THE BLOG
08/03/2010 03:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Desire and Expectations: Mad Men Episode 2

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First up -- thanks for the encouraging feedback from last week's post. I'll continue to blog weekly with my two cents on certain themes within the show and look forward to reading comments. And now onto it!

"What I want versus what's expected of me." Those are the words that a new female character, the detached Consumer Analyst Dr. Faye Miller, points at Don. Identity is still an overarching theme. Whose needs will you cater to -- yours or others'? And at what point do others' desires muddle with your own until you can no longer tell them apart? That brings about the very nature of advertising -- creating desire where before there was none.

While Don's collapsing under the weight of self-pity, Peggy confronts her ambivalence towards the marriage. Her new boyfriend, Mark, makes a surprise visit to her apartment and tries to seduce her. We then learn that he thinks she's a virgin. He offers the tired anecdotal coercion so often used on virgins. He tells her she's 'so old fashioned' and then pulls the ultimate moron quote -- 'you have nothing to be afraid of.' Sex is fraught with anxiety and, physiologically, women have plenty to fear with sex. The act is internal and unseen. The constant consequence is pregnancy's invisible fetus, which Peggy experienced in Season 1.

Peggy's not old fashioned -- Mark is. He's projecting his fantasy onto her -- he wants to be her first -- showing us that a little lie, or uncorrected assumption, was exchanged. Peggy stands in front of the Christmas tree as the impossible -- the virgin mother. (We've seen the virgin masquerade before between Joan and her then-fiancé and now husband, Greg, and the prevarication led to daterape.)

Peggy also says that her bed is covered in work, another excuse to thwart his advances. On the surface it shows her workaholic nature -- she unequivocally loves her job so much that she hops into bed with it. But ultimately, it's a defense against men encroaching upon her autonomy.

But society is expecting her to find a husband, which would compromise her independence. She's most confident and realized at the office where her individuality is an asset. This episode's thematic advertising account is Pond's Cold Cream, which has Peggy and ruddy Freddy Rumsen (he's back) working together. The two spar about the nature of the product. Peggy sees it as a means of a woman 'indulging' herself, enhancing her individuality. Freddy thinks a woman's happiness depends upon finding a husband and Cold Cream will help with her search. Peggy shoots 'you're old fashioned, you know that?'

Freddy advises that Peggy should find a husband and she states that she would like to be married, sort of. She fears loneliness if she doesn't have a man in her life and tells him about Mark. Freddy advises her to hold out on Mark or he won't respect her.

What's a Christmas episode without colleagues drinking too much and going too far? Don's a lonely mess desperate for a transient fling. His attempts on the flirtatious nurse-neighbor are rebuffed, and he wrongly presumes that Faye corners him to flirt. Faye, dressed in black at the holiday party, guesses his divorced status and states he'll remarry 'in less than a year.'

His options dwindling, Don gets hot and heavy with new secretary, Allison. Their impending union is foreshadowed in their first scene when she reads his children's wishlist, red tissue paper lingers between them like a red hot flame. But Allison soon learns consequences of a woman who gives it up too soon. The morning after their couch quickie, Alison greets Don with doe eyes and dear expectations. He calls her into his office to thank her for bringing his keys and confess that he's 'taken advantage' of her kindness. Ouch. He then gives her, her Christmas bonus -- a card with the cold words 'thank you for all your work' and one-hundred dollars. Though her bonus was previously discussed, sex and the exchange of money echo last week's prostitution scene. Like Peggy, Don also uses work as a fortress against intimate entanglements.

The Christmas party is elevated to a 'Roman orgy' to impress Lee Garner, Jr. Lee strides into the party in a fur collar, looking like Oscar Wilde and wielding his power like Caligula. Lee recognizes desperation and coerces Roger into wearing the Santa suit, making Roger play dress up in his fantasy. Domination through humiliation.

In another identity shift, Sally is substituting her absentee father with a boy who pretends he's someone else. Glenn Bishop (who formerly had a MILF-crush on Betty) calls her house under the name of ''Stanley.' When Sally asks why, he responds that it's 'private.'

Glenn mentions that her parents won't get back together because Betty's 'doing it with someone else.' "Doing what?" she asks. Tis the season for learning about sex. Sally is physically and emotionally shedding her childhood. The baby fat is molting away, taking her innocence with it. Glenn is stepping out of the shadows and acting upon Sally's latent desires. He trashes the house she hates, sparing only her room. He leaves his keychain as a calling card for her, similar to Allison finding Don's keys.

By the end of the episode, Peggy is in bed with Mark, who's probably congratulating himself on his boneheaded words of attrition. But ultimately, she uses sex as her rejection of him and society's expectations. Unlike Don, she embraces sex's consequences and uses them to separate her desires from anyone else's.

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