The Orange Couch, Episode 6 of Mad Men: “Far Away Places”
An absolutely devastating and amazing hour of television: That’s the first thing I want to say. The show has been escalating the levels of dread and fear for three episodes now, to the point where I was genuinely afraid that someone out there had murdered Megan because Don abandoned her. As we discuss in this episode, the theme was about the tension between “home” and “far away”. Peggy lays it out in her ad campaign: Home is safety, love, warmth. Out there is scary, cold, and dangerous. But the ad gets rejected, because, as we learn in this episode, it isn’t that simple. Some times home is where you can’t be, and some times going on journeys leads us to greater truths. Even if they’re scary. Watch the video for more on that.
I just want to add one more thing about all this: Because of all the talk of “far away places” and danger—particularly how badly it shook Peggy, understandably so, to learn that in another place and time, goofball Michael was almost surely born in a concentration camp—I think it was entirely reasonable to think Megan was in great danger after Don abandoned her. “Mad Men” is rarely that straightforward, however. We discover instead that where Megan isn’t safe is in her home. She tries to be safe in there; she barricades the door and refuses to answer the phone, creating a little bubble of seeming safety. But Don kicks the door down (in a disturbing echo of season three, where he kicks the door down in an act of sheer awesomeness), popping that bubble and any illusion that home is where safety lies. Realizing that, the rest of the episode really came together, and we realized that “trips” often seem scary but can be exactly what you need, and “home” is not always so great. After all, Michael’s first home was a concentration camp, and in order to feel safe, he imagines that he’s actually from somewhere very far away. Still, like all things, it’s complicated. I think we’re meant to find it good that Peggy has a home with Abe, that he provides an anchor and makes her feel safe. It’s not that home is a bad thing or trips are good. Just that we need both, and that home needs to be more than just home to be safe. That home has to be stable, and while a lot of people are uneasy about Peggy’s storyline, I think it’s clear that one thing that’s true about her relationship is that she is with a man who really is kind and stable. In this world, that counts for something.
The historical context is important here, as well. It’s important to know that “Mad Men” is a very New York show, and the city’s decline is a major issue here. The larger “home” of all the characters—New York City—is increasingly unsafe and unstable.
On a side note: I read some forums last night after the episode aired, because it was a dense episode and I struggled to sleep after watching it. I wanted to see if others were picking up on the themes Marc and I lay out in the video. Unfortunately, the ones I read all were about adjudicating the fight between Megan and Don. I wish I could say I was surprised to see that most people I was reading right after the episode were Team Don, even though Don puts Megan through unholy hell, for no other reason that he genuinely fears that on some level, she doesn’t want him. That’s some classic domestic violence shit, and it’s telling how many people out there are unwilling to see that Don is a bad fucking guy.
What were your thoughts? Did this episode make you rethink the Megan character as much as it did for Marc and myself?