Mad Men: “The Quality of Mercy”

*spoilers*

(Also, gotta give love to ibtimes.com for these gifs)

Sorry about the delay with this one, folks. I’ve been mighty busy with some other projects. To be honest, this is getting kind of tedious. Trying to find something worth writing about for each episode is harder than I realized. Also, this thing totally eats up my time for other ideas. Oh well, the season finale is fast approaching, so away we go.

“The Quality of Mercy” was most noteworthy for it did (and of course, didn’t) reveal about Bob Benson. Like Don Draper, Bob is not who he claims to be, and is a solid justification for employee background checks. Also, note the BB/DD comic book alliterative names. They’re both self-actualized characters.

Interestingly, Benson no longer seems romantically interested in Pete, which seems to have been merely some way of further ingratiating himself. That said, I think what was most interesting about this episode was Pete’s treatment of Bob. Campbell finally seems to get it, and is no longer a slave to his histrionics. Pete shows Bob a little mercy and now Bob is indebted to Pete. How ’bout that for some quality mercy?

This episode also pushed Don further towards a breaking point. Alcoholism is everywhere you look in Mad Men, but Don’s current affair with the bottle is a new low. That he feels the need to hide it from Megan is significant. He is being squeezed by both sides, both his family and professional lives are in decline. Sally won’t speak to him and Ted is owning him at Cooper & Partners.

Don’s fortune changes, though, when two opportunities present themselves. Just as he hesitated to get involved with Sylvia’s son, Don also hesitates when Sunkist comes on board, remembering that Ted did him that favour. But when he feels the walls closing in, he has a change of heart and stabs Ted in the back.

Then, he smells blood when sees Ted and Peggy flirting. Lovestoned, Ted green lights Peggy’s ad idea for ST. Joseph’s, even though it’s over twice the agreed budget. When the exec gets pissed at being sandbagged, Don comes to the rescue, invoking the ghost of Frank Gleason. Pretty low shit, but fairly mild by Mad Men standards.

I loved how Don went all mafia on Ted. It’s not personal; it’s business. Yeah, sure Michael Corleone.

(At least we know Bob habla Espanol)

Also significant about “The Quality of Mercy” was its blatant references to Rosemary’s Baby. Throughout this season, there have been less than subtle connections made between Megan and Mia Farrow, with many fans suspecting that Megan was doomed.

However, it seems Weiner has something else up his sleeve. We see this when Peggy explains how her commercial is a playful reversal of Rosemary’s Baby’s ending. “You have to believe the conspiracy is real,” she explains. Are we meant to believe the same thing of season six?

The parallels with Rosemary’s Baby aren’t immediately obvious. Megan doesn’t appear to be pregnant (don’t overcook those eggs!), as she has already had a miscarriage. And, obviously, there’s no satanic cults, though who knows who Bob Benson worships in his off time.

Rather, I would say there’s a continuity of imagery. I haven’t had a chance to re-watch Rosemary’s Baby lately, so my memory of the plot is hazy, but please bear with me.

Mia Farow’s neighbours disguise themselves as dogooders, and try to help Farrow with the pregnancy. However, it turns out they’re satanists who have been performing strange alchemy on Farrow so she may carry the child of satan.

This plays into the ambiguity of care in this season of Mad Men. Various characters, Bob Benson especially, who have used servitude as a subterfuge for selfish, perhaps nefarious ends. I won’t give other examples, because I’ve already discussed this at length in previous posts.

Also, like season six, doors and rooms are leitmotifs in Rosemary’s Baby. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but let’s just say the climax involves Farrow opening a door to let herself into a room containing a strange ritual.

And while Don and Megan may not have an unborn child destined to be part of some satanic ritual, Sally has joined a cult of sorts – an all girls school! Also of note is that when Peggy and Ted play out their immitation of the final scene of Rosemary’s Baby, Don plays the part of satan’s spawn. And just in case you didn’t pick that up, Peggy later calls Don a monster.

(I don’t think Joan is on board)

Where’s all this headed, you ask? Fucked if I know. I do think something really bizarre concerning Bob Benson will be revealed. Apparently, Weiner has said no one is going to die, so I guess I’ll take him at his word. To kill off another character at this point would be pretty hackneyed, and I absolutely give Weiner the benefit of the doubt.

I would like to see something radical. I’d like to see Cooper & Partners fold, which is entirely plausible given the nadir GM hits at this point in history. I believe the new Chevy will be a dud and will drag everyone down with it. The many near-death experiences of Ken Cosgrove is a bad omen.

I like the connection between Vietnam and GM. There’s an otherness to Detroit in season six. Characters travel there and bad things keep happening. Moreover, there are a lot of militaristic language associated with GM; when Ken explains to Pete that he’ll guide him through the transition, he tells Pete he’ll “need to know where the landmines are.”

This does not bode well for Cooper & Partners as Vietnam didn’t pan out for America.

However, because Don separated himself from the account perhaps he will escape the fallout, just as he did with the Korean War. Nevertheless, he still has to contend with the Rosens, which I also believe will blow up in his face. Is a new identity in play for Don? He considered it in season one.

As I’ve said before, I think season six will end up with Don hitting a new low, and season seven, the final season, will see Don achieve some kind of peace of mind.

(Cosgrove gets Cheney’d!)

Cheers,

-B

P.S. I have something coming down about Superman, for those of you tired of Mad Men.

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~ by braddunne on June 19, 2013.

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