At last, more insight into Don Draper's psyche. Now that old Don is back, most of season six's sins have been cyclical, from revisiting adultery and prostitution to a hefty resurgence in Don’s liquor bill.
The reboot of old Don has sometimes made this season repetitive and dry. But it’s to serve a point: Don’s stuck in a vicious cycle of debauchery as a means to self-medicate. But can he change?
This episode, on the other hand, was shocking -- filled with feelings of panic and anguish, rather than dread lingering from season five. The jarring game-changer? Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
Don and Megan are on their way to an advertising awards ceremony when they run into Sylvia and the doctor. Megan is nominated for the Heinz Baked Beans ad, while the Rosens are on their way to D.C.
The awards are so swanky that they hired Paul Newman to speak. SCDP’s nosebleed seats, on the other hand, leave little to be desired. They’re so far away from the stage that Joan actually busts out her glasses and insists she needs binoculars.
While Paul Newman is speaking, a man shouts from the audience that Martin Luther King Jr. has been assassinated. The shouting was so muffled that I couldn’t figure out what he had said until later. But with Joan crying and Don comforting Megan, it clearly wasn’t good news.
Don seems more wrapped up in the riots than the assassination itself -- mainly the ones in D.C. instead of in Harlem. So much so that he forgets it’s his turn with the kids. But still, he uses the danger in the streets as an excuse not to pick them up.
“I guarantee you’d go to Canada on your knees to pick up your girlfriend,” Betty tells Don. You mean calling his mistress’ D.C. hotel room while his own wife is distraught? Eh, close enough. But the guilt trip works, and Don spends time with his kids.
As intriguing of a character as Sally is, and as great of an actress Kiernan Shipka is, it’s refreshing to see another one of Don’s neglected kids in the storyline: Bobby.
And neglected he is. Bobby is picking and peeling at the wallpaper, then pushes his bed over to hide it. His reason? The panels didn’t line up.
Uh oh. Looks like he got his mother’s gene for anxiety -- this time in the form of OCD. Betty predictably overreacts: “You’re destroying this house!” No, destruction is the rioting outside, not your son’s compulsions. Rather than ask why or talk him through this worrisome behavior, she grounds him from watching TV.
What she fails to notice is that Bobby’s obsession with evenness is Bobby’s way of avoiding his anxiety (Weiner’s main theme this season), either to cope with a cold and distant mother or an absent father.
And absent Don is. Sure, Don spends time with Bobby at the movies -- doing exactly the opposite of what the ex says, in typical bitter divorcee fashion. But later Megan comes back from the vigil with the kids to find him alone in the bedroom, drink in hand.
“Is this what you want to be when they need you?” she scolds him.
Of course it isn’t. He wants to be the dad who loves his kids. But he finds himself faking it.
“The fact that you’re faking that feeling makes you wonder if your own father had the same problem,” he divulges. And cue “Cat’s in the Cradle” playing in my head.
Later Don goes into Bobby’s room. In what looks like a precious father-son bonding moment, he tells him to fall asleep. Then he walks outside to the patio with a contemplative stare at skyline, sirens blaring in the background. He’s alone, as he always is.
The day after MLK’s assassination, Dawn comes into the office to Don’s surprise. Joan awkwardly hugs Dawn, saying, “We’re all so sorry,” with an implied “... for you.” I’m surprised she didn’t spring for a sympathy card.
The person who most needs a hug at SCDP is Pete. He looks more distressed than Dawn, who insists on working, even when Don tells her to go home.
After the news broke, everyone at the ad awards is standing in line to call their loved ones. Pete’s impatience while waiting in the crowd comes off as his typical petulant behavior (of course, Pete, because you’re the only one with family to call).