New Orange Couch! Last night’s episode was something of a house-keeping episode, but that doesn’t mean that they avoided touching on big themes and ideas. Our video focuses both on the limits of communication and the power of it. In a sense, this episode is one of those that feeds into the larger themes of the series, particularly in the way the buttoned-up 50s drifted into the “let it all hang out” 60s, and what that meant for people.
Since it fell outside of the big themes, we didn’t talk much about the reshuffling of the office in last night’s episode, and how it continues to signal the growing fortunes of women in the workplace. Since Peggy got promoted to copywriter in the first season, there’s been an ongoing situation on the show where marginalized people get their opportunities not because they earned them or it’s fair—on Mad Men, nothing is fair and the notion of a meritocracy is a joke—but because of spite or people coloring outside the lines. Ted hired Peggy, in part, to get back at Don. Don hired Dawn, in part, because SCDP was trying to show up another agency that had been doing racist things. Joan got promoted to partner because she was willing to play along with their little sex game. Don, of course, built his entire career on subterfuge. In this world, people who are born without privilege can’t get ahead on merit, so they have to jump on opportunities that open up for seedy reasons.
But last night, things changed a little. Yes, there was a little bit of spite in Joan’s promoting of Dawn to office manager. But that was far from all of it—she had been grooming Dawn for this role since last season by giving her more responsibilities than the other “girls”. Plus, Joan’s spite was well-earned. She was pissed at Lou for being unfair to Dawn and she was pissed at Bert for being racist, so she thought she would find a way to do what both of them wanted while also giving Dawn a bump in responsibility (and presumably in pay) to make up to her what dicks these guys are. Joan has come a long way from the early seasons, where she sees other women as the enemy. Now she’s beginning to key into the idea that looking out for other women is good for your career, as well.
Indeed, because she’s so busy trying to shuffle all these secretaries without doing harm to any of them, she catches the notice of Jim Cutler, who straight up promotes her. As far as I can tell, he’s not doing it out of spite, either. For once, someone catches a break because they work hard and not because someone is working an angle. (Then again, Cutler is always working an angle, so maybe I just overlooked it. He does seem to have a hard-on for toying with Roger, but I don’t see why Roger would resent Joan getting a promotion.) Maybe things really are changing in their world.
This episode was a bit of a table-setting episode, but I still found it quite entertaining. Thoughts?