Not many of Mad Men’s miserable cast of characters are afforded long-term happiness. Some are barely afforded short-term happiness. Marriages don’t last much longer than minor prison sentences. What couple could be considered happy and healthy? Perhaps that grinning beacon of contentedness Ken Cosgrove and his wife, but not many others. While the sex runs hot and heavy, true companionship is about as rare as a designated driver on this show.
In “The Better Half,” some relationships fall apart while others reassemble briefly. Peggy ends hers with Abe in about as final a way as possible. Usually a breakup only feels like you’ve been stabbed in the stomach. Don, rejected by Sylvia and bored with Megan, returns to the bottle-blond embrace of Betty before coming back to the homestead and unconvincingly declaring his devotion. Meanwhile, Roger realizes that his charm and panache can’t cover the fact that he’s very much alone: twice divorced, single, cut off from his son and grandson, and gently but firmly turned away by Joan, his favorite last resort.
Peggy is caught between two men not only in her emotional life (Abe and Ted, who professes his continued infatuation to a clearly flattered Peggy), but also in her professional life. Ted and Don’s tug-of-war puts her into the undesirable position of choosing a favorite parent. She clearly thinks Don’s tactic for Fleischmann’s margarine is better but she can’t bring herself to take a side.
“You’re the same person sometimes,” she tells Don, who warns her that Ted doesn’t know her like he does. (This is proven true when Ted’s flirtations are revealed to be unsubstantiated, lobbed from the safety of a relationship under the assumption that they could never come to fruition.) Peggy also learns that if you try to sit on the fence for too long, you’re just going to end up with ass-splinters. By trying to please both sides, she ends up caught in between, both men’s office doors closing on her. The same situation essentially occurs in her love life: Abe ends their relationship, but when she turns to Ted, she finds that door is closed too. The season premiere was named “The Doorway” and while thresholds have always held a thematic sway (think of all the times someone’s said “shut the door,” or Lane Price’s place of death), there were especially a lot of doors being shut with significance tonight.
And left open.
NEXT: Reunited and it feels so weird…