Did a Beethoven-soaked Man Men hint at a Pete Campbell suicide coming later in the season?
There were hints coming out of the pre-season publicity that one major character would die this year (1966), and already we have had a Betty cancer scare -- which may still not be vanished -- and a very ill Don and now Pete's problems. Death has marked the season, what with the Richard Speck nurse slaughter last week and the Charles Whitman mass killing from the University of Texas tower this week.
And I'm sure few missed Pete's seemingly esoteric reference to owning a shotgun last night. Will he end up directing it at a "varmint," or himself, or others? In this episode he has, among other things, asked a hooker to treat him as a "king" and then lost an office fistfight with Lane, after suggesting a client saw him as a 'homo."
How does Beethoven figure in? As keep of the Roll Over, Beethoven blog and co-author of new Journeys with Beethoven book I had to be surprised and delighted to catch all the Ludwig references out of nowhere in Sunday night's show -- although it sustained my claim that he is everywhere in our culture.
First, Pete finally gets Don up to a dinner party at his house in the suburbs -- and rocks LvB on his big new console stereo. Ken says it sounds like there's a "tiny orchestra" in there. Living in Cos Cob in a house instead of a NYC apartment he can play it as loud as he wants, he boasts. "Do you like the music?" he asks, and Don replies, "I do."
Then the episode ends with a voice over of Ken reading from a story that he has apparently written under a new pseudonym relating to Beethoven's struggles (before which Pete's latest humiliations may seem pale, or perhaps not). Finally, the opening of the Ninth's "Ode to Joy" section -- in ironic counterpoint to the sad fade out with Pete -- played over the credits.
Here's a transcript of the Ken voiceover: "The Man with the Miniature Orchestra by Dave Algonquin. There were phrases of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony that still made Coe cry. He always thought it had to do with the circumstances of the composition itself. He imagined Beethoven deaf and soul-sick, his heart broken, scribbling furiously while Death stood in the doorway, clipping his nails. Still, Coe thought, it might have been living in the country that was making him cry. It was killing him with its silence and loneliness -- making everything ordinary, too beautiful to bear."
This made me recall Beethoven's famous "suicide note" -- his Heiligenstadt Testament, written after he realized that his deafness was unstoppable and would proceed to total. He promised to end his life but did not follow through, apparently making one more effort at finding out if High Art could save him. He filed the lengthy note away in a drawer, where it was only discovered after his death.
He had written it during a long stay in the country setting he loved, at Heiligenstadt, which he found did not bring him peace.
Clip from show: