Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 10 – The Forecast

“Let’s assume that it’s good and it’s going to get better. It’s supposed to get better.”



It’s a frequent trait of Mad Men episodes that sometimes they’ll be structured around a Big Theme. Sometimes this is subtly done, and at others the script keeps clubbing you round the head with it shouting, “See, that’s what this one’s about!” Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 10 – The Forecast”

Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 6–The Strategy

“You really want to help me? Show me how you think.”



I always know I’m in for a treat when Mad Men’s opening credits include the words “written by Semi Chellas”. Chellas, for my money is one of the best writers working on the show. She it was who (along with Weiner) wrote the storming season 5 ep The Other Woman, which showed us Joan’s heartbreaking decision to compromise her integrity for career advancement; I still rate that as one of the best single eps the show has ever done.

Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 6–The Strategy”

Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 1–Time Zones

“There’s someone above you, and someone below you, and everyone’s buying everyone dinner.”



It’s a long overdue welcome back for the ladies and gentlemen (mostly gentlemen) of Sterling Cooper & Partners, in the first half of the final season of Mad Men. Yes, while Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed drama may have one more episode than usual for this seventh, conclusive outing, the fourteen episodes are going to be split into two ‘half-seasons’, the first broadcast this April, the last next April. If you thought the ‘mid-season break’ was annoying in shows like Doctor Who or The Walking Dead, at least you don’t usually have to wait an entire year…

Continue reading “Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 1–Time Zones”

Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 11–The Other Woman


“Don’t fool yourself. This is some very dirty business.”


With just three episodes left this season (including this one), Mad Men continues to impress, this week presenting one of the most powerful, heartrending instalments the show’s ever done. With perhaps a tighter focus than usual, this week’s episode directly addressed one of the themes that’s been ever-present throughout the show’s run – the gender politics of its 60s setting, and in particular the thoughtless, unjust treatment of women that even good men – like Don – just don’t understand.

The script focuses almost exclusively on the travails of Joan, Peggy and even Megan to make its point. Not that the male characters are absent; indeed, they get as much screen time as the women, with some telling character points of their own. But they’re primarily there to demonstrate just what a bad lot in life women – even massively capable ones like Joan, Peggy and Megan – got in 1966.

It was an angry script by writer Semi Chellas (with the usual input from showrunner Matthew Weiner) that accomplished its aims fairly straightforwardly, but not without some real dramatic inventiveness. Ostensibly, the ‘story’ – fitting neatly into the show’s current arc – was about the progress of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s bid for the Jaguar account. But in every way, the story was used to reflect the injustice to which women were routinely subjected at the time.

The script set out its stall fairly early on, with a business dinner between Pete, Ken and Jaguar Dealers’ Association head Herb Rennet. Herb, a slimy, pudgy sort of fellow, doesn’t mince words; he’ll give them his vote, conditional on the promise of a night with the ‘stunning redhead’ who showed him around the office – Joan Harris. Initially, this looked like the sort of thing the show often does, setting up the inherent sexism of the period for being knocked down fairly quickly. We know Pete’s a spineless, unprincipled wanker, but surely even he would baulk at pimping out the formidable Joan for a fast buck?

But no, despite Ken’s immediate reaction of “no way”, Pete not only didn’t rule it out, but made a hilariously hamfisted attempt to make this indecent proposal to Joan as ‘indirectly’ as he could. At this point, the plotline was still funny enough to provoke laughter, with Pete’s clumsy attempts at obfuscation more than matched by exactly the kind of frosty looks you’d expect from Joan. But the humour rapidly began to dissipate as Pete took her at her word – “you couldn’t afford it” – and convened a partners’ meeting to discuss exactly what they could afford to offer her.

As I say, the script had stopped aiming the idea at humour, and what replaced it was outrage. To be fair, Don at least had the decency to walk straight out, saying that if this was what it took, he didn’t want the account. But none of the others had the decency to rule out the idea – not Lane,who recently tried to kiss Joan, not Roger, who’s actually fathered a child with her, not even the usually principled Bert Cooper. Dazzled by the promise of a prestigious auto account, they were all prepared to ask a woman they’d worked with and respected for many years to prostitute herself to further their business.

Lane at least did seem to demur, which almost gave him a shred of decency; but it was clear that he was terrified of offering Joan the prospective $50,000, since he’s already fraudulently obtained that on company credit to pay off his own tax debts. That plotline, clearly hanging over Lane’s head, was what encouraged him, via a conversation made almost entirely out of obfuscation, to give her the idea of asking for a partnership instead. Let’s be clear – Lane wasn’t against pimping out this woman he has feelings for. He just didn’t want it to happen if it revealed that he’s been embezzling the company. That’s far from a high-minded declaration of principle.

