'Mad Men' recap: 'A Tale of Two Cities'

  • Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) - Mad Men
Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser),… (Frank Ockenfels/AMC / )
June 03, 2013|Karmen Fox | For The Baltimore Sun

The unrest of the ‘60s is still simmering. As the political tensions rise, so escalates the turmoil in Don Draper’s world.

‘A Tale of Two Cities’ focused on fierce rivalries: East versus West Coast, Joan versus Pete and Cutler versus Ginsberg. No one was stabbed (thankfully), but Roger did get sucker punched. And it was hilarious. Roger was the shining beacon of much appreciated comic relief in an episode riddled with ominous and violent undertones.

After last season, I’ve become somewhat numb to the death imagery in ‘Mad Men,’ since they tend to hammer it rather hard into viewers’ heads. But the chaos of the Democratic National Convention riot footage is too brutal to be ignored, even 50 years after the fact.

It echoes through the characters' language. Ginsberg calls himself the destroyer of worlds and Pete despairs about the gravestone of their resistance. It reverberated through their relationships as well. Joan is shocked, Megan is terrified and Don is rather blasé.

When Megan calls Don in California, he shows her compassion. Sure, he made an off-hand and crummy comment on Conrad Hilton possibly staying at the hotel, but he was much more considerate of Megan thousands of miles away than when he was sitting on the same bed as her after RFK’s assassination. He might as well have been on Ginso’s home planet when she was three feet away from him, crying. Here, he seems to makes some effort to console her.

The next day, Don’s coworkers make cracks about the riot, declaring victory for Nixon. Jack, their client, snaps at them for making such insensitive jokes. It doesn’t get much easier for Don. As the meetings continue, the client points out that his California-based company is hesitant to work with a New York firm. The time change and the different cultures are just too much.

“We’re sorry your last girlfriend hurt you. We’re in your office now,” Roger assures them. (Note: Roger has many snappy one-liners, which I list further down. For now, let’s focus on Don. He could always use more attention for his precarious ego.)

The East-versus-West rivalry is even more obvious when Don and Roger go to a Beverly Hills party with Harry. It’s loaded with California hippies, and those two don’t stand a chance of blending in, especially Roger.

The man has dropped acid five times and yet he screams East Coast-square. Wearing a double-breasted navy blazer while Danny Siegel is wearing a paisley hippie-print get-up? Good thing he passed on the ascot and yacht hat.

Don, though clad in a pressed suit, gets in on the groovy scene. He joins a blond strikingly similar to Betty at the hookah. After he starts making out with her, a hippie-fied Megan comes up to him, assuring him that she’s OK with sharing her husband. That’s your first clue he’s hallucinating. The second? She says that she’s pregnant.

What truly highlights the hazy, altered state is the dragged-out walk where Megan leads him from one room to another. It feels like Pete’s epic poem of a commute from last season, only far-less melodramatic. The psychedelic music blaring felt a tad cliché, but then again, it’s a party where business cards are nowhere to be found.

With one blink of the eye, the lieutenant from his trip to Hawaii appears. He tells Don he’s dead.

Don sees a body -- his body -- in the pool, an image eerily reminiscent of the ominous Hawaiian pitch earlier this season (not that we saw the body in the ad, but it’s implied). He comes to with Roger performing CPR on him. It’s the least he could do after Don saved him from a heart attack in season one.

There’s been a conspiracy swirling around online about Megan’s out-of-place red-star t-shirt worn on the balcony in last week’s episode. It’s identical to the one that Sharon Tate wore in a spread for Esquire. Yes, the actress who was killed by the Manson Family when she was pregnant. Is it possible that Megan will go the way of Sharon?

The riots, Abe getting stabbed last week (twice) and her previous miscarriage are all violent signs hinting to Megan getting pregnant and killed. The hazy drug sequence in which Megan says she’s pregnant followed by Don’s doppelgänger dying is heavily implying that. The red star very well could be a red herring. But at the very least, it could foreshadow that Don and Megan’s marriage is dead, and is thus heading toward divorce. Either way, it doesn’t look good for Mrs. Draper. Yikes.

Back at the office, Joan is trying to move up in her career. What starts off as a lunch date, obvious from her flirty floral dress, turns out to be a potential new client. Joan goes in for the kill.

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