Sparkling in your duties

Dear R,

Ok. The usuals have all weighed in, but still. The more I think about it, the more I really have to note some subtle and brilliant directing by John Slattery in last night’s Mad Men. I still believe what I said below about the show dropping the ball on a bunch of characters, but it was a really wonderful fuge on mirrors/mirroring.

There was, first, the central theme of whether advertising creates our desires or speaks to them, embodied by Don (sticking up for Peggy’s ritual concept) and Dr. Faye. (This is also, I think, a dynamic at the source of Don’s own sex appeal.) Then there was the central visual/dramatic device of the two-way mirror, where the ad men and the focus group represented that reflexive dynamic. Meanwhile, Dr. Faye manipulated herself to provide a more recognizable reflection to the young secretaries, who were talking about what they did in front of mirrors. (In order to sell face cream – and of course, the problem of duplicative products being handled by the same agency.)

Ok. Nice, but no biggie. But once you recognize that central theme, all sorts of neat little dyads start to emerge. Peggy saw herself reflected in almost every other person in the episode, but notably Don, Allison, the Artist and Lesbian Joyce. The peeping Peggy shot was a riot, but also a lovely play on reflective surfaces. Peggy and the bohemians on one side of the glass door, Pete and the suits on the other. Also – people note Peggy resents Allison for implying she slept her way to the middle, but does anyone remember in the first episode when Peggy came on to Don and was shot the fuck down? This resentment, it has layers.

Then, Pete opposite Ken at the restaurant – Ken saying “all we need is another Campbell.” The other Campbell and the other OTHER Campbell. The increasing mutuality of the Campbell marriage – which parallels Peggy’s professional success.

Ok. So then Don. Dr. Faye is his mirror-twin, but so is the old man at the end of the hall hollering about pears. How dark and matte is his apartment compared to the glistening surfaces of Sterling (!) Cooper Draper Pryce? Don will not write Allison’s recommendation, asking her to write it herself, though he begins a twin letter, a letter TO her, except that letter would require him to reflect on himself and it is chucked. Allison shatters glass in his office (using the same throwing motion with which he tosses his crumpled page away), and his OWN surface is rattled. Joan’s twin, the “old married” lady.

The first scene, everyone on phones to Lucky Lee, looked like a house of mirrors – and then, the creative accounting. I want to work Don’s empty bottle into this, but does it fit or is it just a rass-andom soap opera moment? And Joyce’s photographs. Were those a reflection of Peggy? She said they were like a painting – what a flat surface where all the others gleamed.

Here are a couple of things that I think are important that I’m not quite sure how to fit into the theme – maybe they don’t fit, but then the best episodes keep revealing new dimensions like a well cut stone so maybe it will make sense.

Ok, 1, Cooper munching an apple on the couch. He was not reflected, he was watching. Does he not have a reflection, like a vampire? Was it really just a kind of crazy old coot gag? Apple, old man – it has something to do with the apartment/pear man at the end. Are both Cooper and that guy somehow avatars of Don?

2, Malcolm X. Was that just a clumsy exercise in dating the episode? The Autobiography is  full of meditations on image, and maybe the tumultuous world he was assassinated in parallels the cold-cream world of SCDP, or maybe Don and him have a bond in their renaming – but that all seems kind of tenuous.

I think it is interesting that Peggy isn’t a frustrated novelist or poet or whatall, but nor is she just a talented writer with limitless ambition… she IS a bit of a dreamer/romantic, but her dreams are about really really good copy.

I’m looking at the man in the mirror,


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