Even then, I couldn’t see Joan agreeing to do this. She’s been one of the most self-assured, capable, principled characters on the show since it began. Surely she wouldn’t agree to sell her body in order to further her career? And yet the script gave us a plausible scenario as to why she would give in to the idea of sleeping her way to the top. With her husband divorcing her, her baby to bring up, and now her refrigerator breaking down with no money left to fix it, she’s at her wit’s end. What’s being suggested is horrible – but pragmatically, can she afford to reject the idea? So she went to Pete, and forthrightly declared that she’d do it – in exchange for the 5% partnership, and no negotiation.

The prospect of a character you’ve come to like having to stoop to such depths was truly horrifying, but even then, I found it hard to believe she’d go through with it. When Don found out what the other partners had agreed to in his absence, he hotfooted it straight to Joan’s apartment to play Knight in Shining Armour and talk her out of it. But, as if to prove that Don’s good intentions don’t matter a jot, and that he doesn’t really understand the position Joan’s in, he was too late.

Not that this was immediately clear. At first, it seemed like he’d arrived in the nick of time, and Joan was having second thoughts. But then, Don’s pitch to the Jaguar panel – not coincidentally describing the XKE in the most misogynist terms of femininity – was cleverly intercut with the sequence of Joan having visited the loathsome Rennet the night before. It was heartbreaking to see the self-loathing on Joan’s face as she turned to allow him to undo her bra.

Even then, the intercutting of the sequence kept us guessing. Surely Joan would have second thoughts, politely tell the pudgy car dealer she couldn’t go through with it, and leave? But no, as Don came to the climax of his pitch (tellingly, it was “Jaguar – at last something beautiful you can truly own”), we realised that Joan had gone through with it after all. As she lay naked in bed with the less than attractive Rennet then turned away from him in discreet loathing, it was hard to hold back a tear. And then we went back to the scene of Don arriving at the apartment, realising then that he’d arrived after Joan had gone through with it. No wonder she was about to take a shower.

Was Joan right to do what she did, from a pragmatic viewpoint of a much overdue furtherance to her career? It’s hard to judge, given the presumably accurate portrayal of the attitudes of the time. Certainly, her expression at the partners’ meeting – when Jaguar confirmed their acceptance of the proposal – was all steely business, feeling suppressed. But her telling exchange of looks with a horrified Don showed there was more under the surface than just pragmatism and acceptance. It was a masterful performance from Christina Hendricks throughout, and given Joan’s bonding with Don last week, I wonder if the two are about to have a long, soul-searching chat again.

For all Don’s well-intentioned chivalry though, the far more lightweight (but still angry) plotline about Megan’s audition showed that he’s just as much of a sexist dinosaur as his colleagues. He may not want women to debase themselves (not that this has always bothered him), but he just doesn’t get that the women he knows might want to succeed on their own terms, without his ‘gentlemanly’ help. Certainly when Megan reveals that, should she get the role, she’ll be off touring for months on end, Don’s immediate reaction is to abandon his previous tolerance and forbid it outright. Megan’s angry assertion that he only allowed her to follow her dream because he expected her to fail looked dead on the money to me.

I’m still doubtful over Megan as an ongoing character. As commented on this blog a couple of weeks ago, she’s often seemed too perfect, lacking the flaws of the rest of the characters and acting more as a foil for Don than a person in her own right. But Semi Chellas’ script made me genuinely feel for her. First she had to endure the realisation that her husband had no confidence in her abilities (despite that he still wants her advice about the Jaguar pitch). Then, in a brief but telling scene, it became obvious that her audition callback was less about her acting ability than the shape of her rear end. And for all that Don was ready to be the Comforting Husband, you got the impression that he still didn’t understand.

But when it came to Don Just Not Getting It, this was small fry compared to the episode’s other big storyline – his treatment of Peggy. In the stress and furore of recent weeks, he’s been consistently treating her more like a doormat than a protege, and this week she’d finally had enough.

