Last night’s episode of Mad Men was not for the faint of heart. Tracing the narrative of only three characters, Joan, Don, and Lane, the episode was heart-wrenching, hysterical, and created a lot of open wounds. Each character’s wardrobe had an immediacy to it, like everyone was trying to solve their issues with a fresh coat of paint.
This was most apparent with Joan, who wore her feelings on her sleeve this episode. Starting out in the gynecologist’s office, Joan shows a rare vulnerability discussing her ability to conceive. Her hair is messy on one side, falling out of its perfect twist. Later in the office, she wears a blue ruched dress, with a gold brooch and matching blue eyeshadow. The dress highlights her curves more than usual, perhaps a nod to her ability to get pregnant, but the blue eyeshadow is a rare misstep in Joan’s repertoire. While it may be historically accurate, nobody wants to relive the matching eyeshadow trend. Can’t we just let this one slip through the cracks, Mad Men?
Joan returns home in a dramatic yellow coat with a bow at the collar, to the kind of dreamy Greg, who wears a plain suit and a tartan scarf. We’re okay with Greg, but always wanted Joan with a husband just as glamorous as she. As problems arise with Greg, Joan’s wardrobe suffers. The next day in the office she wears black for what I think is the first time. Her relationship with Greg is hitting her hard, she’s noticeably depressed and snaps at Lane. Joan tries to rekindle her relationship with a teal Mandarin collared dress and pink lei, going all out to impress Greg, but her attempt falls flat as she cuts herself and then sits through Greg’s showcasing of his doctoral skills. No matter what Joan wears on the outside she wants more inside. Here’s hoping that this season brings her back to Roger. I can’t help but love them together.
On to our troubled hero, Don Draper.
Don’s collection of monochrome, diagonal striped ties is only growing, but it’s trendy I suppose, so I’ll forgive. Don’s New York ensembles are traditionally drab, gray suits, and boring ties; it’s when he travels to California to visit the lovable Anna Draper that we see the charming Don Draper return. The shot of him driving down the coast in a convertible, crisp white shirt, black tie, sunglasses and his signature smirk is the iconic image that Mad Men fans want Don to return to. He gets casual California chic at the bar in his blue shirt and white plaid blazer (that we later see over Stephanie’s shoulders, but more on that in a bit). In the morning he paints Anna’s wall in his white boxers and tee, looking more like the Don we used to know. He looks kind, helpful, (hunky?) with nothing to cover up who he is. Unfortunately this is all short-lived as he immediately returns to New York, pained by the knowledge of Anna’s terminal cancer, and returns to his bachelor lifestyle, this time around taking Lane Pryce down with him.
Before we get to Lane’s descent into the depths of bachelorhood, let’s look at Don’s California Girls, Beach Boys style:
“The west coast has the sunshine / and the girls all get so tanned. / I dig a french bikini on Hawaiian island dolls / by a palm tree in the sand.” Stephanie, Anna’s niece enters in a green bikini top, high-waisted shorts, and a cream, cable knit cardigan over her shoulders. The perfect image of a west coast student: messy blonde hair, an unstoppable honesty, and “so young,” as Don creepily says while trying to put the moves on her. Even while wearing Don’s blazer over her shoulders, Stephanie evades Don’s seduction, even if it’s with the news of Anna’s terminal cancer.
“I been all around this great big world / and I’ve seen all kinds of girls.” Anna’s sister, Patti, is the counter to Anna’s free spirit. Uptight, her clothes show her severity. She first wears a white floral shift, the picture of a prim and proper woman, and later wears a green patterned jacket over a yellow polo shirt, with a navy knee length skirt and brown loafers, looking like a struggling middle class housewife, exactly what she is. Patti acts strong about Anna’s illness, but really she’s a mess, sartorially and emotionally.
“Yeah but I couldn’t wait to get back to the States / back to the cutest girls in the world.” Exactly what Anna Draper is–the cutest girl in the world. She’s the anti-Betty with her long blonde hair, relaxed style, and boundless optimism. She believes in Don and trusts in his ability to succeed. Her style is remarkably adorable, from embroidered peasant blouses and bright patterned skirts, to the rainbow striped dress she wears as Don leaves. Anna’s presence brightens up Mad Men, and makes Don into the person we love. Her cancer is heartbreaking, and I can only hope for as much of Anna this season as possible.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end, and Don returns to New York’s cold winter. He resolves his stress by getting plastered with Lane, and going on a drinking, movie-watching, prostitution binge. Not only was it unbelievably funny to watch, but also unbelievably sad. Don and Lane were the upstanding men of Sterling Cooper, but now divorced and estranged, they’ve lost their self-confidence. Lane still keeps it classy in mismatched vests and jackets, and Don’s back to his usual wardrobe. He calls on Candace and her friend Jeanine for some good times, and they show up in the flashiest outfits of the season. Candace wears a gold and black dress with selective fringe, tons of gold costume jewelry, and a giant up-do. Jeanine, the less put-together of the two, wears a green dress with black sheer tights, and her curls piled on top of her head, and the same amount of gold jewelry. Their tacky and over-the-top wardrobes are a new style for Mad Men, one we’re ready to ditch for the reservation of Betty, the powerful sex-appeal of Joan, the business chic of Peggy, and the bright styles of Anna.
Overall this episode packed a punch, foreshadowing the downfall of some of Mad Men’s strongest. Only time will tell what this season has in store for our favorites, Don, Joan, and Lane.