“You look so different.” – Betty Draper
“You look exactly the same.” – Glen Bishop
It is not unusual for Mad Men to comment on the themes of its episodes with the products that Sterling Cooper & Partners are trying to sell. In season five’s “The Other Woman,” Joan’s objectification was mirrored in the sultry ad campaign Don and his copywriters created for Jaguar. Season one’s “Babylon” had the agency deal with the Israeli tourism board and allowed the characters to reflect on their own exile. Although it comprises a very slender part of “The Forecast,” one of the best and funniest Mad Men episodes in recent memory, it is significant that the cookie Mathis tries (and fails terribly) to pitch is one with the name Peter Pan in front of it.
Peter yearns to be young forever in J.M. Barrie’s play and the several adaptations it inspired. On the contrary, his fantasy does not mesh with the reality of many of the characters on Mad Men, those who can’t just wish for prolonged youth and let it wash over them. There are tasks to finish, children to look after and dollars to make. Don shuts down the cookie pitch by explaining that the concept is poor because “kids won’t get it and adults won’t hear it.” That tug between the generations, of not reconciling with the family values from earlier decades, meanwhile, has been one of the central themes of Mad Men. “The Forecast” does a superb job looking at those relationships and how they have changed.
Let’s start with what is likely to be the episode’s water-cooler scene, involving a matured, sideburned, hair-chested Glen Bishop making a pass at his old object of affection, Betty Draper. In “New Amsterdam,” the fourth episode of the series, she caved in to his wish and gave him a lock of her hair. When he appears at the Francis doorway, Betty doesn’t even recognize the 18-year-old in front of her. There is some odd chemistry between them: Betty offers him a beer and is too thrilled by his presence to comment much on his decision to head to Vietnam. (Sally is peeved, to say the least.)
What could have been an amusing moment becomes queasier near the episode’s end, when Glen visits the residence again. He’s not there to say a tearful goodbye to Sally, but to make a pass at Betty. “I know something can happen to me,” he tells her, “but I feel safe ‘cause I know you’re mine.” He tries to lean in for the kiss, but Betty doesn’t reciprocate. She defends herself while also reassuring Glen that he will alright. Betty’s reprimanding of Sally in earlier seasons when she saw Glen is a distant memory. Instead, she shows warmth.
She has gotten used to the stubbornness of the teenagers of the 1960s – rebellious, confused and sexually charged – and knows not to cave in to their social depravities. Betty has learned much, trying to put herself in the shoes of Sally going off a tour of the U.S. and of Glen, who enlisted to avoid the shame of flunking out of class. There is much relief to see that Betty, while behaving in a much more casual way than any viewer probably expected, has adapted to the urges of the next generation. The naivety and chilly demeanor that characterized her in earlier seasons has dissolved; today, she can handle the salty tongues of younger people because Betty is joyed by returning to a feeling of youth again.
Returning to a woman who also looks very similar as she did near the series’ start but has changed quite a bit, Joan Holloway finds a bit of sunshine in Los Angeles. She meets an enchanting land developer named Richard Bergoff (Bruce Greenwood), a divorced man who is very interested in courting the agency partner. He seems like a fantasy for a woman who was never quite satisfied in relationships – at least the ones we have seen – and he wants to whisk her off to a Neverland where they can travel and live lavishly. “I have a plan, which is no plans,” he smirks. However, Joan is not trophy wife material. He tells her he doesn’t want to be rigid, since it makes him old. To Joan, being rigid has always been a part of her job. She wants someone who can be more emotionally attached to son Kevin, adding stability along with adventure.