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Mad Men Mondays: The Strategy | 706
this article is full of spoilers — don’t read unless you’ve seen The Strategy !
For the past five episodes, Mad Men has showed its characters struggling to come out on top; some were met with moderate success (such as Don, in the end of The Runways), while others failed miserably (we’re praying for you, Ginsberg). It’s been hard to see where it all could lead, with everyone running around, not really sure of where they stand; but every once in a while comes that one episode that allows you to breathe and believe that maybe everything could turn out all right.

For a long time that privileged spot belonged to The Suitcase, one of Mad Men‘s most talked about and beloved episodes, and from which a couple of parallels could be drawn: in season four, Don asks Peggy to stay in the office, helping him with the Samsonite campaign; he’s frustrated with the lack of a good idea, and scared that Anna Draper might’ve died, the only person who really knew him. That turmoil of emotions ends up being thrown at Peggy, on her 26th birthday – Peggy, who feels miserable enough already, but still ends up being the one doing the comforting.

“That’s the job. […] Living in the not knowing.” 

In season seven, it’s the other way around: Peggy asks Don – asking being a loose term in both situations – to come by the office, to help her with the Burger Chef campaign. Earlier, she presented a good pitch to Lou; everyone was smiling and happy until Pete and his male superiority complex suggested that Don did the presentation, not Peggy. But it wasn’t even this all too familiar shift in power that shattered Peggy – it was Don himself, who out of the blue thought of a completely different point of view for the ad. Peggy dismisses it, but this apparently innocent suggestion gets stuck in her mind and taints all of her work. And so she’s at the office on a weekend, and Don comes to the rescue.

The show mocks its own Don swoops in and saves the day narrative (“did you park your white horse outside?“), and finds a much more beautiful and gratifying way of solving the issue than having Don say something brilliant, like he just thought of it (YES, you do do that). We get to see this fantastic duo, undoubtedly the most fascinating of the show, work together again – which in itself, would be a win; but it goes further.

Like any good mentor, Don doesn’t simply give her the answer: he helps Peggy find it herself; because she’s not as good as any woman in the business – she’s as good as anyone, probably better, and Don is the only one at the office who truly believes that. In fact, he has so from the very first episode, and The Strategy acts as reminder for us and them of just how good they are as team; even though we know it’s much more than that.

Before the new Burger Chef concept dawns on Peggy, the two have one of those honest, simple, confession-like conversations that makes Don and Peggy’s relationship as beautiful as it is hard to define: are they friends? Are they co-workers who respect each other and occasionally share a moment? Are they two damaged people who see a bit of themselves in each other, even in the way they abuse one another? Are they all of this, or something else? It’s hard to tell with certainty, as it is with some of our own relationships in real life.

It’s a great moment, perhaps the best one. And then there’s the dance. Peggy talks about a new kind of family, and the work is done. Frank Sinatra‘s still powerful My Way starts playing, and Don asks Do you think that’s a coincidence?. No, it never is with this show, is it? So he asks, she accepts, and after a few steps her head rests on his chest. Whatever it means, Don takes a while to process it (you can see it all in Jon Hamm‘s face, as always) until he accepts itPeggy‘s love, gratitude, pain, and his own, all of it, whatever it is – and kisses her earnestly on the top of her head.

It’s beyond special – a fine moment in television, with already thousands of words written about it. And you think, that’s it, that’s the end of it, we can go all now. As many have noted, that could be the end for Peggy and Don, or perhaps it’s just the one we hope for. It’s not the one that we’ll have, for there are still eight episodes to go, but really, it’s not even the end of the episode.

“What if there was a place where you could go,
where there was no TV, and you could break bread… 
and whoever you were sitting with was family.”

In the final scene, we have Pete, Peggy, and Don having dinner at one of the Burger Chef restaurants. It’s the old trio we were so used to seeing in the beginning of the show, but didn’t even realise how much we missed them now (because really, who consciously misses Pete). As they’re personal lives fall apart, this odd kind of family who have been through so much (an some of it because of each other) come together, materialising Peggy’s pitch in such a perfect way that has us thinking something bad is coming. But never mind the storm ahead, let us enjoy the sun. 

loose thoughts: 

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This is the end: despite Don‘s efforts, it was clear that Megan was out of place in his NYC apartment – and wanting to meet in neutral territory is classic break-up talk; it’s been noted that the newspaper Don finds is the same one from just before his marriage with Betty is over. These damn connections, huh? And you don’t believe the curtain literally closing on Megan and Pete’s girlfriend is a coincidence, do you? Oh and a secretary not knowing Don is married? Not okay. #FACES

— Speaking of faces, when Megan surprises Don at the office, the look on his screams help me:
— We got a good deal of Trudy and Pete, a pair I nearly forgot about and remembered how interesting they actually are, and some steam room humour from Roger which was spot on.

— Bob Benson is back (and oh my, he was in The Crazy Ones!), and what began as an endearing scene sequence between him and Joan ended as a shattering experience for both of them.

Ken was in it, and got an eye joke. 

 Anyone else did a happy dance after the Roger/Joan interaction? How long has it been? We needed this. 

 Finally, I still get a good laugh out of Roger hating Harry. 

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew 
When I bit off more than I could chew. 
But through it all, when there was doubt, 
I ate it up and spit it out. 
I faced it all and I stood tall; 
And did it my way. 

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