Advertisements

How Betty Took Control Back on Mad Men

11 May

When Betty Draper visited a psychiatrist back in season one of Mad Men her doctor reported back to Don. When she gave birth in season three she was so out of it thanks to the cocktail of drugs her dreams were more vivid than the actual labor. Now in the penultimate episode Betty receives some devastating health related news and her doctor will only tell her what is wrong when her husband gets there. When Henry doesn’t trust this first diagnosis (he trusts it enough to snatch Betty’s cigarettes from her hands that once trembled long ago) and when they visit another doctor the men talk about her diagnosis and options as if she isn’t in the room.

Mad Men 7.13 Betty DraperThe camera stays on Betty with the men out of focus in the background; she is the object being discussed and while they do so without acknowledging her we cannot escape her face of concern. We linger with her as she registers the only real fear we see from her over the episode as she moves through the stages pretty quickly only briefly resting on denial and ending up with acceptance by the time we hear her sob inducing letter to Sally. I thought the Peggy/Stan chat was bad enough on tear stained cheek scale and yet this hits the upper echelon of crying; the heave sob.

Mad Men 7.13 Betty diagnosisHenry is proactive and he’s always been one for finding a solution or a better way; he offered her an escape from her awful marriage playing the role of savior, but this is one thing he can’t save her from no matter how many connections he has with the Rockefellers. The cancer is aggressive and has spread so the treatments will only prolong her life for nine months to a year. Betty’s refusal to embrace this chance baffles Henry so he breaks her confidence and goes to the one person he think can sway.

Now to a devastating scene in a string of devastating scenes and one which hit me in a personal way that I was not expecting; some backstory and when I was 15 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, thankfully they caught it early and she made a full recovery. There was something so familiar about the way Sally was told and her reaction, from the covering of the ears to not fully grasping the severity of the diagnosis while totally understanding it all at once.

Mad Men 7.13 Sally earsKiernan Shipka knocks it out of the park as she quickly moves between extreme emotions and I also want to single out Christopher Stanley’s performance particularly when Henry can’t hold in the tears any longer. The level of vulnerability from Henry is brand new and her eyes do this thing where she isn’t quite sure how to respond so she does the only thing she can and puts a reassuring hand on his back. My dad was torn to pieces in the same way and it’s hard to put into words quite how much this scene resonates with me. It also doesn’t help that my screen is pretty blurry as I type this and it is something I haven’t thought about in a long time.

Mad Men 7.13 Sally and HenryWhen Betty sees Sally as part of a surprise visit (she tells her brothers the very believable story that she did something bad at school again) the look she gives her is of pure disgust. Once again her choice has been taken away from her as Henry has gone against her wishes. Betty wrestles her control back by choosing to do nothing except carry on as if everything is fine.

A late night conversation with Sally underlines why Betty is behaving like this and it is tied to how she watched her own mother die – Betty’s relationship with her mother and the pressure she was put under goes a long way to explain why Betty is the way she is – and the last thing Betty wants is to see her daughter to go through the same life altering experience. Of course this is going to impact Sally in ways Betty can’t control; there’s no easy fix for pain like this, but she can have some influence on how this ends. Sally gets one final moment of snark in telling her mother that she is refusing treatment because she loves the tragedy and while this is far from a warm and fuzzy conversation it is as close to mother/daughter bonding as we’re going to get. Betty has offered advice to Sally on makeup and boys in fleeting moments but here she is passing on real words of wisdom telling her that she has fought for plenty in her life and how it is not a weakness to know when to move on. In fact this could be considered the least selfish thing Betty has done. She already looks like a ghostly vision in this nightdress.

Mad Men 7.13 Betty nightdressOne of the thematic threads running through “The Milk and Honey Route” is all about instincts and “how do you know when…?” Pete is all about looking at opportunity and ignoring his desire to always look for something better, Don uses his experience of forever running from who he is to pass on knowledge to someone he sees a lot of himself in and Betty knows when it is time to stop and live the rest of however short her life is the way she wants to.

Mad Men 7.13 Betty collegeThis means continuing with college (I am so bummed out that my potential Betty Draper therapist spinoff is even more unlikely now) and Henry’s initial question of why is met with “Why was I ever doing it?” And that’s all Henry needs to know that his wife is right; it’s going to be horrible but right here, right now this decision makes sense. When Betty looks at you like that you know she’s going to do what she wants.

It now feels very apparent that last week’s kitchen shoulder rub is the last Don and Betty scene and I am so glad it was one with such strong affection giving Jon Hamm and January Jones one last hurrah with each other. Betty and Don were terrible together, but like Pete, I find myself nostalgic and sentimental for how it was.

Mad Men 7.13 letterAnd now to the episode kicker and Betty’s final act of control and the letter she has given Sally includes all the instructions regarding her funeral details down to her outfit and hair (when brushing her hair earlier in the episode this felt like focusing on part of her body she can stop from breaking). Sally is not meant to open it until after she dies but I don’t think Betty expected her to pay attention to this wish. It is a mostly practical letter, but it is the closing sentiment which shows a final understanding of who her daughter is and shatters me into a million pieces.

“Sally, I always worried about you because you march to the beat of your own drum, but now I know that’s good. I know your life will be an adventure.”

Mad Men 7.13 Don DraperOne episode to go. Hold me.

 

Advertisements

4 Responses to “How Betty Took Control Back on Mad Men”

  1. Kathy May 11, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    The disclosure of Betty Draper’s illness and prognosis is the first time I’ve ever gasped out load while watching an episode Mad Men. And odds are it will be the only time.

    • Emma Fraser May 12, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      The lawnmower incident is the one Mad Men gasp moment I can think of, but of a very different kind.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mad Men Series Finale “Person to Person” – One Call at a Time | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 18, 2015

    […] secret but deep down she knows her father should be told about Betty’s condition. Last week’s entire episode had me yelling at the screen for Sally to ring Don and tell him so he could come swooping home, but […]

  2. TV to be Thankful For: A Pre-End of Year List (of Sorts) | TV Ate My Wardrobe - November 26, 2015

    […] many times Mad Men made me […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Ex-aspirational

Depression, creativity and the pressures of growing up, as told by a twenty-something not living her best life

Julie Hammerle

Nerds Need Love Too

Sofa and Remote

I love talking about TV as much as I love watching it

Ellie Writes Stuff

About this and that

Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Authors, Bloggers, Fashion Assassins

Twitter Music Club

A rotation curation music club, based on Twitter, mainly for Kiwis

INTO ROW Z

If you enjoy a challenge, like Claude Makélélé, read my blog. Its about sport.

lost somewhere in new york city

We rock a lot of polka dots

sankles

We rock a lot of polka dots

frocktalk.com/

Just another WordPress.com site

Cultural Learnings

Television Reviews and Analysis

judgmental observer

film, tv, popular culture, higher ed, unicorns

Rookie

We rock a lot of polka dots

ScreenFad

TV show news, reviews, recaps, spoilers, and photos

The Frisky

We rock a lot of polka dots

irkyle.wordpress.com/

I review this shit so you don't have to.

%d bloggers like this: