The Orange Couch Does Mad Men: S6E12, “The Quality of Mercy”

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 8:54 EDT
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Marc and I are both huge fans of “Rosemary’s Baby”, which is, in my opinion, a true classic of feminist horror, even though it was directed by ye ol’ child rapist Roman Polanski. So we’re having a lot of fun with the dramatic influence that movie (and the book) has on this season of “Mad Men”. And they aren’t fucking around with the references. The internet keeps fussing over the fact that Megan Draper owns a T-shirt that Sharon Tate posed in, but there’s even more subtle costume stuff than that. For instance, here’s a still from an early scene in the movie:

And here is what Don was wearing:

And here is what Sally was wearing:

We mention this in the episode, but it cannot be emphasized enough: Don is aligned visually and symbolically with both Guy and the baby Antichrist over and over again in this episode. Meanwhile, both Peggy and Sally play the part of Rosemary at various times. Except that Rosemary gives her unconditional love to her demon child, but neither Sally nor Peggy will do that for Don. And really, that’s how it should be. The audience of “Rosemary’s Baby” is supposed to feel uncomfortable that she offers love and care to this baby that will grow up to be evil. A grown man who has a choice has even less of a claim to unconditional love.

Most of the other points we have are made in the episode, particularly about the qualities of justice vs. mercy, a theme taken directly from the play that the show’s title comes from. I just want to make a note about how “Mad Men” generally does a masterful job of bringing in allusions to both high art and “lowbrow” pop culture. In this case, the two major inspirations are a Shakespearean play and a knowingly campy horror film (that is still nonetheless as scary as Megan says). That’s something a lot of creators these days try to do, and it often doesn’t quite work. It pretty much always works on “Mad Men”, which is a massive credit to the writers and producers. This week was even better than usual, and that’s really saying something.

So, thoughts? Were you surprised by the Bob Benson reveal? What do you think Sally will do? By the way, isn’t it cool how they’re subtly turning Betty into a pretty good mother after all this time? Maybe all she needed all this time was to get far away from Don Draper.

Speaking of, here’s a video of the scene from “Head” that features the Monkees that I mention in the video. Its links to Don’s fantasies should be obvious, methinks.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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