New Orange Couch! Marc and I often cover multiple themes and ideas in an episode, but this episode so strongly focused on the theme of “mattering” that we did one of our “single theme” episodes. Nice to see the use of allusions creeping back onto the show. One of Mad Men‘s strengths is that, unlike on most TV dramas, the characters on this show seem to actually engage with pop culture in meaningful ways. They read books, watch TV, listen to records, and all these things matter to them. In the last couple of seasons of Breaking Bad, you saw a little of this, but engaging pop culture is, for whatever reason, something that shows up more for characters in comedies instead of dramas. Except on Mad Men.
Last season, a lot of the historical threads were about the increasing fear of crime and violence that was infecting the country in the late 60s. This episode suggests to me that the historical trend that will be focused on in this season is the changes that were coming to the workplace in the 60s. Already, Joan has had an encounter with a bean-counting MBA, though she eventually got the upper hand. The bean-counting mentality crops up again in a big way in this episode. Peggy’s new boss Lou is Mr. Bottom Line about everything. He doesn’t care how good the work is. His only interest on making sure that he can turn the most profit with the least amount of resources.
In case we didn’t get the message, the meeting between the partners to decide Don’s fate literally has them arguing whether or not it’s more cost effective to bring him on or to get a computer. (And, of course, his new contract coming back exemplifies the management-heavy, micromanagement style of running a business that was on the rise at the time.) The business world is increasingly turning towards the notion that you have to quantify everything, which puts people who do “creative” work—which is inherently unquantifiable—in quite the bind. How do you justify yourself when your work resists being put on a pie chart, in a world that will soon be ruled by PowerPoint? It’ll be interesting seeing the show explore this idea more going forward.
Thoughts? Do you think Don should have taken the deal?