Thursday, 22 May 2014

MAD MEN, 7.6 – 'The Strategy'

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Peggy wrestles with a Burger Chef pitch she's convinced needs improving, Bob Benson has a question for Joan, and Pete returns to New York with Bonnie...

PEGGY – she did it her way

The best storyline belonged to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), as she finalised her TV commercial pitch for Burger Chef; and, despite having it approved by her peers, immediately felt marginalised when Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) pushed for Don (Jon Hamm) to deliver the final pitch. At first it seemed like professional jealousy her old boss would be the one pushing her idea over the finish line, and taking the credit in the Burger Chef executive's eyes, but it was actually because Don's stray comment about its quality struck a chord. Peggy's known him so long that she can read his "praise" between the lines, and knows her Burger Chef pitch is merely adequate and a winner, when it could be sublime and game-changing.

This triggered an interesting war between Peggy and Don, who've been enemies all season. Don was privately celebrating two victories (the chance to make a big pitch again, the exertion of power over his uppity protege), and Peggy was thrown into professional turmoil because she still acknowledges Don's talent and believes her work isn't up to her mentor's high standard. Thankfully, I enjoyed seeing these two characters bury the hatchet eventually; working together after-hours to overhaul the Burger Chef strategy, while drinking and letting their old friendship reignite their working relationship. As platonic couples go, Mad Men's handling of Don and Peggy has always been one of the best on television. I'm so pleased they're back as a partnership, because Don needs all the support he can get at SC&P these days. I wonder if the final season will end with Don and Peggy as co-partners of a new agency. Draper & Olson has a nice ring to it...

BOB BENSON – the job proposal

Cult favourite Bob Benson (James Wolk) made his season 7 debut this week (belatedly), and left a big impression on the episode. First he was the bringer of bad tidings, as Chevy are ditching SC&P for their new XP project, and then he decided to propose to "girlfriend" Joan (Christina Hendricks) and was open about how it's more of an arrangement for them both. As a closeted gay man poised to accept a fancy new job by a grateful Chevy, he simply feels like he needs a beautiful wife like Joan on his arm, and seemed convinced Joan would go along with it because she's a single mother approaching 40. I really like Bob as a character, but this was a terrible insult and made me think much less of him as a person.

PETE – despicable daddy

Bob may have been angling to fake a marriage to further his career, but former family man Pete's beginning to realise just how much his career's cost him. Back in the Big Apple from sunny L.A, Pete quickly fell into his usual ways: embarrassed that his young daughter doesn't recognise him; then unjustly angry when Trudy (Alison Brie) returned home from a date, so he pointedly reminded her they're still married. A ludicrously hypocritical statement, given what Pete's been up to on the West Coast. (It was also a surprise to realise the Campbell's aren't divorced yet, or did I miss that being mentioned before now?)

Pete rarely gets shown in a good light on Mad Men, and this episode marked another nadir for him. It's unfortunate his own flesh-and-blood doesn't know him, but it sounded like Pete just hasn't bothered to stay in touch now he's basking in the Californian sun and has a hot new girlfriend. A lover he practically ditched once he touched down in NYC, only to scurry back to her for sex when Trudy told him some home truths about their situation. Good on Bonnie (Jessy Schram) for refusing to let Pete worm his way back into her affections using sex, too. She even flew home without him, mirroring fellow passenger Megan (Jessica Paré)—although the latter's the bigger fool, because at least Pete proudly tells the workforce about his sexy girlfriend. Did you see poor Megan's face when she realised a new secretary didn't even know Don was married! Awkward...


How many partners can a company have? Harry Crane joins the ranks now, so maybe we'll end the series with every single character from season 1 owning a piece of SC&P? Who's next? Dawn the secretary?


"The Strategy" was a very strong episode for this seventh season, and words can't express how relieved I was to see Don and Peggy move past their acrimony. The final shot of them eating fast-food inside a Burger Chef, with Pete joining them across the table, was also fantastic; highlighting the fact disparate people can become a "family", which is exactly the thinking behind Don and Peggy's new pitch. The romantic notion of a busy housewife, breadwinner father, and two smiling kids, are beginning to feel very stale as the 1970s loom...

written by Semi Chellas | directed by Phil Abraham | 21 May 2014 | Sky Atlantic