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Mad Men Season 6 Episode 9 Review: “The Better Half”
After the madness that was the drugged-up Chevy Weekend of episode 8, the ninth episode of Mad Men Season 6 seems to be slowing things down again. That is, until some pretty big developments later in the episode which come out of nowhere.
The thematic exploration of the “double life” continues to be one of the show’s central concerns, for every character. This time Don-wife-the-Second, Megan, is under the symbolic magnifying glass as her acting role picks up on a soap opera. She is now a fictional character who is an actress, who is playing two identical twin fictional characters. Hows about that for meta. She then gets berated by the director for not making them similar enough, which prompts her to exclaim, “they’re twins!”
And then, later, she confines in her star co-actress, who tries to kiss her. In real life. Classic ‘60s. I’m really not a fan of Megan at all. Haven’t been since her introduction. One of the weaker, more vapid character. This stuff is okay though, the actor development is decent.
Duck Phillips makes a surprise appearance- and has some dialogue with Pete Campbell. It looks like once again the show will chart Pete Campbell’s narcissistic crusade to move up in the world. Not that I’m complaining. He’s easily my favourite character.
But then- something I certainly didn’t expect. (Although my viewing partner called it ages ago. Let’s forget about that.) Don, in one of his bouts of fatherly duty, takes Bobby to summer camp. En route, who does he encounter? Betty. The pair predictably end up at the same gas station and motel, and BA-ZING, you know the rest. This is Don we’re talking about. One thing leads to another, they end up having a philosophical debate, a little sex, etc.
For the good of him as a person, I want Don to stop this immediately. In reality, as a TV show (what, it’s not real?), I feel this might not happen. Again, my co-viewer had five cents to share, saying they’ll ultimately get back together, he reckons. I have to admit that would give a certain resolution and circularity to the show’s plot as a whole story arc- Betty uncovers Don’s history, breaks up with him, they both do some thinking and some maturing, then get back together. But who knows- let’s see how things develop as this season enters it’s twilight episodes.
But my favourite part of the whole episode? Peggy accidentally stabbing Abe. And then Abe dumping her in the ambulance. Unreal. I hope we see some remorse from Peggy about it- because as much as I love her, she is a real Thatcher-figure.
Is there symbolism here again? Peggy is terrified of the neighbourhood they now live in, she hates the danger and uncertainty and the noise. Abe stays there as a statement, isn’t bothered by the problems, but gets stabbed in the hand. Proving her point that it’s dangerous. And then, in a fit of absolute paranoia, Peggy stabs Abe. Is the show telling us that paranoia in the home, in a double life, is the real danger?
Either way, it’s a strong episode. As most of Mad Men season 6 has managed thus far, it’s retaining the thematic core and metaphorical nature of the show’s early seasons whilst staying really entertaining like season 4. (As far as these reviews are concerned, season 5 doesn’t exist, excepting a couple of events in the last couple of episodes.)
Best line of the show: (Abe to Peggy, in rage:) “But you can keep talking because everything you say is going in my story.”