I want to be clear that I haven’t seen every episode of “Mad Men.” I watched early on, then faded on the show for a while, then came back and have watched religiously — every Sunday! — for the past three seasons.
So bear that proviso in mind when I argue that this season of “Mad Men” might be the best.
Part of that belief might be because so many episodes this season seem tied to a specific event — one in the news from that period or even just in the personal lives of the characters — but I think a lot of that feeling seems to be because this season is about something.
Sure, the series has always been about desperation to some extent. Don’s remaking of himself; Roger’s realization that his career is fading; Pete’s attempts to claw his way up the Madison Avenue ladder.
But this season the show has reached new highs — lows — of desperation, from Don’s love-hate relationship with the women in his life to Roger, Pete and Lane’s self-destructive behavior.
This week’s episode, “The Other Woman,” pushed the characters even closer to the edge. As Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce tries for a second time to land the Jaguar account, a tri-state Jaguar dealer lets Pete know how he wants to seal the deal: A night of sex with bombshell Joan.
Pete is slimy enough to take the idea and run with it and most of the other partners agree. Only Don, who has more conflicted feelings about women than anyone else, seems repulsed by the idea. But he expresses his displeasure only by saying “no” and walking out of the room.
Meanwhile, Don turns to Ginsburg for the perfect pitch for Jaguar, while Peggy fields a pitch of her own: She’s asked to join a rival ad firm at a substantially better rate of pay.
Outside the office, Megan meets resistance from Don when she wants to pursue her acting career in an out-of-town play.
Thoughts while watching the episode:
Is Pete irredeemable by this point?
For several episodes we worried that Roger was headed for a fall. Will that happen in the final two episodes?
Could Don have been more dismissive and offensive than when he threw money at Peggy, and more pathetic than when he sank to his knees before her when she said she was leaving?
Surely we haven’t seen the last of Peggy?