The last straw came when, having pitched a brilliant proposal to Chevalier LeBlanc perfume in Ginsberg’s absence (and after having refused to be described as his subordinate), Peggy found Don’s first reaction to be that he’d hand the idea straight to Ginsberg as soon as he was finished with Jaguar. And then, to add insult to injury, he took Peggy’s aggravation as a sign that she just wanted the account to get a free trip to Paris. Peggy, to her credit, immediately decided that she was worth more than that, and went out looking for better opportunities with the competition, where she might be recognised as worthy on her own terms.

Not surprisingly, Don’s old nemesis Ted Chaough was more than willing to make her an offer – in fact, he was prepared to exceed her original demand by $1000 a year. It’s nice to hope that he did this out of recognition of her abilities (and that probably was a factor), but given the way we’d seen women treated throughout the episode, my first thought was that he was making the offer just as a way to stick it to Don.

Peggy’s been an integral character to the show since episode one, and initially I didn’t believe she’d leave SCDP. But in a shock moment, leave she did. And as if to cement the episode’s portrayal of the well-meaning Don Just Not Getting It, his initial assumption was that she was just fishing for a raise, which he was more than prepared to give. He finally Got It when it became clear that, no matter what he offered, his former protege was off to pastures new; as he realised, and both reflected that this was really the end for them, the scene became genuinely tearjerking.

Don’s voice cracked as he refused to let go of Peggy’s hand, his face crumpling; Peggy herself had tears rolling down her otherwise controlled face. It was a hugely emotional scene, brilliantly played by both Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss. As Peggy walked out of SCDP for the last time amid furious partying, unnoticed by all (except, significantly, Joan), it became clear that she really was going. And perhaps now is the right time for that. As has recently become clear, she’s basically already become Don, albeit a female version, and the show doesn’t need two of them. Nonetheless, she’ll be missed.

An incredibly powerful episode overall, that gave Christina Hendricks and Elisabeth Moss in particular a chance to shine, and made me mark Semi Chellas as a writer to look out for. It’s easy for a man, if he’s liberal, to intellectually grasp how badly women were treated in the 60s; it’s quite something else to make him understand it on an emotional level. By rubbing our faces in the injustice suffered by likeable characters we’d known for some time, this episode succeeded at doing just that to an extent that I don’t think even Mad Men has managed before.

Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 10–Christmas Waltz


“People buy things because it makes them feel happier.”


It’s December 1966 for the guys and girls at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and with Christmas around the corner, what better time for a meditation on all things materialistic and consumerist? For the cash-strapped Lane Pryce and newly single Joan Harris, it’s a meditation about money, but for the not-seen-for-ages Paul Kinsey it’s a literal meditation – he’s joined the Hare Krishnas.

With so many episodes recently having centred around Don and Megan, Peggy and Ginsberg, and Pete and Roger, it was a nice change to have the focus changed to other characters, some of whom have seemed rather neglected of late. Lane and Joan in particular, after having been quite prominent early in the season, have been rather pushed to the background in recent weeks.

Lane, who seems to have brought English reserve to a new level in not acknowledging his depressing life, is finally having the financial meltdown hinted at early in the season. With Europe in 2012 undergoing a similar meltdown, it’s tempting to see Lane’s predicament as a timely comment on current events, though with the caveat that the script must have been written quite some time ago.

Perhaps it’s because he’s a fellow Englishman, but I like Lane, and found his desperate efforts to avoid personal ruin while hiding his money worries even from his own wife simultaneously comic and uncomfortable. We already knew that he’s having problems paying for private school for his son Nigel (a name that telegraphs Englishness for American screenwriters but is far less common here than they think). Now it seems that Her Majesty’s tax office is rather keen to get its hands on the $8000 of back taxes Lane owes. Like, right this minute.

So Lane finally blew his English cool at his wife (“Get back to bed right this minute!”), then proceeded to spend the rest of the episode desperately trying to get the firm in which he’s a partner to pay his tax bill. Plan A was to borrow $50,000 on the firm’s account, then tell the partners that the firm was ‘unexpectedly’ better off than they’d thought to the tune of that amount. Thus, everyone could get an immediate Christmas bonus, Lane’s own being the amount he needed.

That’s some dubious stuff right there, but that plan stalled (like economic growth under David Cameron) when Don, Roger, Pete and Bert weren’t that bothered about getting a bonus so soon. So, it was off to Plan B – forge Don’s signature on a company check. OK, you could see that as an ‘advance’ on Lane’s bonus, but I think it’s basically embezzlement.

