Another week, another Mad Men, thankfully, ‘Man With A Plan’ was a step up from last week’s lacklustre episode. We pick up a few week’s down the line from the CGC/SCDP merger, the plan is in full motion and the two companies are well and truly connected.
Despite this rather significant plot unfolding, this episode was once again very much centered on Mr Donald Draper, misogynist extraordinaire and Christian Grey forerunner. What begins as a strong episode for Don, with him seemingly in control at SCDP/CGC, imposing his will on Ted by offering him a few too many drinks, and also dominating Sylvia, soon devolves into what we’ve been seeing time and time again, Don is unravelling.
Don ultimately fails at trying to impose dominance on Ted. Don is very much a relic now, and is becoming less important as the years move on, his ideas are no longer as fresh as they were and Ted is the very antithesis of this at times. Don’s attempt to get Ted drunk were extremely transparent and it only took a quick word from one of Ted’s partners for him to realise what Draper was trying to do. It was subsequently satisfying to see Don end up slightly humiliated in Ted’s plane, visibly shaken.
Throughout this episode, Don was channeling his inner ’50 Shades of Grey’ by trying to impose his archaic thoughts on Sylvia. We know from past episodes Don likes to be in control, and when he feel’s like control from one part of his life is slipping, he steps it up in another part. Some of these scenes were extremely uncomfortable to watch. When Don told Sylvia to crawl on her hands and knees to get his shoes, I was urging her to not do it, yet she did, and this channelled an earlier episode from the past season where he did a similar thing with Megan (notably absent through most of this episode). She eventually realises that Don really is all bark and has no follow through, he makes her stay in the hotel room all day to wait for his call. In Don’s head he is imposing his will and dominance, thinking she will submit and be subdued, but Sylvia acts as the thematic breaking point here. No longer can Don control everything, and this at a time when everything around him is beginning to fall away.
Don’s mask is beginning to slip, we’ve seen this with Megan and now Sylvia, perhaps this is an echo of him seeing his mother practically raped during his childhood, perhaps Don is just an ass. Slowly he is beginning to unravel, that much is apparent, and it wouldn’t surprise me if by the end of the season we see a full on mental breakdown on his part. He can’t hold his mask forever, and there’s bound to be a catalyst soon to start making thing’s beyond repair.
Though this was very much Don’s episode, there were some other nice character moments. Pete Campbell got the lion’s share, and once again manages to usurp Don in the biggest dick at SCDP hierarchy. Roger managed to get another great couple of scenes, he’s been great comic relief this season and John Slattery delivers every line with such fun you just want to work in that office with him. Joan’s storyline seemed a bit odd, particularly with how it panned out. If the writer’s just wanted Joan and Bob to get together, why go through the whole medical emergency storline. Don’t get me wrong, it all worked and all played out logically, it just seemed a bit strung out. Perhaps more will come of the cyst found by the doctors, perhaps nothing will come of it and it was just a narrative tool for the writers.
There were some other good moments. I absolutely loved the scenes in the boardroom, the bravado between the two companies, as clients were divied up between account managers was great to watch unfold, and we got to see Pete be as chivalrous as ever with Ted’s secretary, another good touch and character building moment for Ted. Something that was left hanging was the absence of Dawn, Don’t secretary. Hopefully this is addressed next episode. Given we just had a full episode about the death of Martin Luther King, I was glad they didn’t devote a whole episode to the shooting of Bobby Kennedy, instead the television coverage of his shooting was used to great effect to frame Don’s complete self involvement.
With only a handful of episodes left this season, it’s becoming increasingly hard to watch Don’s mind slowly begin to crumble, and as stated earlier, it’s surely only a matter of time before he completely self destructs, it’s been overdue for a few seasons and given we are in the penultimate season, it’s going to happen soon. Time will tell.