“Mad Men”: Episode 5, “The New Girl”

Madmen5bobbie

(STUART LEVINE ADDS HIS THOUGHTS ON THE EPISODE LATER ON IN THE POST)

Now I’m convinced — Don Draper is losing his grip. I will never understand what our handsome anti-hero of Mad Men sees in the sleazy Bobbie Barrett.

After watching their further adventures in episode five, “The New Girl,” I stand by what I said last week — the woman is bad, bad news. But kudos are in order for thesp Melinda McGraw (pictured above) for playing her so, so well, or bad, in this case.

Although it feels like the twisted Don-Bobbie storyline dominates this seg, it’s action-packed and includes the (brief) return of fan-fave Rachel Menken; a very emotional turn of events for Pete and Trudy; the introduction of what looks to be an important new character, Don’s latest secretary; Don revealing himself to be an Antonioni fan; Joan delivering big news to Roger; and most significantly, at the 27-minute mark, we finally get a bit more info on what in the world happened to Peggy in the days immediately after she gave birth, at the end of season one.

It’s a credit to Matthew Weiner and his team that the show’s characters and stories are so strong that they’ve been able to wait this long to give us anything on this key plot point without fans howling. Peggy’s flashback caught me completely off guard, as I was thoroughly engrossed on the Don and Bobbie storyline when it arrived. And the flashback is deftly woven in to shed light on another big turning point in Peggy and Don’s relationship that comes in this seg.

Penned by Robin Veith and helmed by Jennifer Getzinger, the episode is titled “The New Girl,” and it does introduce us to a young and very pretty new secretary for Don, Jane Siegel (sp?), but she doesn’t get much screen time overall.

After giving it some thought, I think the title refers in part to the dynamic of Don’s life, and in part to the changes that Peggy is undergoing. I think Don is a pathological Lothario in one sense, and hopelessly insecure (duh) in another. I don’t think it’s the power of the conquest that he’s after, or even the sex per se, but just the insatiable desire to be liked, to be wanted, to be idolized. That’s probably a lot of what he’s responding to in Bobbie — she’s relentless.

I also think this episode is very focused on spotlighting the sharp contrasts between men and women in this era, which can’t help but prod us to think about how much has, and has not, changed in contempo times.

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