Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Subtle Art of Retribution on Mad Men

I'm all caught up on Mad Men Season Two, thanks to iTunes and I have to say, there's definitely one thing creator Matt Weiner learned from his time on The Sopranos. Oh, there are no dead girlfriends or cement shoes, but there are still delicious platters of revenge being served up on this show, cold as a spread from the local deli.

New York ad man Don Draper set the bar for exacting punitive damage in Season One. In the episode "Red in the Face," Don brings his boss Roger home for dinner, who promptly gets drunk and hits on his wife. Roger apologizes to Don the next day and Don seems to accepts it. But then you see Don slipping the elevator attendant a few dollars before he takes Roger out for a three-martini lunch. When they return for a client meeting, the elevator has mysteriously broken down. Here's what happens next:

While nothing so far compares to that masterpiece, Season 2 continues the grand tradition (spoilers below!):

Peggy versus Joan

Peggy Olsen, promoted from the secretarial pool to copywriter, berates her replacement for a lack of discretion on behalf of their mutual boss, Don.
When Joan, the office manager, finds the new girl sobbing...

...she figures out the perfect place to put the new, enormous Xerox machine.

Joan versus Paul

When Joan Holloway takes a not-so-subtle jab at her ex-lover's Paul Kinsey's new girlfriend, who happens to be black, he confronts her. "You...falling in love with that girl just to show how interesting you are." Before he can retort, she says "Go ahead. What part is wrong?" Later, a xerox copy of her drivers license mysteriously appears on a bulletin board, revealing, horror of horrors, that Joan is 31.

These last two incidents may not be revenge on a conscious level, but they are certainly payback:

Peggy versus her sister

Peggy's sister and mother are raising the child Peggy had two years ago out of wedlock. Meanwhile, Peggy has compartmentalized her life, ignoring her son and living a seemingly glamorous life on Madison Avenue, which drives her sister crazy. This is exacerbated when the family invites their local priest over for dinner and he takes an interest in Peggy's work, asking for advice on his Palm Sunday sermon. In confession with the father later that week, the sister "admits" to being so angry at her sister for having seduced a married man and having a baby out of wedlock.

Betty versus Don

Betty has been up all night worried about Don. She suspects he has been fooling around, and he has--he's been sleeping with the wife and manager of his client and has had an accident while driving drunk to her beach house. When he arrives home, her anger turns to concern when Don confesses to having gotten in a car accident --due to a bad reaction to alcohol and his high-blood pressure medicine. The next day, taking his first bite of a home cooked meal, Don asks for salt but Betty refuses. Their daughter asks why. "Because we love him," says Betty as she coolly takes a bite of meatloaf.

Have I missed anything? Let me know!

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