Last week's Mad Men was called The Monolith, and it was full of references to 2001: A Space Odyssey and other works of Stanley Kubrick. It all centered around a new computer that has taken up a sizeable chunk of the Sterling Cooper & Partners office. That enormous IBM recalled HAL 9000, among other points of reference.
But the Kubrick stuff didn't stop with The Monolith. Last night beloved (and, I had forgotten, demonstrably schizo) Ginsberg cracked under the pressure of the computer's hum. Before slicing off his nipple in a grand gesture to Peggy, Ginsberg was working overtime when he came across Jim Cutler and Lou Avery having a discussion inside the air conditioned sanctum sanctorum of the IBM. He could not hear what they were saying (they were actually plotting the professional demise of Don Draper), but he could read their lips.
And that sequence was shot almost exactly like a similar lip-reading sequence in 2001, as HAL watches Dave and Frank discuss pulling his plug. It's such a fascinating choice, casting Ginsberg - the anti-computer guy! - as HAL.
By the way, we all know that Ginsberg is correct, right? Not about the nipple as a valve, but about the idea that computers are sort of massively detrimental to our workplace relationships. That's part of what we have responded to in Mad Men - a vision of an old world connected only by organic, not digital means.
But what does the continued 2001 imagery mean for the show? Will it continue? Are we going to see Don waking up in a big bed in a lavish hotel room? There are two episodes remaining this season; I'm not exactly sure where they are timewise as of last night's episode, but they're likely in the spring of 1969. The moon landing looms - is that where the mid-season break will happen? Are we about to see an evolutionary leap in Don Draper? Some people think the season is building towards Charles Manson, but that makes little sense for the show; we know who was killed by the Manson Family and Mad Men doesn't insert characters into situations where they couldn't have been. There will likely be fallout - the mid-season premiere next year? - but I can't imagine the show actually bringing Manson physically into the story.
The moon landing happened on July 20th. The Manson family killed Gary Hinman, a sort of prelude to the August Tate/LaBianca murders, on July 25th. Expect those five days to occur between the halves of the season. I think maybe season 7.1 is building to a triumph - the Moon landing, a new evolution of Don Draper - that might turn to ashes in the back half.