Monday, April 09, 2012

Mad Men "Mystery Date": Felt Like a Kiss

Greg lights one last cigarette for Joan, before she finally lights a fire under his ass.
While the first few episodes this fifth season of Mad Men have had their themes, none have been as tied together as last night's "Mystery Date" was. The main theme being a misogyny, sex and violence; with the grisly murders of Richard Speck (July of 1966) serving as a historical backdrop and The Crystals' "He Hit Me (and it Felt Like a Kiss)" leading us into the closing credits. In between, we have the newly hired Michael being disgusted by the Speck crime scene photos, which is later contrasted by his being fascinated with his own dark Cinderella-as-wounded-prey ("she wants to be caught") commercial pitch for a footwear client. Meanwhile, Sally and her Gran-in-law shared a horror/fascination with the subject, with Paulina perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm for the sexual aspect of Richard Speck's acts. The final one remained unsaid, as Joan gave a callback to getting raped by her (then) fiance Greg ("you're not a good man... and you know what I'm talking about"). It acted as a final kick-in-the-pants to get that absent father out the door for good.

The use of "He Hit Me" through the credits worked some magic, coming on the heels of Joan's own dealing with domestic abuse. The Crystals original was engineered by the legendary Phil Spector, someone who's no stranger when it comes to domestic abuse, and was written about Little Eva ("The Locomotion"), who served as a babysitter for the married Brill Building hitmakers Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

The title, "Mystery Date," manage to operate thematically as well. The title was pulled from a TV commercial Sally was watching, done for the classic game of the same name, but it also tied together several scenes. There was Don's fever dream of Andrea (played by Madchen Amick of Twin Peaks fame), Greg knocking on his own door, and Peggy's unplanned sleepover with Don's receptionist Dawn.

Speaking of Peggy, was there a better scene last night than the one of her and Roger? Count your money, Peg! (In today's dollars, that $400 would amount to around $2700 -- Roger routinely carries that amount in his wallet!)
"It's not like takes over three minutes and you have to have a lot of strength."
Serial killer Richard Speck describing the strangling of his victims.

Don's fever dream scene (video below) was quite a bit to take in. Luckily, it seemed obvious that it couldn't be real, but for a moment I was thinking "Don needs another secret?" Besides the spectacle of Don strangling a former lover, the scene had elements that tied it back to what was going on elsewhere. Pushing Andrea under the bed with just the one shoe poking out acted as both as another reference to Cinderella and a kind of reversal of the one survivor in the Speck massacre, where the nurse survived by hiding under the bed.

Delving into Richard Speck's life provides a treasure trove of material in the misogyny/violence/sex sphere, especially how his final days played out. But that's a post for another day (ie, to remain in my head).

Previously: "Tea Leaves" (Episode 5.03)


Anonymous said...

Hey, it's the glomph -- I was taken in by the 'dream' action the first time, but clearly it was that.

One thing is bugging me... did Dawn nick the $400 cash from Peggy's purse? There was TOO MUCH camera-dwelling on that green bag. Could be messy.

Shawn Anderson said...

The Glomph!

I think they spent time on the purse because Peggy didn't want to leave it but also didn't want to appear like she thought Dawn would steal it -- especially after drunkenly trying to position herself as an open minded white girl. Picking up the purse under the auspices of cleaning up beer bottles made it only slightly less awkward ;)