As always, there are spoilers ahead. So shield your eyes or just scurry away.
Betty's back, Bobby spoke, Don's made a new rival, Roger and Jane have a boudoir backslide and Sally learns secrets. And the secret to throwing shade I might add. But more on that in a minute. The title "Dark Shadows" is appropriate, not only because much of this season has been pretty grim and morbid, but because all of the characters are facing their own inner demons. Like "A Night At The Codfish Ball' a few weeks before, everyone's being confronted with their worst fears--of being replaced, of being forgotten, of missing the boat (or getting on the wrong one), or not being taken seriously.
Let's start with Betty shall we? The episode opens with the her in the kitchen, watching her food portions and chewing like she's afraid she'll chomp down on a bone--that and the site of a roomful of women weighing themselves unveils that she's in Weight Watchers now, trying to get back to her Grace Kelly peak. When we last saw the former Mrs. Draper, she seemed intent on stuffing her face with desserts and wallowing in her discontent. It's nice to see Betty finally taking some initiative about her life, in this case he weight--which by the way, looks way more realistic than it did in "Tea Leaves." The costume designers wisely chose to emphasis her heavier frame in other ways--by having her bump into a lamp at Don and Megan's apartment and dressing her in layers of clothes. But this being Mad Men, there are sure to be a few mines, or shadows, on the road to temporary happiness.
The first of which Betty faces when she has to go into the belly of the beast, otherwise known as Megan and Don's fashionable, cosmopolitan love nest. It's clear why she's reluctant to get out of the car--it's also clear Henry can't pick up that "they're probably tying their shoes" is Betty speak for "I don't want to have to go upstairs and see that trollop." Her nervous behavior, from checking herself out in the mirror outside the apartment (you can almost hear her thinking "C'mon, get it together") to telling Sally to hurry up so she won't have to see Megan--is so relatable, especially for a character that's often unsympathetic. Though she can still summon enough iciness to make Megan breath a sigh of relief when she and the kids leave.
Despite herself, Betty goes in and gazes around the apartment, then spots Megan's lithe body in bedroom. Her facial expression seems to confirm her worst case scenario--that Don is happy without her and has no need for her anymore in his world, what with his new, model perfect wife. Emphasis on new model; the scene with Megan getting dressed could have been Betty in any scene seasons one through four. Meanwhile, she's battling the bulge and stuck in a monster mansion with a husband whose political career is about to take a downturn. Henry unknowingly puts her fears on the table when he says "I bet on the wrong horse Betty. I jumped shipped for nothing." In a surprising turn, Betty turns empathetic, telling Henry they'll work through this setback and advocating personal responsibility over playing the blame game. Damn...could it be Betty is *gasp*growing up?
That might be the case, until she comes across an innocuous love note Don left Megan on the back of Bobby's drawing.This time her shadow side wins big time--Betty spills the beans about Don's past by "innocently" telling Sally to include her father's first wife, Anna Draper, in her family tree project, then crumples up the drawing and tosses it in the trash. While her plan does somewhat cause the intended affect--Don and Megan fight when she tells him she told Sally about Anna ( his "fat nose" comment should be a warning to Megan to never gain weight), and causes a rift in Sally and Megan's relationship (her "why did he marry you" line to Megan was particularly vicious)--but ultimately backfires. Don clues Sally on some of his past, and the real reason behind her mother's revelation, albeit in a way that poisons her attitude toward Betty. Now Sally knows her mother's triggers and is all too eager to push them ("she's hungry Bobby"). It's not as if the two weren't going to have a combative relationship anyway, but Betty's little slip of the tongue definitely sped up the process. "I'm thankful I have everything I want. And no one has anything better," Betty says at Thanksgiving dinner. And I think part of her truly wants to believe it. But for whatever reason, she can't let Don or the life she had with him, for all its flaws, go.
Not to fear Birdie--Don has his own shadows to face. The writers wisely didn't make Don's Dick Whitman drama the sole dark shadow in the episode--it's been explored pretty thoroughly, and there's only so much he would reveal to Sally at this point anyway. Instead his fears lay in work. Since marrying Megan, he hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders, and one flip through SCDP's recent ads shows Michael Ginsberg is on the verge of becoming the new creative wunderkind, as well as show how Peggy got buried with the Heinz account (thanks for finally noticing Don). He seems to take Ginsberg's talent in stride--that is until Ginsberg, ever the social klutz, makes some offhand remark about his pitch for Sno Ball actually being good. That and Pete's comment that Ginberg's idea--hated authority figures getting hit with actual snowballs-is funnier than his Devil one, brings out the shadow side in Don, who conveniently forgets his employee's ad in the taxi.
