“Mad Men”: Episode 13, “Meditations in an Emergency”


Remember how Helen Bishop told Betty Draper a few episodes back that the hardest thing about being divorced was getting used to the idea that “you’re in charge?”

In her own twisted way, Betty has taken charge of her life by the time we get to episode 13, “Meditations in an Emergency,” the denouement of the awe-inspiring second season of Mad Men.”

Betty isn’t the only one who’s coming into her own in this seg, written by Matthew Weiner and Kater Gordon and helmed by Weiner. Peggy Olson is capping an incredible period of personal growth with what is quite possibly the most grown-up thing she’s ever done in her 22 (maybe by now she’s 23) years.

It all unfolds against the backdrop of what is arguably the most tense six-day span of the atomic age. And near the end of this episode (that you don’t want to end) is one of those gems of dialogue that will bounce around in our heads for the next nine months until season three arrives next summer.

“If the world is still here on Monday, we can talk.”

But to start, let’s focus on Betty. Her her storyline has been nothing short of gut-wrenching all season and, in contrast to season one, Betty’s saga has been vital to the storytelling and our continued discovery of Don Draper/Dick Whitman. (Cynthia’s thoughts continue after the jump.)

Kathy Lyford’s thoughts:

Sunday nights just aren’t going to be the same. Sniff.

I’m pretty sure my take on the end of the season is not what Matthew Weiner and the writers had in mind when they wrote it but I’m going to throw it out there anyway.

To me, the final three episodes are almost a trilogy, and they stand together, apart from the first 10 season 2 eps.

They had a very Dickensian feel to them to me, wherein all the core characters, most particularly Don Draper, are confronted with ghosts of their past, their present and their future.

Don got a glimpse of what his future might hold in episode 11, “The Jet Set.” If he continued on the path he was on, he was in real danger of becoming one of those emotionally bereft gypsies, like Joy and her crazy family.

In episode 12, “The Mountain King,” Don returned to his past, to Anna, the one person who “gets” him. In so doing, he was able to regain his bearings and remember what is important to him. And in this finale, which is still reeling around in my head, he faces his present — uncertain though it may be — particularly with the Cuban Missile Crisis looming. Does his life still include Sterling Cooper? Betty? Will he have another child?

I don’t know. And I don’t want to. I want to go along for the ride as it all unfolds in season 3, in its typically tantalizing “Mad Men” way.

Stuart Levine’s thoughts:

Talk about going out in a blaze of glory, that’s exactly what the folks at “Mad Men” did in this revelatory last episode of season two.

What I got out of this wonderfully crafted finale is there are crises all over the map here: In the Draper household and at the office, but none greater than the one that President Kennedy is facing in trying to make sure the United States isn’t on the receiving end of a nuclear strike.

Relationships are both on the mend — Don and Betty — while others, like Pete and Trudy’s, feel like they’re falling apart. In the big picture, however, it all means little if Manhattan is a target of the Russkies, so everything’s relative.

Following Don’s baptism and rebirth at the end of the previous episode, he returns home and fully realizes the sin of his ways. He meets Betty at the equestrian center and tells her, “I had to have time to think about things” and adds “I was not respectful to you.” (Stuart’s thoughts continue after the jump.)

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  1. Big Tex says:

    For me, after watching the first (slooow) season and wondering what the hubbub was all about the last 3 episodes of this season finally showed me. Finally, there is some meat on the bones.
    $500,000, according to a government calculator, is $3,622,235.00 in today’s dollars. $3.6 mil, what does the hobo code say to do with that?

  2. Perry Lane says:

    Mad Men is that odd animal of a TV show that is actually better upon reflection. The narrative often moves against anticipation, this season never seemed the logical follow to last, but that’s its strength. You need to think about it. I’m already looking forward to the third season, because I can’t imagine where these characters will be in two years (each season jumps two years). And that’s what make the show work for me.
    Thanks for these recaps, it’s great to see how others react to one of the best shows ever televised.

  3. silverminx says:

    Ms. Littleton, your review rates up there with a first round knockout-suprising and stunning. And you’re right; we fans should drink to them. I’ll have an old-fashioned (don’t stir the sugar please) and raise my glass in praise to Mr. Weiner and his wonderful cast and crew and to Ms. Littleton for this great review. Mega-Bravo’s to all! In the afterward cast party, (lovable) Mr. Morse said that at his age he was lucky (paraphrasing) to be associated with this wonderful show. You got that right guy. I’m coming from the same time line and the deja vu is overwhelming. Especially poignant for me is Betty’s taking the third pregnancy news….I was there…I felt trapped….trapped by my body…trapped by my church… and by the breath-restricting mores of society. How could the writers know so much about how it was for us back then? After watching this episode I had too much to deal with to sleep so I did what all domesticated old broads do; I baked a cherry pie – than dreamed of old-fashioneds…don’t stir the sugar please.

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