Mad Men – “Maidenform”

“Maidenform”

August 31st, 2008

During this busy period in my personal life, Mad Men is a bit behind schedule, and what thoughts I do have about this week’s episode will be truncated (by my standards at least). The episode is a lot about mirrors, and I just wrote an entire post about mirror universes in regards to the Middleman, so I’m just going to list some of my favourite moments.

First off, Duck’s entire storyline is a very strongly guided image of a man fighting alcoholism while another man takes the life that he lost due to that battle. I don’t know if I have been so emotional about a Mad Men scene as I was when Chauncey (The beloved family pet who now only reminds him of his family) was sent out to the streets of Manhattan to fend for himself since Duck couldn’t stand to have the dog watch while he fell back into his old habits. These storylines are signs that, no matter what direction the show takes, it is in very good hands moving forward.

Second, Elisabeth Moss really does clean up nice doesn’t she? Peggy’s little storyline here is what we’ve been getting from her work relationship, ever since that Belle Jolie copy – she’s one of the group, but she isn’t one of the guys. The whole reason she’s so defensive with Pete about her Clearasil ideas is that being a copy writer is the only thing she can lord over him – their feud of sorts (with a great deal of sexual tension) has been going on for quite some time, and now that Peggy technically outranks him in the office hierarchy she is making every attempt to keep his social superiority from overcoming her own skills and efforts. What works so well about the episode is that Peggy getting left out of every decision has us being left out of every decision: we don’t see Kinsey conceive the idea, we don’t see the inside of the hiring room, and we see the art for the first time when Peggy does. Whether a nice dress, putting her hair down and giggling on a client’s lap gets her any better attention is anyone’s guess, but she’s putting herself out there.

As for Pete and Don’s affairs, you have to wonder how much Pete’s tryst with the rejected model is perhaps similar to Don’s conquests at his younger age. The episode actually brings up that Don could have somewhat of a reputation (As Pete does around Sterling Cooper, perhaps) amongst powerful women, and there was obviously mistresses before Midge came around; considering this, perhaps he once came back to his home with a shit-eating grin on his face, feeling powerful and mighty in the hallway mirror. How long will it be, though, before he can’t stand to have people look at him as Sally does Don, with love and caring when they know the truth (In Don’s case, both his identity switch during his military service and his adulterous ways)?

And, since I did promise to keep this short, I was very put off by the use of a modern, and to me well known, song in the opening montage. I was actually convinced that I had mistakingly pressed play on my iTunes, bringing up The Decemberists’ “The Infanta” while the episode was playing. It’s not that it’s a bad song, but it just felt too clean for the era it is depicting – there’s something about brassier tones that help denote the era, and this placed it too much in our own period. If they really wanted to use the song, I have to wonder whether the band might have been willing to record a new version or something (This is in my own parallel universe where Mad Men is a huge hit and everyone wants a piece); either way, an odd start to an otherwise strong episode.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Mad Men – “Maidenform”

  1. Great write up (even when short!). I thought the same thing about Infanta used at the beginning, though for some reason in thinking back on the episode, The Incredible Moses Leroy’s “Fuzzy” comes to mind as a modern song that would’ve worked better (or at least seemed more..appropriate?) for that opening bra sequence. Great catch on the Pete/Don link, I didn’t even think of that.

  2. Jeff

    Another great write up ; ).
    About this episode.. the “Maidenform” or the ” Maiden voyage”. I think this refers to the journey of life.
    First off we start with Pete ,whom as you have noticed, is a younger version of Don. Embarking on a love conquest over the models (Betty was a model too).

    Then of course we see Don and his struggle and guilt over his dalliances.

    And finally, we learn that Duck is divorced.We don’t know the reason over the divorce yet, but his wife did mention that Duck was always busy in the afternoon and seemed reluctant to discuss about that in front of his kids.Perhaps he was having an affair?

    So we see the young,the married ,and the divorced.

    Is this episode supposed to foreshadow Don’s marriage life with Betty ?

    Well lets wait till next week ; )

  3. Jeff, I think you’re right about the young and the married, but I would tend to think Duck’s divorce falls less on an affair with a woman and more an affair with the bottle: when he was hired, there was mention of some problems at the last job. So perhaps his ex-wife was more worried about him being plastered in the afternoon than with someone else, if you will. Either way, it does paint a picture of what Don and Pete could both me moving towards should their current behaviour continue.

    Euge, I hadn’t ever heard the song before, but you’re right that “Fuzzy” sounds like the type of song that could both present a modern twist while remaining within the audio range we expect from the era. Whatever got you thinking it, very solid choice!

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