'Mad Men': It's a shameful, shameful day

April 29, 2013|By Tenny Tatusian
  • Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) is a nominee at the New York advertising awards.
Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) is a nominee at the New York advertising awards. (AMC )

On an early spring evening, Don and Megan are headed to the New York advertising awards and Arnold and Sylvia are going to D.C. where the doctor will give a last-minute (Got that, Don? She didn’t have time to tell you) speech. “Come Monday morning, it will all be a dream,” the doctor and wife say about their weekend away.

It won’t. It will be a nightmare and by the end of the episode Don offers a revelation that will be hard to shake.

The night is April 4, 1968, and soon news of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. will spread, unleashing nationwide riots and dragging despair back into America’s hearts. But first, Paul Newman – seen as a speck – gets up before the advertising gala. He makes a pitch for Gene McCarthy for president and before he leaves the podium, news of the King assassination is shouted into the reception room.

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Tears, disbelief and long lines for the phone booths ensue. 

In another part of town, copy writer Michael is at a diner with Beverly, a blind date arranged by his father. The younger Ginsburg is a bundle of neuroses, and while still in the cocoon of not knowing the tragic news, offers an incredibly frank assessment of himself. “I'm sure my father told you what a Lothario I am, but I am not. I'm very anxious about it. I've never had sex. Not even once.”

With remarkable poise, Beverly reassures him, “Tonight will not be the night.”

Soon the news of King’s death spreads through the diner and we hear dishes crash and we see black cooks and busboys stumble about.

We don’t see Dawn, Don’s secretary, until 28 minutes into the show when she appears for work the day after. Grief and chaos have made her unemotional and she stands rigid when Joan leans in for as awkward a hug as you will ever see.

Upstairs, Pete Campbell and Harry Crane go at each other, screaming enough to bring Bert Cooper out of his office. Harry is concerned over the cancellation of “Bewitched” and other programs for news coverage while Pete has come into work only to take his mind off the news. The night before, he was rejected over the phone by a steadfast Trudy. (Was he remembering how closely they sat on the couch during the aftermath of President Kennedy’s death?)

Before the office is closed early, Roger Sterling brings Randall Walsh to meet Don and the copy writers. Randall is in property insurance and tries to communicate without using words. When urged by Roger to speak, he announces that the spirit of Dr. King delivered a coded message to him in his sleep. He wants an ad for his company to feature a Molotov cocktail and a coupon. Don says no.

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That evening, Betty (keeping her dark hair) summons him to pick up the children. They fight but Don relents, bringing his children through barely calm streets. The next day, Megan takes Gene and Sally to Central Park for a vigil. Don and Bobby go to the movies to see “Planet of the Apes.” Bobby is transfixed and they stay to watch a second screening. Just before it starts, Bobby chats up the African American usher, telling him, “Everybody likes to go to the movies when they're sad.”

In a bedroom confessional, he tells Megan that he never loved his children, that emotions overwhelming new parents escaped him entirely.

“You don't feel anything, especially if you had a difficult childhood. You want to love them but you don't.”

Has Don been seeing a young Dick Whitman in Bobby all this time? If so, how can he stand it?

But in that movie theater, he falls in love with his son. It’s a sensation that almost crushes him. “… it feels like your heart is going to explode.”

How will these mangled psyches cope two months later when Robert Kennedy shows up at the Ambassador Hotel?


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