Hello, my Puddlers. I'm here once again to provide the link to my weekly Mad Men recap column at the Montreal Review.
But first, I implore you to read Tess Lynch's piece on Girls. It's really just an interesting take, especially from a woman still in her twenties.
"Dark Shadows," as many reviewers have pointed out, felt like a throwback episode of Mad Men. Maybe part of that had to do with the episode's heavy emphasis on Betty Francis-Draper. This was only the second episode this season that featured Betty and ever since Betty and Don got divorced at the end of Season 3, the show has definitely had a "post-Betty" feeling. Her character no longer feels totally necessary and sometimes she just seems like a forced "bad guy."
However, "Dark Shadows" had a very Season 2/Season 3 Mad Men feel. And by that I mean it was much easier to digest and the main theme of the episode was fairly straightforward. When "Dark Shadows" ended, I knew exactly what I was going to write about. That wasn't exactly the case with devastating and opaque episodes like "Lady Lazarus" or "Signal 30".
That being said, it was good to have that "retro" Mad Men feeling back. Betty has truly become a sad character to watch, but I thought in "Dark Shadows" that they eased up on her just being totally irrational and mean and spent more time with her conflicts and insecurities. She envies Don and his new life, but she could never have the patience that Megan has for Don and his "short temper". In fact, Betty has a very open and healthy relationship with Henry Francis, but she is unable to completely appreciate it. She preaches the Weight Watchers mantra of "filling" yourself with the positive things in your life (really the heart of most therapy), but she can't follow or give herself to that line of thinking. She is a fragile insecure woman.
Yet, again, we are given scenes of her being tender with her husband and being patient and attentive with her kids (the scene where she critiques Bobby's drawing of a smiling whale with arrows coming out of its side made me laugh harder than any other one-liner or comedic moment so far this season). For as much as Betty doesn't try to be a good mother, she also does try to be a good mother. We may not appreciate her aloof tenderness and parental love as much as we appreciate Don's (and she is not as good of a parent) but if we appreciate when Don tried to be better, we should appreciate when we are shown Betty trying as well.
Of course until she tries to turn Sally against Don.