And the whole plan was totally torpedoed when Mohawk Airlines temporarily withdraw their business, and all the other partners ‘heroically’ decide to forego their bonuses so the rest of the staff could have some. Lane’s obviously going to be in big trouble quite soon, when he has to explain that he did get a bonus, on a check Don didn’t really sign, from a $50,000 windfall the company didn’t really have. Lane might be in the advantageous position of Chief Finance Officer, but he’s going to be lucky to get away with all that.

Jared Harris was, as ever, excellent as Lane throughout. I particularly enjoyed his sly method of persuading his wife that they didn’t need that Christmas trip to England that he couldn’t afford, and his increasingly badly repressed desperation as his plans went awry and he was reduced to actual thievery from his own company.

Still, with the renewed possibility of business from Jaguar cars, Lane might – just – be able to balance the books before he’s caught. It actually took me a few seconds to figure out what new client Pete was so joyful about, due to the American insistence on pronouncing the name “Jag-wah”, rather than the British “Jag-you-er”. Still, as a classic car enthusiast, their inclusion meant I was blessed with a visit to a New York Jaguar showroom boasting the latest 1966 models.


With Pete having foregone the chance to drive a Mark 2 (just as well considering his inability to drive even an auto transmission American car), it was up to Don and Joan, masquerading as a married couple, to take a test drive. After having spent the last few weeks as an agony aunt for everyone else in the office, it was clearly Joan’s turn to have a horrid time. That’s what happens to any character in this show when the scriptwriter decides to focus on them – it’s never good news.

For Joan, the bad news came in the form of being served divorce papers on behalf of her nasty estranged husband. I thought that was what she wanted anyway, but no, she went ballistic at the (admittedly incompetent) receptionist who allowed her husband’s lawyer into the office, chucking the model Mohawk plane at her. After Lane’s outburst earlier, this was a chance for another normally collected character to explode. Lucky for her, it was Don who was there to pick up the pieces, and off they went to the Jag showroom where the desperately unhappy Joan, quite sensibly, espoused the ‘family car’ Mark 2 in favour of the gorgeous XKE (“also known as the E-Type”, the salesman explained, accurately).

Sadly, we didn’t get to see the XKE cruising the streets of 1966 Manhattan (perhaps its real owner wouldn’t allow that). But it did take Don and Joan to a nearby bar, and one of those trademark Mad Men character revealing discussions. Turns out Joan’s furious at the divorce papers because it’s Greg divorcing her, not the other way round – as though the breakup of the marriage was somehow her fault. This led to an interesting discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of marriage, and Joan’s dating chances as a newly divorced single mother.

Along the way, the theme of materialism, so crucial to the show, was touched on in a big way. Don’s not impressed with the XKE, and Joan thinks it’s because he’s happy (has she been watching the same show I have?). The implication is clear – as Don says, “people buy things because it makes them feel better”. Because in the world as Mad Men sees it, there’s always enough unhappiness to keep consumerism chugging along.

Some people, though, choose to fill the void another way – with religion. A large part of the show was devoted to a slightly less weighty subplot in which Harry Crane had to deal with the return of Paul Kinsey, left behind when the original Sterling Cooper was taken over by McCann Erickson. Kinsey’s been drifting ever downward since, and having hit rock bottom is the perfect target for hip new religion/cult, the Hare Krishnas.

Harry’s usually very much a background character in the show, and it was nice to see him get his own little subplot. The scene of him caught up in a Krishna chantalong was hilarious – and historically interesting, as presumably the ‘Swami’ in charge was the cult’s original founder, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. But this subplot had its serious side too, once you got over the hilarity of the perma-smiling Kinsey done up in Krishna robes.


Paul’s at rock bottom, and he needs Harry to try and sell a spec script he’s written for Star Trek. Only trouble is, the script, cringingly entitled ‘The Negron Complex’ (“the twist is that the Negrons are white”) is terrible. How can Harry tell his erstwhile friend that his dreams of TV writing are never going to come true? And on top of that, Kinsey’s prospective Krishna girlfriend, the manipulative Lakshmi, then goes and has sex with Harry in his office, to try and ensure that Kinsey’s dream of a return to commercialism will never come true. What’s an embarrassed married ad exec meant to do, refuse?

In the end, Harry came up with the face-saving tactic of telling Paul that “a reader” had loved his script, but they couldn’t take it on. And then giving him $500 to hotfoot it off to LA and live his screenwriting dream. It’s hard to tell whether this was a selfless gesture on Harry’s part to get Paul out of the Krishnas’ (and Lakshmi’s) clutches, or whether it was just a payoff to make sure that the increasingly embarrassing Paul never bothered him again. This being Mad Men, I’d tend toward the latter theory.

