Mad Men gave me the chills
by Allison Waldman, posted Nov 2nd 2009 7:00PM
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.