What’s in the box?
One of my biggest complaints with Season 6 was the unresolved plotline with Michael Ginsberg’s crumbling mental stability. That answer arrived in a box in "The Runaways." I almost wish it hadn’t.
Ginsy waltzing into Peggy’s office with that plain white box was a less gritty version of the climatic scene in "Se7en." Just like Kevin’s Spacey’s character, Ginsy was eerily calm and collected — an odd disposition after spewing manic racing thoughts and pouncing on Peggy just the night before.
“What’s in the box, Peggy?” I kept thinking to myself, as my stomach dropped. “What’s in the box?!”
Peggy opens it in horror. It wasn’t a head, but a mutilated nipple. Ouch, and on Mother’s Day! Talk about subtext — he did say he was shutting off the valve.
In a move straight from the van Gogh’s relationship guide, Ginsberg severs a body part to profess his feelings for Peggy.
But in reality, to which Ginsy sadly said “bye-bye” in this episode, he’s not actually attracted to Peggy; he’s merely overcompensating his potential attraction to Stan.
I say “potential,” because while he did swoon over Stan’s shoulders (funny, I always thought Stan’s beard was his most dashing attribute), his delusions could be taken at face value. With that severe of a psychotic break, he might have been convinced that the computer is turning him into what he fears the most: a homosexual.
This anxiety over homosexuals is nothing new. “Tell me the truth: Are you a homo?” he asked Bob Benson during a mental breakdown last season. Turns out, he was right. A broken clock is right twice a day, even if it happens to be cuckoo.
On the flipside, his paranoia could be his latent homosexual feelings coming out. He does share the surname of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who was gay. Also telling: Allen Ginsberg’s mother suffered from schizophrenia and was hospitalized for her mental illness. Sound familiar?
Ginsy’s breakdowns and severe homophobia rise to the surface whenever he feels threatened. Last season, the trigger was a heated argument with Cutler (aka ‘The Man’) over Vietnam. This time, it’s the fear that he will be replaced by the office’s newest shining star — and star counter — the computer.
The SC&P staff has mostly forgotten about the looming, whirring machine. Ginsberg, however, obsesses over it. “The machine came for us one by one!” He tinkers with the radio, convinced the radio waves are sending him messages, and shows up to Peggy’s house unexpectedly. You can bet Peggy will be locking her front door now after that visit.
“There’s this pressure in my head that feels like a hydrogen bomb is about to go off,” he tells Peggy, staring at her intently until she wakes up. Get this guy some meds.
The bomb did go off. Like van Gogh, Ginsy probably suffers from a severe form of bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder, a blend of bipolar and schizophrenia. The racing thoughts and paranoid delusions are all there, and his mind is not.
Peggy, in tears, glares at the computer, humming smugly with a printed sign that says, “THINK.” But in Ginsy's mind, the machine was out to destroy their creative thoughts.
“That machine came for us one by one,” he cried at the beginning of the episode. It already claimed its first victim, defiant not to adapt. This is the price for fighting against technology.
Watching Ginsy restrained on a gurney was the bleakest "Mad Men" scene since Lane’s suicide. One by one, the SC&P office is devouring its victims. “Get out while you can!” he warns.
Don, meanwhile, keeps pushing onward to reclaim his old spot at SC&P, only to end up back at square one. “Why is he marching in circles?” one of Scout’s Honor’s speech bubble says.
Because as long as Lou’s in charge, there needs to be someone with talent and leadership traits at SC&P.
“I’m not taking management advice from Don Draper,” Lou sneers. Don’s fault was never that he was an ineffective leader. In fact, the creative team still respects Don more than Lou — even if they don’t take him as seriously as they used to.