The Flood was another good episode of Mad Men’s penultimate season, albeit one that missed the mark on a couple of occasions and felt slightly disjointed. That said, given the events it was trying to portray, this is understandable.
The event’s in question surround the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King and the fallout from the tragedy. The episode played out in much the same way as the episode earlier in the series that dealt with the death of JFK. We get to see how the different characters react and how the events play into the personal lives of each of them.
Beginning at an awards banquet where two of SCDP’s ex-employee’s, Megan Draper and Peggy Olson, are up for an award for there Heinz Bean’s ad, the news of the shooting is blurted out by someone in the audience and at the time, as an audience, this is nearly inaudible. It’s no stretch to imagine this was done on purpose to help pull us into that room and imagine what it would have been like.
There’s a lot of panic and crying and the writer’s do a great job of really helping the audience engage with the emotions of the characters. One of the most interesting parts of the episode was when Megan and Don were discussing the events and Megan expresses concern for Dawn, Don’s secretary. Don, barely acknowledges this and instead goes straight to concern for Sylvia, who is in Washington DC with her husband.
This serves to highlight Don’s selfish side and indeed his one track mind. This is shown time and time throughout this episode as he clings to the TV, watching the news broadcasts about the rioting in DC.
Another tragic moment for the character comes later on in the episode, after spending the day with Bobby, Don is chastised for Megan for once again turning to drink in time’s of crisis, rather than being open. The monologue that follows from Jon Hamm is absolutely tragic, and really shows another side to Don Draper we rarely see. After confessing it felt like he was faking his love for his kid’s, he then goes on to explain how the feeling’s he thought he was faking, eventually became his actual emotional ties.
I’ve said this for the past two week’s now but we’re about to see Don head somewhere dark, and my guess is it will involve Sylvia. He has been shown to be increasingly emotionally unstable and despite doing his best to put a facade on, as he does with the rest of his life, moment’s like the end of ‘The Flood’ highlight Don’s intense vulnerability.
Some parts of this episode missed the mark a little for me. For a tragedy that so exceptionally affected the black population of America, the writer’s sure tried there hardest not to show how this was playing out for them. The talk of riot’s and panic where hinted at throughout and the difficulties were talked about, with Don expressing concern for Dawn when she turn’s into work. It’s a possibility that this was all done on purpose by the writer’s, this is after all a show set in a very transitional time for America, and a show who’s cast is predominantly white, so with this it does make sense that we as an audience would only see thing’s from that perspective.
The tragedy of Pete Campbell continue’s to unfold, and whilst it was good seeing him tell off Harry was a great moment, he continues to be unlikable in almost every other way. Him calling Trudy after the tragedy was transparent and it was good to see her continue to blow him off, despite her obvious need of comfort. His last scene, accepting the takeaway from the Chinese delivery guy further highlighted his own personal tragedy. He has gone from a plush lifestyle in the suburbs, but never being quite happy, to getting what he thought he wanted, only to wind up hating it. This is exactly what happened to Don after his split from Betty and, though i’m just speculating, I can not see Pete getting through this like Don did.
I’d be remiss without mentioning the far too brief cameo from William Mapother (LOST), who played Randall, representing an insurance agency and pitching a bizarre ad idea inspired by the riot’s. A bizarre introduction to an even stranger character, it will surely be good to see this play out further.
The Flood was a competent episode but seemed to occasionally sag under the weight of what it was trying to take on, and though it tackled the subject respectfully enough, it would have been nice to get some more emotional impact from character’s like Dawn. Next week should presumably bring news on the fate of Sylvia and her husband, and whilst I can’t see anything too tragic having happened to them, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season is going to play this story line. We’re a third of the way through the season and it’s being an excellent start. Let’s hope the middle of the season doesn’t get weighed down too much.