Roughly three quarters of the way through last night's episode of Mad Men, Roger asks Don when things will become "normal" again. What normal is to Roger Sterling may be stability, respect and a world where he can coast by, drink martinis and still be revered. What constitutes normal to the Mad Men viewing audience is quite different and hard to pin down. If previous seasons tried to answer the question "Who is Don Draper?" maybe this season is asking us, okay, but who will Don Draper eventually decide he wants to be?
Last week we watched Don squirm with embarrassment and some delight at the free-spirited, provocative display put on by his much, much younger wife. Betty, the previous Mrs. Draper, would never be caught dead showcasing herself in that manner. This episode opened with a restaurant scene featuring Don and the Mrs. entertaining a big-money client. Megan Draper's age again rears its ugly head. She just doesn't know how to handle these situations the way Betty used to with a feminine grace and reserved charm. Where Megan is sexy and foreign, Betty was stunning and all-American.
Paradoxically, what else has strayed from "normal" is Betty herself. Rumors of how the writers of the show would handle actress January Jones's pregnancy, which took place during the shooting of this season, were finally revealed. Betts got fat, and how! The storyline leads us through a cancer scare, which may be the cause of Betty's ballooning, but turns out to be nothing but a depressive sweet tooth.
An uncomely Betty is certainly the opposite of normal, but a miserable Betty that needs to reach out to Don for reassurance is actually quite par for the course. Additionally, Don's reaction to the news, one of sadness, fear and empathy for his previous wife and an opportunity to play hero to her, also falls on the side of the Don we once knew.
Don proves in this episode that the younger, "abnormal" generation, one that Megan fits into so well, does not catch his fancy as we might think it would. He is an old fuddy-duddy in a crisp suit amongst a sea of pretty young things at a Rolling Stones concert. He is the wiser elder, worrying about the affairs of the younger cohort, and this doesn't bode well with his youthful wife Megan. Among other things, this episode proves that Don can't hang. And this fact will eventually catch up to him.
As the agency members embrace the unconventionality they are being thrust into, equal opportunity secretaries, second-wave feminism and Jewish copywriters, the old keeps being pushed a bit closer to the exit door by the new. It begs the question if Mad Men will ever be normal again? Or are we now witnessing a new normal? The good old boys better get with the picture lest they get kicked to the curb.
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