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How Betty Got Her Groove Back and other Mad Men Musings

2 Jun

A few week’s ago I was joined by Kerensa Cadenas to talk about season 6 of Mad Men and specifically Don Draper losing his charismatic sheen. I thought it was time to catch up with Kerensa and see if these feelings towards Don have changed. So come join us to find out what we think of Don, those Megan/Bob Benson conspiracy theories and how Betty became the smartest person on the show.

MM_609_MY_0221_0189Emma: We have so much to talk about from the most recent episode (which was terrific) including; the state of Don, Peggy’s love/work life, all things Bob Benson (are his intentions honourable? Plus those short shorts), how Betty got her groove back and what the merger has added to this season.

First I want to mention the last discussion we had which came after episode 4 (“To Have and to Hold“) and this is when both of us were having some very strong, negative Don feelings and I was wondering how you feel about Don now that we are episode 9? It was funny that after we raged about Don so much after the start of the season, episode 5 showed Don in a pretty good light; he got to have a good father/son moment with Bobby (this Bobby is a lot of fun) and the lack of Sylvia made him seem less reprehensible. They also showed a great Don pitch moment, not to a client but Ted as he proposed the merger.

So Don’s great again, right? Not so much as he tried to assert his dominance with Sylvia in the bedroom and then thanks to her rejection he was reduced to a creepy hallway lurker. He’s probably never looked as pathetic as he did in his drugged up state desperately reaching for the woman he can’t have. This was coupled with some rather on the nose flashbacks (the prostitute who nursed him back to health was also the first woman he slept with – yep possibly the most overt Madonna/whore complex on TV in flashback form) and my sympathy with Don is pretty low all over again.

The merger has led to some interesting conflicts and comparisons as Ted and Don have been dick swinging with each other and it looks like Peggy is caught between the two men. In the last episode Peggy told Don that Ted “never makes me feel this way” as Don has a tendency to unload on Peggy and take all of his frustration out on her. Don’s response is that Ted “doesn’t know you” and it feels like he is using his knowledge of her past over her. In a way Ted doesn’t know her and this is clear when he rejects Peggy at the end of the episode when she tells him what happened with Abe (leaving out the part where she was the one who stabbed him). Ted is all fake smiles and doesn’t act like he knows her at all so maybe Don had a point. Peggy is caught between two bosses; one that she has romantic feelings for and one that treats her like shit. In a moment like this I want her to head to one of three places; for a cigarette with Joan, for a joint with Stan (so we can get another moment like this) or for cocktails with Megan.

MM_609_MY_0225_0800Speaking of the latter, I just really want something good to happen with Megan; we both spoke before about how much we like this character and it sucks that she is caught up in this Don Draper cycle. The marriage has felt doomed since the premiere (or really from the S5 finale) when they showed that Don isn’t listening to what she is saying. This has been repeated throughout the season and Megan has confessed these feelings of loneliness to her mother (who told her to make Don think of sex) and her co-star Arlene, who tried to kiss her. As you mentioned in an earlier email THAT Betty line summed up Don amazingly well:

“That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.”

I want to talk Betty, because somehow they have made this character likeable again (and she was definitely this episode’s MVP) but first I would like to hear your Don thoughts.

Kerensa: Since the last time we discussed Mad Men, my feelings for Don haven’t really changed. I’m continually frustrated by his actions, his lack of respect for basically everyone, all the “dick swinging” as you said and those flashbacks so over the top. Basically, every time Don’t onscreen, I’m doing this. And like we’ve talked about I like having irredeemable characters but for whatever reason as of late, I just don’t enjoy Don.

And that hall scene with Sylvia was one of the lowest, I think that we’ve seen Don, but that SONG. I feel like at the end of this week’s episode, we are yet again led to believe that maybe Don will try to commit to Megan again. But I doubt it.

And we must talk Betty because that line about Don–maybe was the most accurate description of him in the whole series.

MM_609_MY_0221_0540Emma: Yeah Betty got her groove back and she totally owned every scene with Don (and every scene she was in really). When we last talked about Betty I mentioned that this season was the first time in a long time that I liked this character and she’s continued to be this way this season. I find it interesting that we haven’t seen how Betty lost the weight (and I’m sure it isn’t through the Weight Watchers group she was attending) but I’m glad she’s not the punching bag that she’s been reduced to in past seasons. She was the one who seduced Don, she was the one who held all the power during their post-coital chat (Don likes to hug apparently and sex isn’t intimate, hmm). She delivered THE line that perfectly sums him up and the next day she’s gone, back to the life she loves while Don watches on alone.

I’m also glad that we got to see Betty being a good mother as this is another area where she’s been cold in the past. Though she does neglect to mention Gene (and like Don even considers Gene if what he said to Megan about Bobby is any indication), poor Gene. One day you will mean something. And thankfully they’ve given Bobby a personality this year.

What are your Betty thoughts?

Also the Mad Men conspiracy theories are going through the roof this week – first Bob continues to throw up major question marks (while looking totally cute in his short shorts) and now the links between Megan and Sharon Tate are in the mix after Megan wore this T-shirt. Is Megan doomed?

MM_609_MY_0221_1015Kerensa: It was really great to see Betty in that power position with Don because I feel like he made her feel less than that all the time while they were married.  And it does seem that she is happy with Henry because I feel like Henry treats her with respect that Don never did. And also, Betty will be an AMAZING politicians wife, like she’s gonna be running the show. Guaranteed.

