“Mad Men” Season 4: Looking at women

Well, that was fast.

Season 4 of Mad Men flew by, didn’t it? Sunday’s finale was sort of an odd finish — in fact, I read more than one Tweet hoping that it was a dream — but the overall season was a strong one.

Be warned: Spoilers ahead — move along if you haven’t watched. But before you go, here’s a little gif gift to remind you to come back after you’ve caught up on your Mad Men watching.

More of Joan in a bit. Much more.

We won’t recreate the wheel by talking about Don Draper – you can find analyses of his season-long journey to find himself at lots of other sites. Instead, we’ll do what we do best at AfterEllen.com: look at the women: Betty, Peggy and Joan.

Betty (January Jones)

Betty thought leaving Don and marrying Henry would give her a new life. Unfortunately, changing your circumstances doesn’t do much good if you don’t change yourself. If anything, Betty seems even unhappier now – maybe because she realizes that she can’t blame Don for her misery.

She still hasn’t grown up. Betty is prone to tantrums and impulse (like firing Carla, who essentially raised the kids) and is downright mean to Sally. (Side note: Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally, did some phenomenal work this season.) A friend pointed out that when Betty curled up miserably in the almost-empty house, she chose Sally’s room.

Maybe she wishes she were still the little girl that her father doted on. And maybe she wishes she were still Mrs. Don Draper. I’m not sure what’s ahead for Betty, but something’s gotta’ give.

Peggy (Elisabeth Moss)

Peggy, in contrast, grew quite a lot this season. Her confidence as a copywriter got stronger and, once she and Don had it out, Don finally acknowledged her talent and importance to him, both professionally and personally. The episode in which Don and Peggy spent the evening working on the suitcase account was the best of the season, in my opinion. I’m glad to see Don treat Peggy as a colleague, rather than a pawn. And I loved seeing Peggy take the lead in winning the Topaz Pantyhose account.

Peggy’s personal life still is a bit muddled. She’s a free spirit – or at least she’s trying to be. She hangs out with Joyce, an open lesbian, and seems unconcerned that a coworker assumes she’s a lesbian, too.

She isn’t interested in marriage, preferring to focus on work, but she sleeps with her boyfriend so he won’t bail on her. Still, she moved past her pregnancy via Pete, choosing to congratulate him on his pending fatherhood with wife Trudy. I look forward to seeing what’s next for Peggy.

Joan (Christina Hendricks)

Interesting season for Joan. She finally got some recognition for keeping order in the agency and was part of management meetings. And, true to agency life for women (not just in the ’60s, unfortunately), she was promoted to Director of Operations in title only. As Joan herself said, “Well, it’s almost an honor.” Joan did seem more assertive and less deferential to the boy’s club, however. She’s learning that she can have what she wants.

The same was true in her personal life. Her creepy husband decided to enlist — the only way he saw to have a career once he failed at becoming a surgeon. To be honest, I’m surprised he survived the season without getting killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Joan went to dinner with former lover Roger and, after getting mugged, had sex with him – and ended up pregnant. She told Roger she had an abortion but kept the baby, telling hubby it’s his.

At the end of the final episode, when we see Joan talking to hubby on the phone, she seems to genuinely care about him – even though his main concern about her pregnancy is how big her boobs are. Not that anything is wrong with that. In fact, Lesley Goldberg kindly sent me a link to an article about that very thing: A post at The Fab Life on “Christina Hendricks’ Top 20 Most Boobilicious Looks Ever.” Trust me, these are pictures you’ll want to bookmark.

One last note: The scene between Peggy and Joan in Sunday’s finale was amazing – perhaps the best single scene of the season – maybe of the whole series.

 

What a pitch-perfect few minutes. When Peggy calls Joan on her bulls–t and the two start laughing, we realize that their prior tension has turned into a strong connection. I can’t tell you how much I love Hendricks and Moss in this scene.

Mad Men hasn’t been renewed for a fifth season yet, but I’m sure it will be. Any predictions on what’s ahead for our Mad Women? How did you like this season?

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