So quite a low key episode this week, that nonetheless had things to say, and gave some welcome plot advancement to some characters who’ve been sadly neglected of late. Clearly Joan’s beginning to go through the same kind of existential crisis that Don permanently lives in, and Lane’s more concrete problems seem set to come back and bite him some time soon. With only three more episodes left to savour this season, I’m wondering which of these aspects is going to ramp up in time for the season finale. OK, Mad Men is more restrained than, say, Game of Thrones, but even Mad Men usually ups the dramatic ante for the end of the season. I can’t help wondering whether Lane’s short sighted desperation is about to lead to a crisis for the whole of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Finally, this week’s Hideous Checked Sport Coat count: zero. But Roger more than made up for it with this tasteful shirt:


Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 4–Mystery Date

“You were never a good man. Even before we were married. You know what I’m talking about.”


In this week’s Mad Men, Don Draper had a cold.

This is a first. As a larger than life character who bestrides the show like a colossus, Don has previously only fallen prey to Big Dramatic Ailments. We’ve seen him struggle with depression and alcoholism, and by extension the terminal cancer of Anna Draper, wife of the real Don, whose identity he stole. But never before have we seen Don brought low by something as mundane as a cold. Not that it stops him from valiantly smoking through it, despite his uncontrollable cough.

It’s yet another chip in Don’s armour, an example of human frailty that’s becoming more and more common in the former king of Madison Avenue. As if to underline the increasing sense that Don’s day in the sun is winding down, he has to cope with a brilliant presentation to some important clients by new boy Michael Ginsberg – the sort of presentation that Don himself used to carry off effortlessly. Obviously shaken, Don is furious, and Ginsberg is almost fired immediately: “Everything I’m about to say to you is followed by ‘or else’… Never do that again.”

Of course, the reason for Don’s discomfiture is that Ginsberg is brilliant, just like Don used to be. He may not have Don’s effortless skill at seduction, but he certainly has an insight into women’s psyches, vital for the shoe campaign he’s working on. But as a more liberal product of the enlightened 60s, he has more morality than we usually see from Don; he’s sickened by the other copywriters’ (including Peggy) ghoulish fascination with the crime scene photos from the Richard Speck murders.

In fact, what with his sensitivity, single status and professed lack of knowledge of women, I wonder if Ginsberg is going to turn out to be gay? If so, it would be an interesting angle to explore in times that have become a little more enlightened since the departure of the show’s only previous gay character, Sal Romano; but times that are still not that enlightened if you’re Jewish, never mind homosexual.

Be that as it may, Ginsberg actually didn’t feature much here, except insofar as piquing Don’s insecurities. The core of the episode was a long dark night of the soul for several of the characters, the sort of thing the show has done before and is very good at. Variously, Joan had to deal with a shocking surprise from her none too nice husband when he returned from Vietnam; Sally had to cope with being babysat by her stepfather’s dragon of a mother; Peggy spent a revealing evening with Don’s new secretary Dawn; and Don himself, being incapable of just having a simple cold, struggled with (apparent) fever dreams in which his guilty history of infidelities returned to haunt him.

That all kicked off with a light and funny scene in the elevator, as a coughing Don and new wife Megan encountered Andrea, one of his old conquests. This led a frustrated Megan to acidly enquire how often this was going to happen, which was amusing; but later it turned very dark as Don was visited at his swanky apartment by Andrea. At first he hustled her out in fear of Megan seeing her; later, after a manful struggle with his conscience, he couldn’t stop himself from having sex with her again. Afterwards, his guilt plainly driving him wild, he sprang out of bed and in a truly shocking moment, strangled her to death before carelessly shoving her body under the bed.

It was a jaw-dropping moment. Obviously it came as no particular surprise when Megan came in the next morning, and told Don of the feverish delirium in which he’d spent the previous night – the whole thing had been nothing more than a fever dream. But that scene felt so shockingly real that, in the moment, you believed it had really happened, just like Don when he checked under his bed the next morning. Of course, if it had happened, the show would probably have turned into The Fugitive, so with hindsight it was obvious that it hadn’t. But it’s still a revealing glimpse into Don’s demon-driven psyche, particularly where his relationships with women are concerned; and a glimpse that he too was privy to.

