Quick Take: Matt sees episode number 5 as the best this Mad Men season has delivered thus far.
“I know cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one that wants to see this?”
Not at all, Roger. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been waiting for this.
It’s taken five seasons to get there, but in this week’s Mad Men episode, ‘Signal 30,’ Pete Campbell finally caught the punch in the face he’s been asking for since day one. It was just as glorious as I’d always hoped it would be.
There’s not a complete satisfaction with it, though, as there is something about Pete that also makes you care about him. Under all the smarm and incessant power tripping, there is a guy that has everything, yet feels like he has nothing.
The idea of that isn’t initially easy to agree with. On the outside, his life is damn near perfect. He’s got a lovely and loving wife, a new child, a wonderful new home in the suburbs and is well beyond secure in his work and dealings for SCDP. One would be hard pressed to find a shortcoming within all that.
Yet, Pete is filled with them. He never wanted the baby in the first place, and, as indicated in this season’s premiere, having the baby has made Trudy less concerned about her appearance than she was before, which is getting to Pete. He’s always very conscious of the surface. Pete also never wanted to move away from the city, but now he has to please his wife. He basically has the perfect life, save for the fact that it’s not the life he wanted.
I’m honestly wondering if said life is one Pete wants to keep living. At every turn that he sees as a high note, he’s torn down by those around him and his own expectations. He begins taking a driver’s education class and flirting with a young girl in the class, only to be shown up by a younger, “handsome”-er guy. He invites the Draper’s and the Cosgrove’s over for a dinner party, only to get shown up by Don when the sink he “fixed” breaks again. Later he partakes of some prostitute fueled infidelity, surely thinking himself as one of the gang, only to feel shame and judgment from Don, who has surprisingly become the pillar of sainthood in the office. The final straw was insulting and demeaning Lane in front of his peers, which led to some office fisticuffs and Pete picking himself up off the floor.
It is Pete himself that actually led to his office beat down. If not for his insistence that Don, Roger and he take over for Lane when it looked like he couldn’t close the deal, the whole thing could have been avoided, at least until something else came to pass. The Jaguar man’s wife discovered his night of infidelities, not only negating any business that could have transpired, but also humiliating Lane in the process. Pete takes this opportunity to kick Lane while he’s down, and Lane realizes the monster that he has helped Pete become.
As Pete has climbed the ladder, he’s carried and kept fewer and fewer friends along the way. Yet, he’s almost always looking for someone to back him up, and never realizing why it is that no one does. When he insults Lane, he’s looking for everyone else to agree, yet gets stone faces. As they are about to fight, he looks at Don to save him, but that’s just not going to happen.
Once the day ends, Pete drags himself out of his office and shares an elevator with Don, hoping for something. He stands there, defeated inside and out and tells Don that he “has nothing”, which we all know is furthest from the truth, but Pete doesn’t see the truth. Either that or, as I’ve mentioned, it’s a truth he doesn’t want.
Either way, I’m starting to think it wasn’t mere coincidence that Pete was asking for a window in his office earlier this season. The broken man that he is now is just a few short steps away from calling it quits for good.
Other notable moments:
– The entire dinner party was wonderfully set up and paced, with just the right amount of camaraderie and awkwardness.
– Don’s jacket. It deserves its own sitcom.
– Neither Don nor Megan knowing Ken’s wife’s name was hilarious, made even more so with Don’s “Hey, you!” line and Megan blurting out “Cynthia!” once she realizes her name.
– “There are a lot of varmints. ” Oh indeed, Pete.
– Cynthia accidentally calling Charles Whitman “Widmore/Whitmore”: intentional conversation flub or LOST reference?
– Did anyone else think Pete said, “Dick!” when he walked in on the broke sink, spilling Don’s big secret? I’ve watched it over and over and I’m sure he’s saying “damnit”, but it caught me off guard initially.
– Don fixing the broke sink assuredly created some handsome plumber fantasies. He made the ladies of the party swoon and, in the process, made Pete look even more like a joke in his own home.
– Don’s doodle of the noose. Is it a callback to his murderous fever dream revealing there is something dark inside or is it simply displaying how he feels in these meetings? I’m leaning towards the latter.
– I like that Peggy and Ken still have their pact, although I don’t think they will ever need it.
– Roger showing Lane the ropes was an incredible scene and gave an excellent peek into how Roger works. Sure, we’ve seen him in action, but hearing his steps and tips showed why he’s the best or was at one time.
– If you’re ever in dire need of a high class whorehouse, Roger Sterling is your man.
– “You’re a grimy little pimp!” – Lane Pryce
– “Because he was caught with gum on his pubis!” – Also Lane. He’s giving Roger a run for his quotable money.
– Once Lane assumed old-timey boxing stance, I knew Pete was done for.
– Joan telling Lane after the fight that he’s a better man than all the others, only for him to immediately and awkwardly kiss her on the mouth.
– Ken using Pete and his depression as the inspiration for his new story. “It might have been living in the country that was making him cry. It was killing him with its silence, and loneliness. Making everything ordinary too beautiful to bear.” – From the mouth of Roger Sterling:
“Listen, honey, I’m not going to bore you with compliments.”
“Cup of what?” (in response to Layne saying England won the World Cup)
“The last words I want to hear out of his date’s mouth is ‘Next!'”
“I don’t know about you two, but I had Lane.”
This Mad Men episode, directed by none other than John Slattery himself, was, in my opinion, the best of Season 5 to date. While it focused heavily on Pete, the story managed to include just about everybody. Even more impressive is that it managed to do so with more than half the episode taking place outside of the office itself. All of the pacing and editing, which has been a bit shaky so far, was absolutely on point this week. Vincent Kartheiser continues to turn out impeccable work as Pete Campbell, the man who has everything but, as in his mind has nothing. Alison Brie did some stand up work with her bit of screen time as Trudy. I enjoyed her assertiveness and hope she continues to get her moments throughout the season.
– Matt Hardeman