We all knew it was coming. As soon as we learned that this season would be taking place in 1967, I had Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in mind. But I never could have predicted how powerful the episode could be – but last night, I found out.
Within the first fifteen minutes of Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men, Peggy is apartment hunting with Abe (with her money, of course), Bobby is peeling the wallpaper in his room (apparently he’s a character now?), and Don and Megan get all dolled up for the big advertising award ceremony.
As Paul Newman, who comically appears as a speak from SCDP’s tables, is introducing the awards, a man shouts out an almost inaudible jeer, causing the room to go into panic. A fade to the Francis home reveals that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been shot and killed.
Ginsberg, who had been set up on a blind date, sits in a diner when the news breaks, causing the episode’s most powerful moment of two black cooks on the verge of collapsing in the wake of the radio announcement.
If you recall, last episode the writers tried to incorporate Dawn and black culture into the show and it really didn’t work out or seem to make sense. Now it does.
Cinematically, my favorite shot from last night is when Peter and Trudy are on the phone, both of them listening to the same broadcaster unveil the news. She is ardent about the parameter she set around the house after finding out about Peter’s affair. Peter, however, is distraught that he will not be able to see his child.
Conversely, Don wants nothing to do with the kids and thinks that for their safety they should not come in to the city to stay with him for the weekend. However, Betty being Betty insists, so Sally, Bobby, and Gene come to the Big Apple.
Meanwhile, Joan and Peggy both deal with their African American secretaries in very distinct ways. Peggy gives a delayed, but genuine hug to her employee, whereas Joan goes in for the awkward, Voldemort hug.
This episode guest starred William Mapother as Randall Walsh, who plays a trippy insurance tycoon (I think). But besides his crazy rants about Tecumseh and being visited by Dr. King’s spirit, what took me back was that he also played Ethan Rom on Lost! Maybe this is intended to be a crossover episode? It would fit with Lost’s constant time jumps!
In the office, Harry and Pete argue about how their business relates to the Dr. King assassination. Harry is displeased that many of their scheduled ads will not air during the regular primetime shows because of the continuous coverage of the riots that have broken out in the wake of the murder. Pete, who we actually get to agree with for once, puts Harry in his place by reminding him that Dr. King was a man with a wife and four kids. Cooper ultimately breaks up the fight – the writers needed to squeeze him into the episode somehow.
Towards the end of the episode, Don takes Bobby to the movies to see The Planet of the Apes. His son is so fascinated by the movie – which symbolically relates to the Dr. King assassination, in that humans are doing more harm to the world than good – that they stay for a second showing. As they wait for the second feature to start, Bobby questions a black theater attendant as to whether or not he has seen the film. When he says he has not yet, Bobby (the show’s apparent new character) says, “Everyone likes to go to the movies when they’re sad.” Atta boy, Bobby.
Don later reveals to Megan that he had never loved his children the way he thought he was supposed to love them until that moment, giving Don a much more human quality (something he has been lacking this season so far).
Overall, this episode, like the JFK assassination episode, is powerful beyond words. The writers, who suffered a major loss to Homeland at last year’s Golden Globes and Emmy’s, are proving that this is the same show that audiences fell in love with six years ago. And if the acting keeps up, maybe Christina Hendricks or Elizabeth Moss can pull a fast one on Claire Danes. But let’s be honest, John Hamm has no chance – especially with Damien Lewis’ performance in the last season of Homeland and Bryan Cranston’s final season of Breaking Bad scheduled to premiere in July.