The other major plot strand concerned Joan dealing with the much-anticipated return of her sexually violent husband Greg from Vietnam. Greg’s obviously under the impression that the baby fathered by Roger is his, but even that’s not enough to keep him by Joan’s side. Like all husbands of the 60s, he expects his faithful, obedient wife to deal with raising the kid, and he’s decided to sign on for another year in the army, much to Joan’s horror.

Not that he has the guts to tell her that, insinuating that it was an order he had no choice in. The truth came out at a supremely awkward dinner with his parents, as even his own mother couldn’t stand his lying to Joan and told her that his return to the army was entirely his choice.

This was a moment of decision for Joan, always one of the show’s strongest characters. She may not be subverting career expectations like Peggy, but she’s always plainly been stronger than the men around her. She showed that here by offering Greg an ultimatum; if he returns to Vietnam, he can’t come home again. It’s no surprise that when he decides just that, Joan seems perfectly happy. She even takes the chance to remind him of his own failings as a husband, his history of marital rape. No wonder she’s happy to be rid of him. But where does this leave her in terms of returning to work at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? She still has her catty mother to help with baby Kevin, but it’s looking like her return to the office has just been postponed a bit longer.

Back at that office, Peggy was working late on a piece for Roger, part of his ongoing attempt to subvert Pete Campbell on the Mohawk Airlines account. Satisfied at having forced Roger to part with $400 in return for her secrecy on that, she was about to go home when she discovered (in a scene worthy of a horror movie) that the creepy sounds in the deserted office were actually caused by Don’s new secretary Dawn sleeping there.

This led to Peggy offering Dawn a room for the night, and a revealing (for both) open chat about their work. With the increasing focus on racial liberation this year, we got to see a side of the avowedly liberal Peggy that was (unthinkingly) patronising and a bit offensive. She hadn’t figured out that Dawn couldn’t go home because no cabbie would go to Harlem after dark, and that Dawn was worried about riots and racist police rather than being murdered by the nurse killer in Chicago.

They did bond over a few beers back at Peggy’s apartment, with Peggy drunkenly empathising that she knew what it was like to be the only one of her kind at the office. But she was plainly a little surprised that Dawn didn’t want to take the same path and become a copywriter; she’s perfectly happy with the job she has.

And then all their bonding was totally undone by the awkward moment when Peggy, glancing at her purse, hesitated over whether to pick it up and take it with her into the bedroom. To do so, after the obvious pause, would be tantamount to showing that she assumed a black person would obviously steal from her; to not do so would look condescending, as though she was offering some sort of trust exercise. It was another supremely awkward moment, portrayed (as is so common in Mad Men) entirely without words – just a series of glances, close-ups and revealing expressions. Another gem of a scene, it was played to perfection by Elisabeth Moss and Teyonah Parris. Peggy’s crestfallen expression as she found the neatly stacked sheets and terse thank you note from Dawn the next morning was priceless.

The final characters living through this dark, dark night were Sally Draper and Henry Francis’ battleaxe of a mother Pauline. Sally’s been one of the most tormented characters in the show, having to deal with the onset of puberty amidst her parents’ messy divorce and her own mother’s obvious inability to cope with children. It was good to see her to the front of an episode again, as actress Kiernan Shipka has consistently delivered an amazingly mature, wise beyond her years performance.

She was on top form here as usual, showing how Betty has virtually abandoned her into the care of step-grandmother Pauline. Always a little spoiled by Don, she’s now playing Pauline off against Betty, claiming that her mother lets her basically get away with almost no rules.

But Pauline’s no slouch, with her old-fashioned and perhaps not entirely suitable approach to childcare. Admittedly, dealing with Sally’s constant demands must have been wearing. But whether it was out of frustration or a total lack of awareness, Pauline’s way of dealing with Sally’s fears over the Speck murders – telling her every ghoulish detail then revealing that there was a great big knife handy if the likes of Speck should turn up – was probably not the wisest course. Inevitably, that scared Sally even more than the news article did, so Pauline took the interesting choice of feeding her sleeping pills. The episode ended with her huddled – asleep, unconscious or perhaps even dead – beneath the sofa, while the returning Betty called her name.

Dark stuff indeed, this episode, as over the course of one traumatic night a handful of the show’s characters were brought shockingly face to face with their failings in relationships, their attitudes to race and gender, and in Sally’s case even her own mortality. It was a better script even than usual in its tight focus on a small group of the show’s large ensemble; the events may be game-changing for some of the characters, but knowing Mad Men, they may be slow to learn their lessons.