Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Shakeups on Mad Men shocking but welcome

  • Print

Be careful what you wish for.

There I was, feeling vaguely restless and dissatisfied with Mad Men. To me, it felt as if Season 5 had never really established narrative traction, that its ensemble structure had become too diffused.

And then comes last week's episode, and boom. Suddenly everyone is in shut-the-door-have-a-seat mode. You know what that means on Mad Men. Everything happened, including several things I wish hadn't. It was like the Riding Lawnmower Incident but without all the blood. (I should just insert a really big SPOILER ALERT here.)

I'm still reeling with the loss of Peggy Olson, who finally moved over to rival firm Cutler Gleason and Chaough after months of feeling overlooked and underpaid. (It didn't help that the boys were all working on the sexy Jaguar pitch -- and eating lobster sent in from the Palm -- while Peggy was toiling away on a laxative campaign.)

Mad Men is ultimately Don Draper's show, but for five seasons now Peggy has been his necessary counterweight. As played with steady understatement by Elisabeth Moss, Peggy has become one of the series' most quietly intriguing characters.

A feminist without knowing the word, she has just tried to do work she loves, making her way through hostile and uncharted territory, without the help of legislation, workplace policies or role models. Without power suits, even.

In a show where clothes speak volumes, the poor girl has been expected to compete with men while wearing Peter Pan collars and Catholic-schoolgirl jumpers. Elegant Betty Draper and bombshell Joan Holloway have inspired Banana Republic clothing lines, but Peggy has had to soldier on gamely in unflattering haircuts and frequently disastrous outfits. (Mustard yellow. Plaid. Sometimes both.)

Peggy's complicated, caring, blessedly non-carnal relationship with Don has always been a joy to watch. Peggy probably knows the enigmatic Don Draper better than anyone else on the show. Her crisp, clear-eyed perceptions have been crucial, especially since Don spends most of his time surrounded by female adoration, alpha-male envy and beta-male awe. "I never expect Mr. Draper to be anything other than what he is," Peggy explains.

Don, in return, has championed Peggy, who has risen from being his assistant to becoming his "work wife." But to take up last episode's overworked car metaphor, that means being a Buick in the garage rather than the much-desired Jaguar in the showroom. Don takes Peggy for granted, often withholding recognition and even simple gratitude. When Peggy complains that he never says thank you, Don tells her, "That's what the money's for."

In the end, it's not money that lures Peggy away but the promise of respect, along with the fear that if she stays at SCDP she'll always be "a secretary from Brooklyn who wants to help out."

I'm hoping, really hoping, that Peggy will somehow figure in the show's future, but the fate of other characters who leave the firm -- or leave Don -- doesn't bode well. The fabulously closeted Sal Romano got one payphone call, and Paul Kinsey turned up briefly in Hare Krishna robes. Betty Draper has fared even worse. Clearly, Don got custody of all the good storylines in the divorce, while his former wife has been sent into suburban exile with a punitive Fat Betty subplot. (Suddenly she's overeating because she's unhappy? Land sakes, when has she ever been happy?)

Peggy at least got to walk out on a high note. At the end of the episode she stood in front of the office elevator, which has been a metaphor for the existential abyss ever since Don stared down an empty shaft a few weeks ago. For Peggy, though, the elevator doors seemed to open to a world of new possibilities. Finally wearing a chic and regal purple dress, she allowed herself a rare Peggy smile as the (always significant) closing-credit music came up. It was the Kinks' You Really Got Me.

Well, girl, you really did get us, and now you're heading off to CGC. Good for you, Peggy. Sad for us.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2012 E3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets this week - Game 2 with Tim and Gary

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press January 18, 2011 Local Standup -
  • A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker hangs out on a birch tree in St. Vital. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is considered a keystone species. Other species take advantage of the holes that the birds make in trees. A group of sapsuckers are collectively known as a

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google