We’ve been spoiled the last two weeks by humdinger episodes, and this was a slower, moodier night of TV. But it opened with a bang, as our Mad women prepared for battle as a modern-day Decemberists song blared in the background. The tension of the entire evening was laid out in that first scene as Betty armed herself in white lingerie and Joan swathed herself in blue and black. They are the archetypal Jackie and Marilyn women that the Sterling Cooper team would later pitch to Playtex. (Though, as was deliciously pointed out, “Marilyn is really a Joan, not the other way around.”)
The evening was all about self-image; who we hope to see in the mirror and who, in the end really, looks back at us. So it was no surprise then that Betty and Joan dressed in front of a mirror, winking shrewdly at their own best assets. Cut to Peggy, who doesn’t dress in front of a mirror, pulling on her nylons with the surreptitiousness of a shy junior high school girl trying to show the least amount of skin possible when changing for gym class. Betty and Joan know who they are, or at least who the world expects them to be. Peggy’s identity is still up in the air. “Which one am I?” she demanded of her crass colleagues, who were bent on reducing women to either Madonnas or whores. “You’re Gertrude Stein,” cracked that weasel Ken. Don, with such genuine affection and admiration, told Peggy that she was more of an Irene Dunne. God bless him for that — though it was the only time he really shone all night.
Poor Peggy was getting the shaft every time she turned around. Pete oozed into her office after the long Memorial Day weekend and sneered, “So the libraries were closed yesterday, what did you do?” She’d worked on the pitch for your father-in-law’s account, you dope, the one that you keep trying to dumb down with the tagline of, duh, “Thanks, Clearasil.” Then she got nudged over to the edge of the Playtex account because she hadn’t been out carousing with the boys after hours when they stumbled onto the lunkhead idea that women don’t dress for themselves or each other, but rather for their husbands and friends’ husbands. She wasn’t getting the memos; she wasn’t included in plans to join the clients at the Tom Tom Club. Finally, she sought out Joan, who was weary herself of the men in the office bothering her about her lingerie habit, she sought out Joan and pleaded with her to remind the girls to keep Peggy in the loop. Joan looked down at Peggy with her familiar mixture of scorn and pity and just a smidge of awe. “You’re in their country now,” she told Peggy. “Learn to speak their language….You want to be taken seriously? Stop dressing like a little girl.”
NEXT: Peggy’s transformation