07 June 2013
After spending the majority of its run in that strange time period of the early 60’s, when the Rolling Stones wore suits and hippies were beatniks, it’s quite enjoyable to watch Mad Men enter full counterculture radical protest against Vietnam mode. The main action of the story kicks off when Don, Roger, and Harry take a trip to Los Angeles, nominally to meet with advertisers, but really so that they can put on their finest business casual wear and hit up a swinging party filled with hippie girls. Don, who has seemed at best ambivalent and at worst disdainful towards this new social movement, finds himself smoking a hookah pipe, filled with what exactly, we can only imagine. Don trips out. Hard.
This is another chance for Mad Men to show off how well it handles visuals. Don’s freak out is filmed beautifully, complete with hallucinations of Megan asking for a second chance, Don arguing that that isn’t even his real name, a meeting with the soldier from the season premiere, who’s had his arm blown off and tells Don that “dying doesn’t make you whole again”, and Don standing over the pool, watching his own body float in the water. He comes to and its reveled that Don really did go into the pool and that Roger, a man in his sixties with two heart attacks, saved him. A bad trip indeed. This brings back the recurring theme of identity, it seems like Don is struggling with the truth that the Draper identity he created isn’t real, that everything in the world is just as false as the advertising he creates.
Back in New York, Joan got a big chunk of storyline in this episode for a change. She brings a potentially huge account into the company, and instead of handing it over to Pete, as she was instructed, Joan takes matters into her own hands. She arranges a lunch where she and Peggy can sweet talk the executive, and deliberately leaves Pete out of the equation. The meeting goes very well, but Pete is still furious and spends the rest of the episode whining to whoever will listen to him. Never mind the fact that Pete is totally right, he’s just such a weasel that it’s almost impossible to feel even a little bit sorry for him. Joan was made a partner over a year ago, but it’s clear that she does not command the respect from the others that she deserves. It seems that sleeping with the Jaguar executive, while ensuring her partnership, seemed to make everyone else forget the years of work that she has put into the company. Even Peggy looks down on her, and angrily tells Joan that she has worked for her position. Peggy is implying that Joan has slept her way to the top, which is untrue and very harsh considering that obstacles both of them have overcome.
And the partners finally chose a name. Say hello to Sterling Cooper & Partners.
Character Spotlight: Michael Ginsberg
This episode was all about fighting between two conflicting groups of people. The aged and the young, the old and the new, the veterans and the inexperience, the content and the angry. The most on-the-nose example was this was when new partner Cutler argued with youthful creative talent Ginsberg over the Vietnam War. Ginsberg is shrill and emotional, while Cutler remains cold and uncaring, arguing that he has no real stake in the fight and thus no reason for strong emotions, which only pushes Ginsberg closer to hysteria.
Ginsberg is different than Stan, who fills the role of a more stereotypical hippie dissatisfied with the system in general, while Ginsberg seems to have a real burning to rage towards the war. It’s been established that Ginsberg is the son of holocaust survivors, and this instilled in him as strong since of right and wrong. He has a finely tuned since of justice and injustice, because he knows the consequences of violence and uncheck power. This is way he reacts so angrily when Cutler mentions his own Air Force service and insinuates Ginsberg lack of courage for not enlisting, but to Ginsberg it couldn’t matter less if he enlisted or. Something is wrong and it should be fixed and that’s the only thing that matters.
Ginsberg also represents a different aspect of the youth culture in the late 1960’s. He is differently liberal politically and he rejects the actions of the government, but he still holds down a regular job and a steady income, He is probably like most youths were at the time: concerned for the future of their country and wishing for societal change, by it’s not like everyone quit their jobs, moved to San Francisco and dropped acid. He dislikes the already negative view of hippies and the counterculture movement, because it’s another tool that the old guys in charge can use to sweep away their legitimate concerns and take away their constitution right to voice an opinion.