The overarching theme of this season of Mad Men still appears to be death, with last night’s hour, “To Have and to Hold,” offering a side dish of betrayal, made especially poignant with Stan realizing Peggy has betrayed their friendship. Stan went to that men’s room sadder but wiser, offering a finger of salute to Peggy as he went by.
The season opener practically hit us over the head with the death theme, and last night many of the female characters who usually wear bright colors were seen in black, as well as the current Don Draper extramarital paramour, who has been a funereal character with her dark colors since her first appearance. Don’s affair with the heart surgeon’s wife is an affair with death.
Make no mistake: every detail of the show, from makeup to hair to costumes to set decoration, is there to tell you something about the story.
So many of the characters in last night’s episode embarked on new paths, tried new things, even if they were small steps. Joan let loose even after protesting that she’s “not going to play this game.” Peggy went head to head with Don in a pitch and actually seemed to have a better idea. Harry asserted himself more forcefully than ever before. Megan did a love scene for the first time in her TV career.
In contrast, Don, the ostensible protagonist of the show, is trapped in the same old rut he’s been in since we first saw him years ago. It appears the story is becoming how everyone around Don is growing, but that Don himself will never change. And in the end, he’s not and will never be the good guy. Waiting for Don to grow is like waiting for Godot.