Mad Men Review: “Dark Shadows” (Season 5, Episode 9)


Mad Men Review: "Dark Shadows" (Season 5, Episode 9)

In the aptly titled “Dark Shadows,” Megan is seen preparing for an audition for a part in the popular TV show (of the same name) that has just been adapted into a satisfactory film by Tim Burton. It’s great because Weiner gets in a dig at the show by saying “I’ve seen soap opera, I don’t think I’ve seen one this bad.” Whether this was planned, a last minute rewrite or total coincidence, it’s an excellent meta-media moment.

This episode of Mad Men turns out to be one hell of a good watch as we finally get an excellent return of the Ice Queen, Betty Francis (formerly Draper), after being notably absent since episode 3. The show has been missing some of its emotional fireworks but this episode proves that they were just on hold, awaiting January Jones to return to set them off. The episode focuses primarily on the actions of Roger, Betty and Don as they use selfish methods to again establish importance. As Roger says, “It’s every man for himself.”

Since we last saw Betty, she has been dealing well with her weight problem. She is regularly attending Weight Watchers meetings and is keeping an eye on her diet by having meals in carefully sized portions. As they say in the Weight Watchers classes, she appears to be having a good week. Things go rapidly downhill for her though when she goes to pick up the kids from Don and Megan’s apartment. Upon entering the apartment she can see that Don’s life is going more than well. The place is beautiful, well kept, bright and a good place to live. She then notices Megan getting dressed and realizes that she is everything Betty once was, namely: thin.

This starts Betty’s attempts to bring herself back into Don’s life in a jealous and self destructive way. Back at the Francis Mansion in Rye, Betty is with the Sally and Bobby aiding them with their homework. Sally is drawing up a family tree but when Betty spots a love note on the back of one of Bobby’s drawings, that’s the final straw. She dismisses Bobby and then quietly hints to Sally that she should draw Anna Draper onto the tree, her father’s first and once secret marriage. Being inquisitive and intelligent, Sally asks who Anna is, Betty’s response: Ask Megan, which of course she does

Mad Men Review: "Dark Shadows" (Season 5, Episode 9)

Here we get another absolutely brilliant performance from Kiernan Shipka as Sally who perfectly channels the ice cold glare and malice of January Jones‘ Betty. When she confronts Megan about Anna it is scary how good she actually is, we get the same level of greatness when she completely steals a scene between herself and Jon Hamm right from under Hamm’s nose. It was shocking last year when she wasn’t Emmy nominated, she definitely deserves the nomination for Supporting Actress this year and it will be criminal if she doesn’t get it.

Despite Betty’s most rampant attempts and pulling them apart, for the first time this week I was really convinced by the Don and Megan marriage. They’ve been through tough times this season but Megan being out of the office has allowed them some freedom, making the relationship stronger. There are clouds on the horizon, literally, for the relationship as at the close of the episode we see a smog cloud hanging over the city. Megan halts Don from opening the door saying: “the air’s toxic, I don’t want that in here.” Which is a nice reference to Betty, who Megan refers to as poisonous earlier on in the episode. Looks like Betty is going to be sticking around.

Elsewhere we have Don and Roger who are again trying to show up Pete Campbell by forcing their visions on to the company to re-establish their importance. Pete has secured coverage of the company in the magazine supplement for Sunday’s New York Times, it requires Don to put together a portfolio of all the best, hip, recent work from the company. When he does this he notices that Peggy’s name is absent from all of the copy and Ginsberg is responsible for it all. What does this mean? Is Peggy losing her touch, is her importance dwindling or is it that she is transforming into the female Don, taking on a more managerial position? Who knows with Mad Men? I have my assumptions but they’ll probably turn out wrong.

Anyway, after a late night’s work in the office Don stumbles over some of Ginsberg’s work on the Sno-ball account, he likes it and as a result he stays late at night in the office and brainstorms some ideas based on what he has seen. The next morning he pitches one of his ideas, changed just enough to make it seem original, and all of the creatives likes it. However, the business end of the company: Pete, Harry and Ken, all like Ginsberg’s idea too so they choose to present them both.

Mad Men Review: "Dark Shadows" (Season 5, Episode 9)

It is later revealed however that Don only presented his idea, which he sold. This angers Ginsberg and he goes to accost Don about it. After a verbal tussle Ginsberg utters “I feel bad for you.” noticing that he has thousands of ideas when Don has pitifully little, to which Don very neatly replies “I don’t think about you at all.” Ouch.

Following Pete’s success in getting coverage in a Sunday Times magazine (which fails, always nice to have a Campbell failure), Roger and Bert bring in their own account without the knowledge of anyone else. Roger pays off Ginsberg to draw up some copy and asks Jane, from whom he is separated, to attend a dinner event with him. Mainly because she is Jewish and he uses her as a face to them. Following the dinner date they go back to Jane’s new apartment and have sex. The following morning Jane tells Roger that the apartment is now spoiled like the last one.

She is totally aware of the fact that he used her and that he used her again to fulfil his sexual lust. At this point Roger comes to some form of realisation about what he has done and in a moment that seems entirely out of character, he is remorseful. Unlike Betty or Don, Roger is apologetic for his actions and actually has some idea of the ramifications. And as a result of what happened in this week’s instalment, I can’t wait to see where the show goes next week.

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