Mad Men review: “Three Sundays”

By Richard

August 17, 2008 Television No comments

My father beat the hell out of me. All it did was make me fantasize about the day I could murder him…And I wasn’t half as good as Bobby. – Don Draper.

For those viewers completely turned against Don Draper after last week’s events, I doubt three weekends in church and some time in the confessional are enough. Particularly as it wasn’t Don asking forgiveness.

The confession from Peggy’s sister was more about indicting Peggy than seeking absolution, more about a jealous older sister complaining about her baby sister is treated by everyone else. Peggy lives with remarkably few repercussions from her actions, almost unheard of today, let alone in a conservative Catholic household of 1962. Her mother is proud of Peggy’s accomplishments and never touches on her failings, though she’s too happy to apologize to Father Gil (Colin Hanks) for Anita’s overcooked chicken.

Anita’s little performance in the confessional was clearly for Father Gil’s benefit, to show him the dark side of her sister and drive a wedge between them. She has to raise her children, raise Peggy’s child, take care of her husband with a “bad back”, and yet Peggy gets all the praise and rewards. Taking her down one peg was small, but real comfort.

In contrast to the little Peggy’s past seems to haunt her, Don’s haunts him immensely. Throughout the episode, he sees Betty’s attitude and behavior toward his children, particularly Bobby, but he does little beyond voicing his reluctance to spank. When he finally reacts, throwing Bobby’s toy robot across the room at dinner, the sudden display of violence is unexpected and disturbing.

It looks like it’s going to quickly escalate upstairs. A comment from Don about throwing Betty through a window in response to the lost American Airlines account leads to her shoving him and him shoving back harder. Then it stops. She leaves the room and he sits on the bed, silent. Bobby comes in to apologize.

Don: It’s okay. Dads get mad sometimes.
Bobby: Did your daddy get mad?
Don: He did.

Bobby: What did he like to eat?
Don: Ham. And this candy, it tasted like violets. In a beautiful purple and silver package.

Bobby: But he died.
Don: Long time ago.
Bobby: We have to get you a new daddy.

Other, more momentous events tonight don’t seem as important. As we all knew, Sterling-Cooper failed to get the American Airlines account. In an interesting turn, Duck’s friend Shel Kennely was fired the morning of the meeting. When he comes into the prepped board room, the SC denizens waiting expectant on the opposite side of the conference table like Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, the news hits hard. They finally know the account is lost, even if American is still coming in to witness the stillbirth.

Roger’s dalliance with an escort – first seen with Pete, Ken, and Marty Hasselback from Gorton’s – is incredibly awkward. His real desire, to experience the chase and first taste of a new conquest, is at odds with the practical reality of paying for sex. He pays, but he really wants a lover, not a sex partner. So he pays double to kiss, and pays for a second session to take her to Lutece. She’s new business, like a first cigarette: “head gets all dizzy, your heart pounds, knees go weak.”

Bobbie Barrett’s return to SC, and her midday sex in Don’s office under Joan’s watchful eye, signal more of the Barretts in the weeks ahead, but that can only be bad for Don. Unlike his former lovers, Bobbie (the wonderful Melinda McGraw) is in charge of this affair, Don’s assault notwithstanding. When she wants sex, she takes it from him. Whatever she wants, she will take from him. I believe Don will find himself pushing Harry to sell Bobbie’s idea for a TV show for Jimmy, “Grin and Bear It”, before too long. He wants to say no, but she commands him.

I am a bit concerned where Matt Weiner is planning on taking Peggy and Father Gil, but willing to go along for the ride for the next few weeks. I’m also wondering what to expect between Don and Betty now that he’s opened up to her in a small way.

What did everyone else think?

R.A. Porter is an aspiring television writer who currently toils away in the software mines. He can be found at his personal blog and stalked on Twitter.