Mad Men: “The Flood” Season 6 Episode 5 Review

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Tragedy, hope, family, and love collide in this beautiful and important hour of television. No one does it better than Mad Men.

Immediately, I was reminded of season three’s The Grown-Ups, the episode in which the characters faced the JFK assassination. I remembered how Matthew Weiner made sure to have them removed from the situation, but not unaffected. I remembered the point being something to the effect of “life goes on even in the wake of tragedy”.

Since then I’ve said, when this show reaches 1968, it’s going to be one hell of a season. The Flood covered the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. But Weiner has a different message this time. He is not inconsistent though, as these characters are still living their lives after this terrible horror.

But I suspect that Weiner wanted to show us that there is no one way to deal with the worst of the worst, that we can always find something to hold onto and keep us afloat. It’s another tool for how to continue our lives. In The Grown-Ups we were shown what we must do, and in The Flood we were shown what we can do to make it easier.

Megan and Peggy are both up for an award for their advertising skills. At the ceremony, in the middle of Paul Newman’s speech (how hilarious was it that no one could see him?), news breaks of MLK’s assassination. Abe, Peggy’s boyfriend is forced to go cover it. It was nice to see Don offer Peggy a ride home.

Once they get home, we see that Megan actually won the award. Of course it means nothing after the headline making events. Betty calls and asks why Don didn’t pick up the kids (someone stuff a dirty sock in her mouth). So he goes and picks them up. Megan plans to take the kids to a vigil, but Bobby says he’s sick, so Don plans to stay home with him.

Naturally, Betty doesn’t want him watching TV. I had to laugh at the quick cut to Don and Bobby in the movie theater. They are watching Planet of the Apes (which, by the way, came out April 3, the day before MLK was assassinated, fun fact). We are shown the ending, where Charlton Heston screams at the Statue of Liberty piercing through the sand. Bobby’s response? “Jesus”. They elect to watch it again (I wish theaters still did that…).

In between showings, an African American usher walks by and Bobby asks if he has seen the movie. The usher says he hasn’t. Bobby replies “Everybody likes to go to the movies when they’re sad”. What a line. Innocently delivered by a child. Bobby was feeling the same thing the rest of the world was. The movie made him feel better, and he wanted to extend that to someone else suffering. Don was stunned. So was I.

When they get home, Megan scolds Don for not being with her and his kids. Then came one of Jon Hamm’s best moments on the show ever. He explains to his wife how he watched his kids be born and pretended to feel, pretended to care. He talks about how he faked all those feelings and didn’t understand them. Now, in a season where death is a recurring motif, Don saw something in his son at the movie theater just hours before. He says his heart exploded. Yeah, well so did my tear ducts. Don has always been a good father. Always removed, but never cruel, unlike Betty. But now he knows what it means to bring life into this world and watch it grow into something closer to an adult yet beyond your wildest dreams. It feels like one of the few moments of pure bliss Don has experienced this decade, and a possible route to the legacy he might leave behind.

Peggy had a large chunk of the episode as well as she tried to get a new apartment. But when the deal doesn’t go through she wonders if Abe really had his heart in it. But in a sweet moment, he reveals that he does, by explaining to her where and how he wants to raise their kids. Another silver lining in a bleak time.

Of course Pete Campbell had to ruin it all. Trudy won’t let him go home so he throws a fit, as if he actually cares about what is going on in the news at all. Granted, Harry Crane was bitching about something totally inappropriate, but Pete is hardly the one to put him in his place. He needs another punch.

Ginsberg had a small subplot this week where his father set him up on a date. But the events in the news get in the way, and he asks his father not to bring home any girls for him. I like Ginsberg and wouldn’t mind seeing some more from him in the future.

But none of the other plots were as emotional or socially grounded as Don and Bobby’s. This was a monumental episode of the series, one that show’s the vision of a true artist. Episodes like The Flood are the reason Mad Men is considered one of the best dramas of all time.

Looking to the future, MLK was assassinated on April 4, 1968, and Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated June 6, 1968. I can’t really see a world where we get another episode like this in the same season, but stay tuned. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

3 Responses to Mad Men: “The Flood” Season 6 Episode 5 Review

  1. DJ says:

    While Pete wouldn’t be considered a liberal by 21st Century standards, he probably is one by 1968 standards. Recall from the first season or two, where it is revealed that Pete’s family are wealthy New York Democrats. Also recall the episode where Roger serenaded his new wife in blackface; only Don, Pete, and Trudy showed discomfort.

    The significance of the scene is that Pete saw King as a young family man who had been cruelly torn from his family. And, as Weiner described in his video that a theme of the episode is how people reach out to others in a calamity, we see Don bond with his son, Megan reach out to Don’s children and reproach him for seemingly retreating into the bottle, and Pete unable to make small talk with the delivery man who only spoke Chinese.

  2. JJA says:

    when it comes to tonight’s mad men, i can’t help but relate to Harry. you work your ass off everyday to get your clients in a newspaper, on a show, or today, featured on a website, but then a tragedy happens and it all gets cut. no matter what your personal feelings may be, 2 weeks later – when the dust clears – all the client knows is that you have no results to show them, and they’re not happy. ie: michael jackson, liz taylor, sandy hook, boston … no matter how awful you feel, in the back of your mind, these things also put your job in PR and/or advertising on the line. it’s a somewhat shallow, but very realistic way to approach these tragic events and i think Harry represented that reality tonight in an authentic way.

  3. Tanfan says:

    So much better than last week. Still cannot find sympathy for Don. He’s the worst cad and he is still responsible as an adult for his behavior. Need much more John Slattery. Tired of the phoniness and Pete is really just disgusting.

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