By Cynthia Littleton
“Dark Shadows” was a devilishly dark and darkly comic episode of “Mad Men” even if it didn’t seem so at first blush. Bonus points to Matthew Weiner and Co. for thinking waaaay ahead and having a seg with references to the original “Dark Shadows” ABC soap air on the weekend that the Johnny Depp-Tim Burton remake opened.
I got a kick out of the episode, written by Erin Levy and directed by Scott Hornbacher, in large part because we got a few flashes of the Betty of old: scheming, childish and borderline cruel. Even though I love to criticize the character, the scenes of Betty in action made me realize I’d kinda missed her. I thought in general the theme of this episode was in fact dark shadows cast by past misdeeds, or people getting their just desserts (or not, in Betty’s case).
Betty gets it like a shaving cream pie in the face when she steps in to Don’s groovy new, romance-filled life with his thin new wife. Megan looks like an extra from “That Girl” while Betty is still “Father Knows Best.” And we learn later in the episode that Don is well aware that she’s packed on the pounds (when he complains about her sticking her “fat nose” into his new life).
We see Jane Siegel Sterling getting her continued comeuppance for being plotting so hard to snare a married, wealthy man. Now that she’s about to be divorced, she’s lost her edge, as proven by the fact that she didn’t pounce on the prime opportunity, Manischewitz the Younger, who was undressing her with his eyes in the restaurant.
In a scenario no one would have predicted two seasons ago, Roger completely has the upper hand, and he exploits it. The laugh-out-loud line of the seg was Jane complaining about Roger trying to snow her with things she said while on LSD, like a promise to remarry quickly to save him alimony payments. Oh, he’s a dog that Roger Sterling. We all know his scheming around the office with the copywriters and mounting his own solo forays to new clients is going to come back to bite him. But it’s fun to see Bert getting into it on the sly too. The old guys are trying to battle back, armed with anti-Semitism. One of the great cringe-worthy lines of the season, from Roger, probing the specifics of the Manischewitz account: “How Jewish are they? “Fiddler on the Roof” – are they audience or cast?”