I said once that the opening scene of any Mad Men episode is always very revealing, and this week's episode, "Dark Shadows," is no different. The episode opens with Betty weighing a small portion of cheese before sitting down and taking a very delicate bite and diligently counting her chews. After a few Betty-less weeks, "Dark Shadows" is an episode almost entirely about the women in Don's life - but most especially about Betty and her struggle to get back in fighting form, both physically and emotionally.
Hulk, no surprise, wrote a terrific post about this week's episode in which he points out that Betty is using her new Weight Watchers program as therapy. And it seems to be working! She has a wonderful scene with Henry in which she acts like a truly supportive partner, to his pleasant surprise. And the things she's telling him are true of herself: if you can't change the actions of others, you can only change your own and learn to accept the rest. It's good advice and serves her well...to a point. She continues to keep her cool after seeing Don and Megan's stunning new apartment and Megan's unjustly flat abs. She remains pleasant after watching Megan, now stylishly garbed as always, kiss each and every one of her children. But when Betty sees the love note Don wrote for Megan, she reverts to her old pettiness big time by telling Sally about Anna.
But all's well that ends well - Don and Megan have a big but brief fight about it, and Megan handles it perfectly as she always seems to do. They make up sweetly, and Don has a lovely and honest discussion with Sally, who in turn gets her breezy revenge on Betty: "They showed me pictures and spoke very highly of her."
Still, Betty ends the episode back in control, delighting in her small bites of Thanksgiving dinner and counting her blessings: "I'm thankful that I have everything I want and nobody has anything better." Good for you, Betts.
It's easy to hate on Betty; I read it everywhere. But why is it that Don gets no flak for the way he treated Betty? He created who she is, and yes, she should have been stronger and not bowed to the painful pressure he put on her for years, but when people say they hate watching shows with unlikable characters like Betty (or any of the women in Girls, or any other less than ideal female character) but then worship at the alter of Don Draper, I have to laugh. Don is not a good person. He's selfish, deeply disturbed, often rude and occasionally cruel, but he's handsome and dashing and powerful and a man, so everyone loves him. Don't get me wrong, I love him too. But I love all sorts of unlovable characters, including Betty.
I don't necessarily agree with Hulk that Don is pulling away from Megan. He's focusing on work more, certainly, and by all accounts, he should, because the man's been slipping. With his home life firmly in place, it's time he extends some energy to his professional life. I loved the horror edit director Scott Hornbacher used while Don looked over the work from Ginsberg. And I also love how well Joan (as always, too rarely used in this episode) understands Don, complimenting him on hiring and managing such a wealth of creative talent. She is so good at the old ego-stroke, isn't she?
Yes, Ginsberg is creeping up on Don (and Peggy). But those two have been resting on their laurels, and they need a little healthy competition. Don pushed an inferior campaign of his own on Sno-Ball rather than pitching Ginsberg's, but make no mistake: a fire has been lit under him, and Peggy as well. They're not past their prime; they've just been sitting pretty for far too long, and it's about time they started to feel a little nervous.
But not too nervous, of course. "Well, then it's a good thing you work for me."
But on that seemingly secure home front, as Megan "helps" her friend audition for Dark Shadows, she begins to feel guily about how easy she has it, living in her luxe apartment supported by her gorgeous, wealthy husband. While I believe that Don is perfectly happy (as perfectly happy as Don is capable of being, which is to say a little) with Megan, I'm wondering how long she'll feel content to live in that pretty bubble. She's ambitious and independent and modern, and I simply love her. She is currently protecting this relationship from any outside forces that could contaminate it, but I don't know how long that can last. "The air's toxic. I don't want that in here."
Two other brief things: we almost saw Rory Gilmore's boobs! So that was cool. And finally, I will never not love that if anyone asks how Roger Sterling got his groove back, the answer will be a resounding: "LSD!"
Tune in next week for Henri and Devin's takes!