5Takeaways from Mad Men, A Tale of Two Cities

On last week’s Mad Men, we had sort of a reset. After the characters in the episode before that experimented with different sort of drugs, we had a really interesting scene between Don and Betty, the trials and tribulations of Grandpa Roger Sterling and a beach date between Bob Benson and Joan Holloway.

This week we saw a much more “plot” driven episode where Roger and Don go to Los Angeles and the entire cast is dealing with Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

Here are #5Takeaways from last night’s episode:

1. We are starting to see a clear delineation between two generations.

Even though the episode title “A Tale of Two Cities,” may refer to the differences between California and New York (more on the this later), I think it can also refer to the differences between the two generations of people at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP). Each Mad Men episode takes place about a month apart from each other. The 1968 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago from August 26-29th. The younger cast members like Ginsberg and Meghan are interested in what the candidates have to say about the Vietnam War, while Cutler and Draper are convinced that Nixon will win no matter what.

The two generations come to a head, when after Ginsberg reads about “200 body bags” and the violence due to the protests becomes very frustrated. The two candidates at the DNC have both rejected the peace plan proposed. Cutler begins to berate Ginsberg and calls him a hypocrite because he is doing advertising campaigns for Dow Chemical, one of the war profiteers. While Meghan sympathizes with the protesters, Don simply says that if the protestors are throwing rocks, they should be prepared for trouble. The protests continue to be background noise for the rest of the episode.

2. Being a partner is not enough for Joan.

For the entire Mad Men series we have viewed Joan as someone who will do whatever she cans in order to climb the corporate ladder. We see her sleep with the Jaguar manager in order to become a partner at SCDP. In this episode we first see her at a dinner with another man. We learn that he is head of marketing at Avon and Joan is under the impression that it is a date. However, the “date” soon turns into a power lunch. It’s clear that Avon needs a new ad agency and Joan believes she can sign them.

At the office, Pete Campbell is excited but believes it his responsibility to sign new clients, while Joan can show them around the office. Joan, pissed off, takes it upon herself has an additional meeting without telling Campbell. She signs the client, and when Campbell finds out, freaks out. Joan ends up winning, becoming the account manager. Ted seems pretty angry also, until Peggy fakes a phone call from the Avon representative. After the “rep” is looking for Joan, the client is hers. Campbell runs to the creative offices to smoke a joint.

3. The original SCDP is becoming too concerned with themselves.

While Cosgrove is not successful in relaying SCDP’s brand strategy to Chevrolet and Don and Roger are gallivanting in Los Angeles, Cutler and Ted have to run the business. They are having an issue with the Jewish wine Manischewitz and need to nail down a Chevrolet strategy. Normally the might have sent Campbell or Don to help assuage their fears, but instead Ted goes to Detroit and Bob Benson goes to talk with Manischewitz. It seems like Cutler is trying to almost run the original SCDP employees out of town.

Benson seems really excited and tries to extricate Ginsberg from self-pitying himself. Doing his best anti-Don Draper imitation, Benson tells Ginsberg that “you need to be in the right place, all the time.” This seems to be the mantra Benson lives by. The meeting with Manischewitz does not go well, and SCDP goes into review. The meeting with Chevy goes very well however. Ted gets to see the “secret car” and the brass sign off on SCDP’s plan.

4. Don and Roger have a wacky California trip.

While Joan is making some serious moves back in New York, Don and Roger are meeting with Carnation in Los Angeles. But of course the tackily dressed Harry Crane has to take them to a party. Harry Crane looks absolutely ridiculous. He is two the late 60s as a poser hipster looks in Brooklyn right now. Before they go to the party Meghan tells Don that maybe he should take a swim to unwind. When they get to the party, we see how truly these “two cities” are. In Los Angeles no one is wearing a suit; everyone has some sort of hippie garb.

I feel like Weiner is trying to make a comment with the clothing, but I would argue that the clothing people wore in New York was probably the same as what they wore in Los Angeles. Don and Roger are just MUCH older than everyone around them. They might not be a “tale of two cities,” but a “tale of two generations.”

5. Cue Drug Sequence!

It wouldn’t be a Mad Men episode if there wasn’t a drug sequence this year. During the party Don smokes some hash and starts to imagine Meghan just when he’s about to make out with someone else. He sees Meghan pregnant and then envisions the solider he married in Hawaii (he tells Don he’s dead). Don then goes out to the pool and sees someone faces down in the pool with clothes on. The man is Don. Roger gives CPR and Don wakes up. Things are not looking good for Don Draper.

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