The two engage in an alpha male pissing contest in the elevator the next day, with Ginsberg boasting he has a million more ideas, while Don snappily comes back with "I guess I'm lucky you work for me." Ginsberg may be talented, but he's got miles to go before he can beat Don in the withering put down department. Even so, his words hit their mark; Don can pretend he's not worried about this younger version of himself snapping at his heels, but his actions say otherwise. Now with Megan off pursuing her dream, there should more office battles between Don and Ginsberg on the horizon.
Ginsberg's success may have shaken up Don, but it's practically eclipsed Peggy. Stan's warning that Peggy shouldn't hire someone more talented than her has come true, as Ginsberg's name is on nearly every ad poster (along with a nice reference to last week's Don and Peggy showdown with a shot of the Cool Whip ad). He's even taken her place as Roger's silent partner/extortionist. When Peggy confronts Roger about his perceived disloyalty, he reminds her (surprised she needed one at this point) that it's every ad man or woman for themselves. After being schooled in the ways of self-interest, it's no wonder she smirks when Ginsberg finds out his work only saw the backseat of a cab. Peggy's frustration at being passed over in favor of Ginsberg's Jewish credentials, is understandable, but her anger is stopping her from learning from the situation and considering another strategy. Perhaps she she shouldn't try to write for everything, but use the things that make her different (being a woman, Catholic, from Brooklyn etc.) and fill that niche, or at least use it to put a unique stamp on her work.
Roger's shadow comes in the form of soon-to-be-ex-wife Jane, who still seems bitter over the LSD trip that broke up their marriage, or at least brought home the fact it needed to end. Seeking to impress some Jewish clients, he trots out Jane so they can play the happy couple, but not before shelling out more coins for a her new apartment. Damn how rich is this guy? But I digress. Things are going well until the couple's handsome son Bernard shows up and flirts with Jane; feeling threatened the old Roger comes out, and he and Jane sleep together in her new apartment. But their sex isn't so much about love or even lust; it's about control and satisfying his ego."You get everything you want and you still had to do this," a devastated Jane tells him the morning. She wanted to leave the old place because it was filled with memories of him (shadows if you will:), but now her new home is "ruined" as well. The lessons gleaned from the trip must have stuck, because Roger doesn't fight or dismiss her opinion, but simply agrees and walks out.
Other characters had to face down their own darkness. Megan may not be working with her husband anymore, but her dream is still seen by others through her relationship with Don, and the luxury it affords her, as one of her fellow actresses points out. She may be an aspiring actress, but she's not struggling, and others still resent her for it. It will be interesting to watch if this either makes her more determined to prove everyone wrong or to grow complacent, as she may start to believe whatever success she attains is tainted because she's not living in a roach-infested studio apartment. Sally's bratty "you're not special" remark probably didn't help ease any fears she wouldn't become Betty 2.0.
Bert Cooper seems worried that his role at the agency is growing even smaller--surely Roger's "Sterling, Campbell, Draper, Pryce" had something to do with he going around Pete Campbell for the Jewish account. And Pete is so preoccupied with thoughts of Harold's wife Beth (is it me or did it seem like she belonged in a Tim Burton film during that dream sequence?), that he can self-righteously tell Harold to go spend the holiday with his mistress while he beds Beth with a straight face. I guess that means more food for Trudy and her family.
Unlike last week's "Lady Lazarus," conversations about life insurance and suicide, empty elevator shafts, limp bodies, lonely planets, surrendering to the void and other allusions to death were largely gone. But fear and insecurity still permeate the Mad Men universe, like the smog that Megan wanted to keep out on Thanksgiving--dictating the characters' actions and reactions, driving to them to either confront or run away from their shadows. And right now things are looking pretty dark.
--Next week seems to be checking in on Lane Pryce, and Joan (yay!). The last time we had a Joan-centric episode, she was kicking Greg's sorry ass to curb. It'll good to see what's happening outside the office for her now.
--Will Dawn get another story arc? I'd like to think so, but at this point, chile your guess is as good as mine at this point.
--Will we see more sneakiness from Bert Cooper in the coming episodes?
What did you think of 'Dark Shadows?' Discuss.