Mad Men Review by Henry Tran

Mad Men 7.05: The Runaways

Mad Men 7.05: The Runaways

Written By:
David Iserson and Matthew Weiner
Directed By:
Christopher Manley

The cartoon ad that Lou Avery drew, the one that Stan finds on the company copier at the beginning of this episode, says that Scout can "take anything but an order." If Scout is part of the military or an underling in an office, that phrase would be interpreted in an ironic way. The characters in the episode don't necessarily follow what is ordered or expected of them. Some of them don't act like they're expected to. They aren't aware they're actively doing this, but it was easy to spot throughout the episode.

We're well aware of the rules and stipulations the partners laid out for Don to keep his job. His time in the military means that he can certainly take orders from a superior. The problem is that no one in the office likes him. They tolerate him. Those above him are looking for any avenue to push him out. So he goes against orders. This is the same for Betty in her marriage with Henry. Going against the grain makes Ginsberg go crazy and do something altogether shocking enough that he has to be wheeled out of the office on a gurney. That's the cost of not taking an order and doing what you're told. Open rebellion is sometimes a good thing, but right now is mostly a bad thing that will damage your position. Especially in a buttoned-down place like a business office.

I think it's gotten to the point where Don feels that Megan is completely alien to him. Watch how his tone of voice changes whenever he talks to her versus talking to Stephanie. Stephanie, who hasn't been seen onscreen since season four, is actually Anna Draper's niece so she's a relative stranger to Don compared to his wife. Yet, this fact doesn't mean that Don appears warmer to her than Megan. He genuinely wants to see Stephanie, moving up his plans to go to California by one week to see her. Office politics prevent this from occurring but I couldn't help but wonder how differently things would have turned out if he made it out to California in time. When Don talks to Megan now, it's in a flat, cold, disaffected tone that suggests they are no longer married. He gets to California but misses Stephanie after Megan abruptly pays the girl off (using Don's money). Megan is clearly jealous of the bond Don has with Stephanie, along with the fact that she's young, pregnant, and knows most of the secrets that he has long kept away from his wife. It would never advance to a romantic relationship, but Stephanie has a connection with Don that isn't tied down by baggage. 

To Don, Megan might as well be an alien from a completely different world. He doesn't associate with her friends at her party, stares blankly at her when she dances with another man, even leaves in the middle of the party to drink with Harry Crane. You can see it plainly just by seeing his square, clean suit standing out in the middle of all these free-flowing, hippie outfits. He doesn't belong. Don will engage in a threesome with a stranger and his wife because he's drunk and a heterosexual male, but it has no meaning to him. Megan wants it to mean that he's embracing the lifestyle out here on the West Coast. It's a clear desperation ploy that doesn't work. The gap in their relationship gets larger when she throws a silent jealousy fit during Don's morning phone conversation with Stephanie. This marriage is crumbling, and has been for a while now. I don't think we've seen the dissolution to its end yet.

Not that things are much better at work. SC&P has the look of a place falling apart at the seams. People are openly sniping against each other, with secret plots and schemes that have the objective mainly of Don's ouster. The "Scout's Honor" cartoon is worthy of ridicule, mainly because I would question what Lou is trying to achieve with it. Does it serve to inspire the creative team in some way? Lou is generally regarded as average in terms of creativity and the only way for him to fight this perception is to engage in petty, passive-aggressive tactics against Don (which lead to him missing the aforementioned flight to California to see Stephanie). Lou is becoming worse as time passes by, and his underlings aren't helping the cause. I mean, Ginsberg thinks that the new computer is causing everyone in the office to become homosexual, which is, in itself, a crazy thought. 

He's always been an annoying character with no filter, but tolerated because he's put out some inspired work over the years. Here, he goes too far outside the lines in cutting off his nipple and presenting it to Peggy. It's a suitably shocking sight, almost too fitting with his assertion about the computer's effects on the occupants of the office. That is probably the least of the worries, though. Don's pitch to Philip Morris at the end can be seen as a last ditch attempt to prove his value to both his own agency and other agencies out there, or the final death knell to his position as partner. It clearly violates the stipulations that got him his job back, but it can be argued that Cutler and Lou were covertly aiming to push him out with that meeting. It's looking like this will lead to some kind of faceoff between the men, with the other partners standing in the middle. That would tip the balance against Don, but he could easily sway Peggy, Pete, even Harry, Ted, and Stan to vouch for his continued presence in the office.

Everything surrounding Don once again marginalizes Betty's storyline. I admire that Matthew Weiner is trying to make her a relevant character but it has to be accepted now that whatever material given to her just won't have the weight of whatever's happening to Don. Her isolation from the office politics and everything else also doesn't help matters. There is friction between her and Henry due to the outing of her thoughts on the Vietnam War. Henry seems to expect that she be the good wife and hostess without a thought of her own. It's a rather sexist and Old World way of thinking so her position of independent thought has merit. The fighting understandably gives Bobby a constant stomach ache.

Betty doesn't even know that she's slowly losing her kids. She has long had multiple issues with Sally (this latest "swordfighting" with golf clubs incident adds to that) so it's no real surprise that Sally is openly rebelling against her mother. She has nothing but contempt now for her. When Betty says that she wants to "break (Sally's) arm," there is the brief thought that that might happen (she has hit Sally before). It's ugly all around, and one wonders if Bobby's question of their possible divorce might be a good thing for these kids. Staying in line and following orders may be a good thing if you want to keep the status quo as long as possible. When there are constant signs of chaos, a different course is necessary to effect change. They're on the cusp of a new decade, coming out of an arguably turbulent one. Perhaps change would be best.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Good exploration of Don's current mental state
  • The fractures in the agency continue to widen
The Bad:
  • Betty's subplots continue to be intrusive
  • Ginsberg's psychotic break is an odd turn

Henry Tran is a regular contributor of review for Critical Myth; The Critical Myth Show is heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @HenYay

Mad Men by - 5/14/2014 6:45 AM215 views

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