Whether it’s intentional or not, “The Crash” is partly meta in how the characters arcs compared to the season, represents this episode compared to to it. At times the season has felt repressed and stalling in one gear. Likewise its characters with the help of the energy drug, burst out of the internalized box that’s been squeezing them most of their lives, if only for a moment. Before the inevitable crash.
Don literally crashes after coming home to see Betty, Megan, the kids. The summing up of his married life is like waking up to a nightmare. Betty and Megan were likely a drug induced high once. But eventually, that high crashed and he saw what’s really there. Two damaged women who’s need to appease what others think make them a boring attraction to Don. Eventually if he had been successful wooing Sylvia in a permanent relationship, she may have similarly worn off on him. Or not, because Sylvia isn’t Megan or Betty. She’s emotionally stronger and more able to see understand her own needs. Perhaps that’s why Don senses the chance of a real relationship with her. A few years ago he couldn’t recognize that in Dr. Faye Miller, who’s strength was similar to Sylvia’s. Don’s puppy dog enthusiasm running after Sylvia shows he senses a chance to fix himself. His flashback to his first time with the prostitute is interesting because the prostitute arguably has her head on straight and more self confidence than Megan or Betty. Her kindness to the young Dick seems from the heart, possibly costing her in the end. That memory to Don is real. Or so he believes. It’s tainted by nostalgia. In his drug high, he convinces himself that he’s struck on creative gold, when he hasn’t. Likewise he puts importance in that memory and on the Sylvia relationship, that may just be delusions and hope.
Wendy tells Don his question “Does somebody love me?” because that’s everyone’s. While that may not be literally true, it may as well be for every Mad Men character. After taking the energy drugs, everyone in the office seemed to be enjoying their company as kindred spirits more. If open like this all the time, they may feel more loved by each other.
The fake Grandma intruder scene, certainly was fearsome. A part of me wondered if it would all end in shocking bloodshed. Luckily it didn’t. Although Don, Megan, Betty were self-absorbed in the consequences of the intruder, little attention is paid to what it means for Sally’s development. Sally was already inching towards “adult in child’s body” status. She reacted to the fake Ida as a child, perhaps because she liked the idea of a real loving relative. In the embarrassment of her mistake, this may be the end of Sally’s childhood, buried by the pressured need to act like an adult. Arguably this is analogous to her father losing his cherry.
“The Crash” is a great episode of Mad Men, bursting with unleashed energy, character layers and momentum. This season is heating up.
By Julien Rodger