Mad Men, Ep. 6.04, “To Have and To Hold”: “Everybody’s scared”

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Mad Men, Season 6, Episode 4: “To Have and To Hold”
Written by Erin Levy
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on AMC

There is a shot in the middle of “To Have and To Hold” that recalls the towering heights of Mad Men’s fifth season, when form seemed to outweigh all other concerns. A slow, swooping take begins with two silhouettes imposed on a hypnogogic background of swirling color as Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s “Bonnie and Clyde” provides a fitting accompaniment. The camera comes down to reveal Joan’s friend Kate underneath the man she met at the soda fountain, while Joan sits idly by. A friend of the man approaches and joins Joan on the sofa. Expressing a bemused indifference, she begins to make out with him as the camera continues moving and returns its focus to the psychedelic background.

Joan’s indifference is also on display in the scenes leading into the shot. Both of them take place in the backseat of a taxi. In one, Joan reluctantly plays along as the soda jerk wants to see who kisses better, her or Kate. In the other, Don and Megan alternate between disgust, shock, and amusement while processing Mel and Arlene’s proposition. Is Joan more open than Don to the era of free love, or has she just become inured to it, having to trade her sexuality for power when her skills went unnoticed. Perhaps Joan just doesn’t care anymore.

The morning after their sojourn to the Electric Circus, Kate expresses her disappointment that she isn’t able to handle life the way Joan does, and Joan responds “Why would you want to?” There is a lot of that going on in the episode. Kate is envious of Joan, but doesn’t realize what she’s had to go through to get where she is. Harry does, but he still wants her position. He doesn’t understand it won’t afford him anything as long as he doesn’t have anyone’s respect, and if he keeps behaving like an overgrown child he’s never going to get it. Heinz beans is a good account, but the allure of ketchup proves too tempting, resulting in the loss of everything. Don has Megan, but calls her a whore before pressing a penny into the palm of his mistress.

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Joan’s displeasure with her current station is made clear when she hands over a responsibility to Dawn as punishment, and Dawn sees it as a promotion.  One has seen the disdain that comes when a woman assumes power in this world, the other sees her chances at attaining domestic bliss slipping away and is willing to take whatever she can get. This is Dawn’s first standalone storyline since being introduced and subsequently pushed aside in season five. I wish I could say it provides substantial insight into who she is, but it really doesn’t. She is someone who walks on eggshells in constant fear of losing her job, but at SCDP “everyone’s scared.”

Perhaps it’s because everyone has secrets. Tim is going behind the back of his current ad agency to meet with SCDP. Pete and Don don’t let Ken, or anyone else for that matter, know they’re pursuing the account, while Peggy doesn’t tell Stan she’s trying to poach it. Scarlett and Dawn conspire to dupe Joan, but it doesn’t get them very far. Megan is upfront with Don about the love scene her job requires, but that doesn’t get her any further. The disparity between what we do and what we say is innate to Mad Men, but there seems to be a spotlight directed towards it this week.

It would be unfair to say the men on Mad Men walk away from their infidelities unscathed—we saw that last week with Pete, not to mention Don’s sabotage of the Heinz beans account in this episode—but the women, as is appropriate to the time, certainly seem to bear the brunt of it. In “To Have and to Hold” Scarlett is fired (and then not fired) for leaving work early, Joan has her shameful night with Herb rubbed in her face by a petulant Harry, and Peggy seems to have torpedoed whatever she had with Stan. The anger Don directed towards Megan is probably the result of projection, but she doesn’t know that. She wasn’t there to see Don hide the cross Sylvia wears around her neck.

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