Mad Men Season 2 Episode 13: Meditations on an Emergency

Posted on October 27, 2008

Before we get to our review, we have two words for you:

Told ya.

Told ya she was pregnant.
Told ya there was something between Pete and Peggy.
Told ya that toddler wasn’t Peggy’s.

Forgive us, darlings but we’re so pleased we got it right that we have to indulge ourselves a little. Having said that, we were blown away at the directions the show took last night. If we didn’t know better, we’d swear this was the series finale and not the season finale. That’s how good a job they did wrapping up several plot lines.

For a show that suffers the common complaint that “nothing happens,” last night did an astonishingly good job of proving that complaint wrong. It’s extremely rare to see that level of character development on a television show. Don, Betty, Peggy, and Pete all made major leaps forward. It’s as if they all came out of a painful adolescence and emerged as adults.

“We don’t know what’s really going on. You know that.” Don says that to Roger and he’s talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis, the impending apocalypse that spurs every character’s actions in this episode but what he’s really talking about is secrets. If there’s one theme this show returns to again and again, it’s the power of secrets. Last night’s episode demonstrated there’s as much power in the withholding as there is in the revealing.

Pete had an opportunity to finally get what he wanted – to be named head of accounts – but he knew it was going to come at a price that would more than likely hurt Don. At any other time, he probably would have held on to his little secret about Duck’s coming rise to power but lucky for Don, he chose that exact time to finally give Pete the other thing he wanted: praise from the great Don Draper. That praise and the discussion with the other boys in the office about loyalty forced him to grow up a little and he marched into Don’s office (looking suddenly like a man for the first time) and warned him about what was coming. “I figured, if I were you,” something we have no doubt Pete dreams about all the time, “I’d want to know.” The end result might be that Pete doesn’t get his dream promotion yet, but he seemed satisfied that he did the right thing.

Back at the Campbells’ fabulous apartment (seriously, we want that place) the marriage seems to be crumbling even further. Trudy’s once again running off to be with Mommy and Daddy in the face of nuclear armageddon and she tells Pete if he loved her, he’d come too. He agrees - and then doesn’t go with her. Ouch.

Don finally gives up his secret. Well, one of them, anyway. He admits to Betty that he cheated but Betty has a secret of her own and she’s not ready to reveal it. In fact, she seems to be looking for ways to make it go away. She couldn’t get her doctor to agree to terminate it and she probably rode that horse for all it was worth to force a miscarriage, but no such luck for Betts. We applaud the show for pointing out that pre-Roe, women “of means” had the option of terminating their pregnancies without resorting to the back alleys that women of lesser means were forced to use. Had she pushed the issue, Betty probably could have gotten her doctor to agree to it and besides, as the long-missing Francine (in that FABULOUS beauty salon) told her, there was a doctor in Albany that would have done it for her. Betty didn’t push the issue because Betty isn’t capable of taking matters into her own hands. When she’s in that bar and that gorgeous man asked her what she was doing there, she answered, “I’m waiting.” That’s all that Betty seems to be able to do. Even when she indicates that she’s willing to sleep with the guy, she slowly glides along the wall with a quiet “I’m married,” as if that would be enough to stop what was clearly going to happen. Still, she seemed to enjoy her sleazy little romp on the bar manager’s couch and we couldn’t help noticing the parallels to the pregnant Peggy sleeping with Pete on his office couch.

Speaking of that office couch, Peggy found herself sitting on it once again only this time, the fireworks were of a different sort. “I had your baby and I gave it away.” We gasped out loud and covered our mouths in shock. We had no idea that was going to happen and once again kudos must be paid to the writers for managing to shock us again and again.

You thought we were crazy when we said there was something between the two of them but we were only half-right. We thought they were going to wind up together but Peggy put the kibosh on that for good. On the one hand, we understand why she told Pete. Father Gill pushed her hard to make a confession to save herself from eternal damnation and she did, on her own terms. She unloaded the secret that would have crushed her if she kept it much longer. On the other hand, she did so in a way that we can’t help thinking was a bit cruel. Pete’s declaration of love was the most human, most honest thing he’s ever done. It was pure and it was from the heart, which made her confession to him all the more heartbreaking. Kudos to them both for acting the hell out of that scene. Pete’s one tear appearing just as Peggy put her hand on his shoulder and left him was completely devastating.

Why did Peggy say no to such a heartfelt declaration of love? Because as she put it, she wants “other things.” Which isn’t to say she doesn’t want love, but her speech about giving something up and realizing she can’t ever get it back wasn’t about the baby. It was about herself. Trying to make a go with Pete now would have been a step backwards for her and had almost no chance of being successful because of the baggage she bore from their earlier tryst. It was an incredibly grown up thing for her to realize. In a way, both of them grew up at that moment on that couch. Later that night, Peggy says her prayers and with a smile on her face, settles in for a night’s sleep. She’s completely unburdened and ready for what comes next. Pete, on the other hand, seems destroyed as he sits in his office alone with his rifle. Once again, we have no idea where they’re going to go after that.

After Don’s beautiful heartfelt letter to Betty, she accepted him back home and sat him down because she needed to talk to him. She starts off, “I…” and we think for a split second that she’s going to finish that sentence with “…slept with someone else,” but she falters and decides to withhold the one secret that would have closed the door on her marriage forever and instead tell him the secret that would open it up for good. “I’m pregnant.”

With those two words, armageddon is averted and the season ends on a hopeful note but with enough loose ends – What about JOAN?! Will she go through with her wedding? Will Roger go through with his? Is Duck going to go off the deep end? Does Don even work at Sterling Cooper anymore? – to keep us salivating during the LONG wait for season 3.

God, we love this show.

[Photos: Courtesy of amctv.com]