In this episode John Slattery, who plays Roger Sterling on the show, steps into the director’s chair and gives us another stellar chapter in the fourth season of this exceptional drama. Season 4 is quickly becoming a center stage for all the minor characters of the previous seasons. Oddly Don takes a backstage role in this episode while the real drama going on is between Peggy and Pete.
Pete Campbell, we all know as the slightly creepy and often rather eager Account executive, needs to drop his father in law Tom’s (an executive of the Vick’s Chemical Company) Clearsil account as another client at SCDP sees this product as a rival. However he is apprehensive to do so as when Pete tries to inform Tom of the business, Tom accidentally tells Pete that Trudy (Pete’s wife) is pregnant. Shocked at this news Pete doesn’t break the news to him. However later he claims from Tom all the company’s other products from him worth $6 million in advertising billings, putting Pete favourably in the eyes of Lane, which is much to the detrement of Roger.
The news of pregnancy comes as a shock to Peggy, who got pregnant by Pete in Season One, and this leads to a wonderful scene at the end of episode, superbly handled by Slattery in which there is a moment of silent forgiveness between Peggy and Pete. It is a moment of poignancy and in such a small scene all the emotions come across very clearly through some very restrained acting. Vincent Kartheiser still plays the character of Pete as fully hateful but this moment almost humanizes him. With that moment and his handling of the entire episode, Slattery proves that he has the talent in the director’s chair, the immense wit he carries as Roger has overflown into some of his visual direction. The finest moment of the episode, is when Don’s secretary throws something in a blind fit of rage in his office and curiously Peggy peers over the glass into the office. It’s a very fine moment and again brings the romantic tension between Peggy and Don.
Peggy who is usually the shrinking violet amongst the SCDP bunch attempts to let herself go more by going to a party where drugs and drink are abundant, she quickly gets stoned and finds herself in a closet with a man who isn’t her boyfriend. Elisabeth Moss who plays Peggy is a wonderful actress and hopefully she will get more awards recognition as a result of this season. What’s also nice is that it brings back the tension between the secretary and Don, as I stated in the recap for episode two was rather like Don treating her like a prostitute. It spectacularly backfires on him as she walks out of the office, and we await her return later in the season, I reckon.
However while I think the show bringing back old characters is great, I am worried about them sidelining the most interesting conflict in the show which is that between Don and Betty or Sally (the Drapers’ daughter) and Betty. They have been notably absent from the past two episodes and there is a hole there for them to fill. They will undoubtedly come back to play a more significant role, now they seem quietly at the back of the minds of the writers. I just hope they haven’t been left on the cutting room floor because those scenes are some of those most incendiary and fascinating.
Mad Men is consistent, emotionally powerful and quietly funny. Weiner’s drama is clever and not revealing its secrets until the final moments of the season. In this season there are far more clues as to where this is going by the end, but as I was in predicting the end of the third season, I could be wrong. Of course now that we are well into the show, it is clear that my prediction of wiping the slate clean hasn’t become entirely true. The introduction of older characters and storylines dropped at season one are rearing their head, the more you know about the show, the better.