That line is the most perfect thing this show has ever done. And I think was probably so telling to Don–who likes to think he’s this enigma–that there are people there who DO see through all his shit. I also wonder if hearing all that #realtalk from Betty will change things for him? I’m guessing not, but we can hope I guess.

Also, Don Draper likes spooning? Really? Like that’s a scenario I can’t imagine. I feel like he’d be one of those guys that you’d assume would just leave right after sex and then there he is being big spoon and you’d be supremely confused. And you KNOW he always has to be big spoon.

On to the conspiracies!

Yeah, what is going on with Bob? I’ve heard so many weird things–he’s Don’s son, the smoke monster (jk) or my favorite was that he’s actually Joan’s new gay BFF. Whatever is going on with Bob, as long as they keep putting James Wolk in short shorts, I won’t complain about Don. I swear.

Now, the Megan/Sharon Tate theory was super compelling to me. I just watched Robert Hendrickson’s documentary Manson (1973) at a local theater, so Sharon Tate and the Manson killings have been at the forefront of my mind. I feel like everything that’s been going on with Megan this season, despite her acting success, has at least for me been accompanied by this sense of dread and doom. I can’t pinpoint it, but every time I see her onscreen I just have this terrible feeling. And I really like Megan–as I know you do–so I really, really don’t want that to be the case.

What do you think about all the conspiracies?

MM_609_MY_0225_0493Emma: I just did a spit take at the image of Don wanting to be the big spoon. He really doesn’t seem to be the snuggling type.

The thing about Don is that he says he wants to change but I don’t know if he really does and it’s something they’ve repeated throughout. I think he likes the idea of being saved, but not the results. What happens if he can’t save the one he is with? And this brings me to the recent Mad Men conspiracy theories and I love all of this chatter, even if they are somewhat outlandish. Like you there’s something about Megan’s scenes this year that have this doom and gloom feeling. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s so alone and we know that Don will never love her the way he did before the orange sherbet incident and when she was still at SCDP or perhaps it’s something more sinister.

I was going to ask you about that documentary as the Manson Family murders are often mentioned when people discuss the end of the 60s and how this was the really dark side of the flower power era. Is this something that was discussed in this documentary?

On one hand I really don’t want Megan to die (because I like her) but in terms of the story I think a loss like this would have a huge impact on Don and how he behaves. Or it could send him into a destruction spiral. My other thought was with last year’s suicide clues everyone figured it might be Pete, but instead it was Lane – could the same happen this year? Instead of Megan it could be her co-star Arlene who is pretty relaxed about how safe it is to walk through Central Park at night? The impact from Arlene’s death would be small so it’s unlikely to be her. Other potentials could be Betty, who we’ve also seen head into the city without thinking of her surroundings and they’ve also done the classic trick of making the audience like her again. I know Matt Weiner loves Betty and so I also think this won’t happen as the political storyline is too juicy. So we swing back to Megan. I love most of these theories come from a t-shirt and sirens.

Now to our favourite short shorts wearing enigma and Bob Benson. The brilliance of this character is how much my opinion changes as to whether he is doing these things for good or bad (to put it simply) throughout an episode. I was so happy to see that he was with Joan (though things didn’t seem romantic adding credence to the gay theory) but then I was sure he was going to tell Pete about Roger’s stop. Instead he told a story about his father (he told Ken his father is dead, Ken is crazy suspicious of Bob) and showed concern for Pete’s predicament. He’s been hitching his wagon to Pete all season and his concern seems genuine but why? Pete’s mother mentioned that Pete’s father had affairs so maybe he’s Pete’s illegitimate half brother?!?! And it’s not as crazy as the Don relation and this show does love illegitimate children.

One non conspiracy relating question – what do you think of Pete and Joan’s conversations of late? Is he trying to hit on her? It’s also interesting that Joan holds Pete in such high regard (she claims that he’s the only one who hasn’t broken a promise to her) even though he set up the Jaguar business.

MM_609_MY_0225_1137Kerensa: Yeah, that was something that was mentioned in the Manson documentary. I also recently saw The Source Family–about another cult but one on the more “happy” end of the spectrum if you will. And both discussed the ways in which that time era–with all its upheaval–was a time that these things could be formed.

I agree with that. Megan could totally be a red herring. And I don’t think it’s Arlene because like you said there would be little to no impact on the world of our characters. I don’t want it to be Betty either, but could you imagine the fallout from that? I mean I think that would destroy Don.

I really don’t want Bob to be a bad guy. I think basically everyone on this show is a bad person–so it would be refreshing to have a character that doesn’t have any sort of agenda. And I really hope him and Joan are together together! I dunno about this theory of him as Pete’s half brother. I see where you are coming from with it, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. And if it does (or Bob as Don’s son) that’s really pushing Mad Men into major soap opera territory.

With Pete and Joan, I feel like he’s just lonely. His life’s a mess and he doesn’t have anyone to talk to. He really has no one he can confide in at the office and Joan, if I was Pete, would be the person I would go to because she’s the most levelheaded one there.

Emma: Yes the brother theory is totally soapy and so I expect they won’t go this far. I hope you’re right about Bob being a good person, this show sure needs one of those.

Will we find out more about Bob tonight?

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is a staff writer for Women and Hollywood. She also writes for This Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. She was the Research Editor for Tomorrow magazine. You can follow her on Twitter and read her ridiculous thoughts about teen television at her website.

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7 Responses to “How Betty Got Her Groove Back and other Mad Men Musings”

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