Review: Mad Men – Ep. 302 – Love Among the Ruins

You’re not an artist, you solve problems.”

Don Draper is showing continued signs of his classic self-loathing and some new seeds of resentment regarding where his life seems to be heading with this week’s episode. His stinging statement putting Peggy in her place within the walls of Sterling Cooper says more about how he’s viewing his own role within the changing battleground of the now British-owned Madison Avenue office. The not-so-subtle dig also belies his notes of jealousy towards her rising place in the company, the ad business in general, and the free-wheeling possibilities of single life, even though Don would be the last to admit those types of feelings toward a woman and would certainly be hesitant to ever admit seeing himself in her.

Painting by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, inspired by Robert Browning's poem of the same name
Painting by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, inspired by Robert Browning's poem of the same name

Although it could be argued that Don is now actively turning more attention toward his family because he’s beginning to see the true importance it has in his life over his work. The title of this episode takes itself from a poem by Robert Browning where the author concludes that love, a true feeling and emotion, is endless and more prominent than any material object or sin – that present love is worth more than past glories.

Returning from his soul-searching trek (escape?) to California last year Don has a resolve to change his attitude and play a more active role in his family’s life, making concerted efforts to have a strong presence in his fatherly and husbandly duties including attending little Sally’s school field day and taking the reins in wife Betty’s dispute with her brother on the best care for their father.  However his steps toward future family harmony are still peppered with his urge/need to hold onto the past – he’s accepting the inevitability of change even though he’s not completely sure he’s happy about it.

And change was all over this episode. The changing atmosphere of the world with the burgeoning ideas of feminism in Peggy’s views on how products sold to women need ad campaigns with a female gaze in mind rather than a male and her own approach toward “dating.” The change in familial dynamics with Betty’s aging, senile father having to be treated like a child. The change in the landscape of New York City with the development of Madison Square Garden knocking down the historic architecture of Penn Station, and most noteworthy on the horizon one of the biggest changes to the entire world’s landscape — the day President Kennedy is assassinated, shown here as being one day before the scheduled wedding date for Roger Sterling’s daughter and will be, I suspect, the closing events of this season’s finale.

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