Mad Men Episode Commentary: “To Have and to Hold”

Don Draper has always been a difficult character to like, but this week in “To Have and To Hold” that may have officially become well-nigh impossible. Yes, the man is self-absorbed, and has always been callous when it comes to the feelings of others, Betty Francis and Lane Pryce being his most prominent victims. Yet I always felt there were some ethical code that played a larger part in the make-up of Don Draper—that despite his insensitivity, he was a man who believed in fair play.

Well, so much for that.

Don’s spectacular double—or triple or quadruple—standard for Megan in regards to her love scene on the daytime soap opera where she plays a maid takes him to new heights of hypocrisy, immaturity, and darkness. This is just downright mean, and inexcusable even considering the horrors of Don’s childhood. His demons are finally beginning to consume him.

Maybe it’s what he deserves.

The theme of comeuppance continues to broaden its reach. Last week, it took hold of Pete Campbell. This week, it’s Joan Harris, who discovers that her fateful decision last season has bought her much less than she believed at the time. She still has essentially the same level of authority she had at the very beginning of the show, despite ostensibly being a partner. She has a shabby office in a high-traffic section of the agency, and she cannot even take disciplinary action against a secretary who cheats on her time card without being overruled by Harry Crane, who she is supposed to outrank.

Like Lane Pryce before her, Joan is seeing that status is more than a title, but instead an ability to play the game. Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and Bertram Cooper all like and respect Joan. They all look down upon Harry Crane. But because Harry Crane can generate revenue for the company, he will get his way, and no matter how efficiently Joan manages resources, she will never bring more in, and therefore she will never really be a player. Lane realized this and killed himself, just after being rejected by Joan. How is Joan going to handle it?

It was a pleasure to see Dawn, Don Draper’s secretary, get some development. She proves to be one of the more down to earth characters on the show yet, nailing the unspoken sadness and desperation at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce as if she were one of us watching from 2013. Mad Men is finally showing signs of developing an African American character, and I look forward to seeing more of her.

This season is quickly starting to look like an ominous death march. I don’t think everyone is going to make it.

About Justin Mitchell 48 Articles
Justin Mitchell is a freelance multi-media journalist and writer working in New York. In addition to his work at Review Fix, Justin has written for Latitude News, The New York Daily News, and Feet in 2 Worlds. Follow him on twitter: @mittinjuschell

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