trip to rescue their daughter from a commune that I think I’ll be chucking about for a while. (As my sister wrote to me today, “Who wears fur to a commune?”)

The computer was placed in the creative lounge – sometimes Matthew Weiner’s symbolism can be rather heavy-handed, but I liked the sense of self-awareness here as Don told Harry “No, it’s quite literal” when Harry assured him it wasn’t a metaphor. The computer showing up had the whole creative team in a tizzy, but it was only the tip of the iceberg for Don Draper. Sure, he agreed to the stipulations easily in the meeting – but he expected to return to work. Instead, he’s barely been used and when he was finally assigned to a project he was reporting to Peggy. The tension in that meeting made me cringe with discomfort.

2014-05-04-mad-men-stare-animIt was fascinating to watch Don cope. He secretly got drunk, tried to get Freddie Rumsen to go to a Mets game with him. (He found a Mets pennant in Lane’s old office.) Then, miraculously, Freddie was able to snap some sense into Don. Rather than playing solitaire in his office, he actually did the work Peggy wanted. This is the shape Don needs to be in when the office has the creative crisis Bert Cooper laughed off earlier. Not a booze-soaked, bitter, washed up hack.

Meanwhile, Roger and Mona had to drive upstate to retrieve Margaret from the commune she’s run away to – abandoning her husband and son in the process. Roger’s interactions with Mona are funny, but also have a sense of history and regret. When it’s clear that Margaret – or, “Marigold” as she’s known on the commune – isn’t coming back, Mona leaves. Roger stays, at first because he can see the appeal of Margaret’s new lifestyle. He’s not exactly a traditionalist himself. But he can’t do it, and by morning he’s trying to physically drag Margaret back to her son.

Margaret equated her leaving her kid to Roger traveling all the time for business. Certainly, Roger can’t chastise Margaret for abandoning her son as though he’s an expert on good parenting. Yet, I can’t help but hate Margaret for keeping this cycle going – for putting her kid in the same lonely place she’s been in her whole life.

Stray thoughts:

  • The scenes in California this week felt a tad pointless, but it’s interesting that Ted refused to return to the East coast. He’s making himself rather obsolete, isn’t he?
  • I love when Joan helps Peggy keep it real. “I have exactly two minutes”, pouring herself a drink and serving Peggy a dose of advice? Classic.