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July 22, 2014

Mad Men gave me the chills

by Allison Waldman, posted Nov 2nd 2009 7:00PM
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I had been expecting the JFK assassination to become part of the Mad Men storyline from the moment they showed us the invitation for Margaret Sterling's wedding on November 23, 1963. Expectations are one thing. Watching the way the national tragedy was depicted was quite another. As I watched the scenes unfold, I was riveted to the screen – and that was a surprise to me because on Fox the Yankees and the Phillies were locked in a very tight World Series game, and I cared about the outcome.

But I found myself unable to turn away from Mad Men. It wasn't pleasant to watch those black and white images of anchormen Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley. The moment I saw the flickering images behind Harry and Pete in the Sterling-Cooper office, I knew what was happening. It was terrific storytelling, by the way, for the viewer to know, but for Pete and Harry to be oblivious.

Once they turned up the sound, once Betty and Carla saw what was happening at the Draper house, once Duck plugged the TV back in, I have to confess that I had chills. I physically responded to what I was watching and the visceral memory of having heard about the assassination when I was just a little kid. It was horrifyingly realistic, and as such, amazing TV.

I think they also made an interesting point about the power of TV. When Don came home and saw Sally and Bobby watching the news coverage, he disapproved. He chastised Betty for letting them watch TV, and it seemed to me like a knock on today's celeb-obsessed TV viewership.

Finally, as chilling as the JFK assassination was to experience again from that perspective, that is as a sudden, new tragedy that shook the nation to its core, there was another chilling moment in Mad Men.

When Betty told Don she didn't love him anymore, when she said that their kiss was soulless, and then seeing Don alone in the bedroom, his head in his hands, was stunning. He was devastated. Her indifference -- sitting downstairs, watching TV -- was equally shocking. Talk about role reversal. Who's in the power position now, Don or Betty?

So, was Betty trying to hurt Don the way he's hurt her? Or did she really mean it? And did she mean it because Henry Francis proposed to her (out of the blue)? What do you think?

The song over the end credits, Skeeter Davis singing "It's the End of the World" was perfect in its double meaning. It reflected the end of America's Camelot era, and more personally, it was the end of Don's life – a fantasy that he struggled to maintain -- with Betty.

"Don't they know it's the end of the world, 'cause you don't love me anymore."
That was all about Don.

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Justin

Eh...the episode didn't hit me hard at all until Betty told Don she didn't love him anymore. Frankly, the JFK stuff was cool in terms of perspective but being a far removed from the assassination, it just didn't weight on me.

November 03 2009 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
marali

One of the small reasons I watch this show is because it recounts the days in my life that I only know from photographs and newsreels. My brother and I were born in 1961 & 62 in the D.C. area and my father was one of the oh so many who waited in line to view JFK while he laid in State.

I, too, had chills last night watching the superb handling of this episode. I knew they would do it justice but I was aghast at how real they allowed this story to unfold.

I had a conversation with a patient of mine last week where I tried to liken JFK's assasination with 911. This man, a decade older than myself, recalled more acurately how the entire nation stopped over that week. It wasn't that the planes stopped flying or schools closed early. Everything stood still and grieved.

The mixture of the trivial actions (those who tuned out the broadcast, were having sex...) contrasted with the heartwrenchingly realistic reactions of those who bore witness was beyond poweful.

And then...Betty's refusal to accept Don's love, his unuttered apology and admission that she does not love him. OMG! After these past two episodes I can't begin to imagine what next week's season finale will bring.

November 03 2009 at 4:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
divineparasite

I was not born when the Kennedy assination happened but the fact that there is video footage of it is chilling. Kennedy was our first television president. Thus our first president who was a genuine celebrity. Lincoln's assination is so far its merely a historical event. Yet after 40 years Kennedy's death still haunts this country in some ways. Its like a promise that this country never saw fulfilled. And we still feel the repurcusions of. To see the day recreated made for amazing television. It was like we were all transported to that day, watching the television and living the tragedy all over again, and it made for incredible television.

November 03 2009 at 3:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeff N.

I actually saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald9 live on TV as a child. I will never forget that. It really leaves a lasting impression on you. This was an awesome episode. It also gave me Chills, especially when Walter Cronkite announces President Kennedy is dead.

November 03 2009 at 12:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jeff N.'s comment
Schwack

Not to sound morbid, but to remember seeing Oswald being shot...I mean, it was in the days of reality TV being a fantasy. All of my family member never saw that....

November 03 2009 at 1:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shelley

I had chills too watching the show. I remember being riveted to the TV for the full week. When Thanksgiving came the following week it was a holiday filled with sadness. And although most of the Mad Men were pulling for Richard Nixon to win, the staff was clearly devastated.

November 02 2009 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Schwack

Yeah, i agree...this episode was somewhat cool to see how everybody reacted to Kennedy's assassination. I was too young to remember it but I once asked my mom where she was when she heard the news. Like everybody in those days, she remembers where she was at.

Kinda like our generation where they ask "where were you when the Challenger exploded? When Reagan was shot. When 9-11 happened".

The bombshell wasn't expected from Betty. Wow. I liked the way she told that aide that she has 3 kids and can't think of marrying him.

By the way, is it me or does Don show more affection to his daughter than his son????

Next week should be cool....Be interesting if Pete finds out that Peggy is sleeping with Duck.

November 02 2009 at 8:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

It was so awesome.

November 02 2009 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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