Mad Men: S7E2 “A Day’s Work”

9 Overall Score
Story : 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Anticipation: 9/10

Civil Rights Movement finally gets attention | Domino-effect storytelling | Don+Sally relationship

Peggy's romantic storyline this season and her crabby disposition

Lesson learned this week on “Mad Men”: In life there’s always that person who will take your dozen roses and yell at you when you have to break it to her that she’s turning into a mean spinster. NO, you grow up!

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That’s right, we’re talking Valentine’s Day about two months too late this week, and within the microcosm that is the world of “Mad Men,” we only see Valentine’s through corporate-tinted rose glasses at the offices of Sterling Cooper and Partners.

Like the season premiere, our beloved characters are having a difficult time right now, and it doesn’t help that a day dedicated to love and good vibes had everyone practically miserable.

I’m sad to say that Peggy is the mean spinster who took her secretary’s roses. This was also the episode that fans and critics vouching for a more prominent civil rights movement to be featured on the show desperately pined for. Shirley, being a black secretary, is important here. Peggy definitely has some racist tendencies, if not a white-hero complex, but it’s clear she’s still old fashioned when it comes to race. While not flat-out racist like Bert Cooper was this episode, we need to remember that this is the girl who felt uncomfortable leaving her purse out when Dawn slept over. Shirley being a fashion-forward and unabashedly black woman of the times is refreshing to see, but her character mainly serves as a foil to Dawn. Shirley’s Afro contrasts with Dawn’s more traditional hairstyle. Her red minidress is clearly an outfit that seeks to draw attention to herself and her personality rather than blend in with the gingham Dawn prefers. Dawn is the only other woman in the office without flowers that day, coincidentally Black, and Peggy assumes that the huge vase of roses on Shirley’s desk must surely be for her. If Moira were on Peggy’s desk or even the flippant Meredith, she surely wouldn’t have taken those flowers. Point blank: because of Shirley’s race, she didn’t expect such beautiful flowers to be delivered to the secretary. What’s even worse is when Shirley finally gets the roses back, after Peggy grapples with her passive aggression at the assumed sender of said flowers, Ted, Peggy gets defensive and yells at her secretary for embarrassing her. “You have a ring. You didn’t need to embarrass me,” she chastises Shirley. The whole scene really serves to show just how low Peggy has fallen. I’m not very fond of her portrayal of defeat this season. This is a woman who stepped out of SCDP to the tune of “You Really Got Me,” by The Kinks and now she’s throwing tantrums and being that girl who, instead of pulling herself together and keeping her dignity, tries to instill herself angrily in Ted’s life. What’s funny is that Ted is completely oblivious to her passive aggression, but this is probably a defense mechanism in response to all the change happening around him. Nothing fazes the man, not even Pete and Bonnie having sex in the office 10 feet away.

What really bothers me about Peggy’s story so far is the complete lack of clarity over what happened to get her to this point, though I expect this to be answered coyly by shows writers within the next couple of episodes. Peggy has a lot of Don-issues to deal with. She’s battled with femininity and professionalism in the past, and her focus on romantic relationships this season could be her wanting to find happiness outside of work, where she’s clearly not appreciated. It’s the only relationship she has, frankly, and it’s an abusive one.

Meanwhile, Don is pretending to keep up the work-act. While at home, he appends his days watching TV and pathetically marking the bottle to track his daily alchohol intake. He switches the sad bastard robe for his dapper suit when he has to interact with the real world. Dawn visits him to update him on his calls that week and tells him she arranged for a bouquet of flowers to be sent to Megan in California. Megan still doesn’t know that Don is “on leave.” As soon as Dawn leaves, the act is over and Don loosens his tie and reverts back to the TV. Is it back that I had a moment of self-reflexivity here when I pictured the countless times I got home and switched my “real pants” to “sweat pants” like a deranged addict needing her comfort fix? Nah.

The real meat of this episode comes with Sally. As miserable as everyone was, this episode was about second chances. Don never really got a second chance after he broke his daughter’s heart last season when she caught him with Sylvia, the neighbor. Even though last season’s finale showed a glimmer of hope, it still didn’t make any promises that everything was going to be all right.

Don feared telling the truth about himself because he thought his past would ruin his life, and effectively, it did. Don’s big reveal last season came at the wrong place and the wrong time, and while one could argue that there is never a wrong place or time to have an emotional breakthrough, “Mad Men” is either cruel enough or realistic enough to realize that humans are self centered individuals and the gap between expectations and reality can leave the vulnerable embarrassed and worse off than before. That’s life, kids. Ironically, the only way to repair his relationship with Sally is by being honest.

When Sally shows up to the office after playing hooky from a funeral she finds the abrasive old crank, Lou Avery in her father’s stead. Confused, she seeks answers, but everyone is out to lunch. This little shift causes Dawn to effectively get a promotion. Lou gets mad at Dawn because he has to share her with Don and demands that Joan put her somewhere else. They can’t fire her because of the color of her skin, which is what’s really meant here, so Joan puts her in reception. That is until Bert Cooper, the real racist claims he’s all for the advancement of colored people, just not advancing all the way to the front of the office. Then Peggy comes in to bitch to Joan because she got her feelings hurt by Shirley, supposedly, and requests another change. Joan is fed up and finally decides to get out of the secretarial pool by giving Dawn the job of office manager, while she moves upstairs to accounts in an office of her own, which happens to be next to Roger’s.

For some reason Roger isn’t happy about this. Sexist? I don’t know. She promoted herself at the suggestion of some very serious scheming by Jim Cutler, Roger’s nemesis in the office.

But let’s get back to Don and Sally. Sally shows up to Don’s place, where he’s also M.I.A. because he’s having dinner with ad men of Wells, Rich, Greene (a real advertising agency of the times with a female exec they keep talking about, Mary Wells). Don is still sought out, but his contract with SC&P binds him in limbo. When he returns home, he finds Sally there and tells her he was at work. But she was there too. He left home sick. OK, Dad – whatever. Dawn phones in and lets Don know that Sally was there and talked to Lou and it’s pretty much all over.

“Why did you let me lie to you?” Don asks Sally at a restaurant on the way back to sally’s boarding school.

When Sally told her father to “Just tell the truth” on her note of excuse, did anyone else roll their eyes at how obvious this was? But in truth, sometimes obvious is welcome in wake of ambiguity, and Don finally told the truth at the right time and place, to the right person – Sally, who’s always had a special tie to him regardless of whether she wanted to or not.

When he drops her off at school, Sally gets out of the car and simultaneously fixes everything.

“Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you,” she tells him, and for a moment, the world isn’t such a terrible place.

It turns out Megan was wrong. Somebody can love Dick Whitman.

 

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Author: Claudia Marina View all posts by
Journalism student at the University of Florida. Sally Draper is my spirit animal. I love writing about TV and how it affects culture. Occasionally I watch bad TV, but reviews make it better.

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