This week's Mad Men episode surprised me in somersaulting over that threshold into a new realm: An initial scene with two African American women (Don's secretary, Dawn, and her friend Nikki, pictured above), without any men around at all, and which wasn't focused on them either. To be sure, a later scene with the pair was more about Dawn's work situation, reminding us that, yes, one of the partners hung himself in the office in 1967, but this was a new mode for Mad Men storytelling, which heretofore has been told from the perspective of the squares adjusting to the culture of the 1960s.
And we had plenty of that this week as well—Don and Megan turning down the opportunity to swing; Joan visiting a "telephone diner" and the Electric Circus with a visiting gal-pal; Harry and Ken meeting with the Dow Chemical folks to figure out a way to distract America from the fact that people would like them more if they'd stop dropping napalm on children. (Answer: Broadway!)
Beyond that, the episode centered around divided and tested loyalties: Peggy betraying Stan's confidences in pursuing the Heinz ketchup-is-not-catsup work (which both firms lost, despite Peggy's adapting Don Draper's "change the conversation" pitch to MSG); Harry testing SCDP's loyalty to him versus Joan; Don's rather extreme (but not unexpected) possessiveness over Megan's having to do a love scene in her soap; Dawn's test over covering for Scarlett's desire to clock out early.
In the meantime, we're about a week or so away from the MLK assassination, but I think one of my favorite cultural writers is absolutely on point as to what's really down the road:
Maybe the 7-season arc of Mad Men is Don's journey from leading man to supporting character in the Peggy decade to come.— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) April 22, 2013