Mad Men Season Six “Quality of Mercy” Episode: Review


ERMAGERD, SHAKESPEARE REFERENCE IN SHOW TITLE! (I’ll post the speech below for nerdz.)


As we all know by now, in this episode shit goes down.

Spoiler Alert!

1. Kenny voluntarily quits the Chevy account because he hates Detroit: he hates the guns, he hates the cars, he hates the suits, he hates the weather. As someone who loves Detroit, I am personally not offended because there are few places so poorly suited to the emotionally sensitive, secretive fiction writer that Kenny is than Detroit in the ’60s car boom. Pete takes over the account, crocodile tears in check.

2. Sally WANTS to go to boarding school and get the hell out of both her homes. The girls at the school are exactly what you’d picture (i.e. pure evil, isolated from supervision), but Sally holds the trump card — she has Glen stop by with booze and cigarettes (and the people rejoiced — yayyyyyy). Glen’s friend tries to get with Sally, she says no, calls him out on his bullshit, and Glen defends her with fisticuffs. I mean, talk about a generational one-eighty: Sally is no Peggy, no Joan, no Betty, not even a Megan — she doesn’t play games, she just says no. But the evil girls are impressed, and now she’s in with them and accepted to the school, which of course is probably not a great thing for her future emotional development.

3. Don is in the fetal position for about half the episode, but mostly he’s noticing the increasingly embarrassing cooing between Peggy and Ted. Here’s the creative genius that we’ve seen in the past, pulling out a total save for the company during the St. John’s pitch; rather than let Ted lose the client’s trust because he’s so busy pitching Peggy’s work, Don exposes (even momentarily) Ted to the fear that his love for Peggy will be made public, then totally #FTWing it by saying the reason it’s so personal is because it was Frank Gleason’s last idea. Client totally “gets it,” says $25,000 is his top budget, and everything is hunky-dory for the firm. But Peggy calls Don a monster, and he’s back in the fetal position — which, coincidentally, maaaay be another Shakespeare reference (HEY-o!)

4. Bob Benson is a phony and former “man-servant” (AHMAAAZING). Rather than expose him and kick him off the Chevy account, which all the other partners protest of without knowing his phoniness, Peter lets him stay, with terms. It’s Donald Draper Part Deux, but it’s also a moment of growth for Pete — he’s merciful, and he’s also humble about his own ability to “out-tangle” someone like Bob.

OK, everybody breath. That felt like one of the most tension-filled episodes in awhile. What’s important to remember is, The Merchant of Venice is one of the most tension-filled plays. Why? Because it’s all about “What do you do with your power.” In the game of power, anything COULD go, but very few things SHOULD, so an inherent conflict is set up when we care about the characters’ fates. Don’s arc plays with this idea throughout the episode — the ramifications of his misuse of the power of fatherhood, the misuse of Peggy as his lost protege, the misuse of Megan in their fatiguing, never-ending relationship that used to be so fresh and promising. Megan turns to kiss him and more than anything, Don just looks tired.

In Matthew Weiner’s “Behind the Scenes” of this episode, he defends Peggy’s calling Don a monster, explaining that so much of what’s motivating his St. John’s pitch is jealousy over Peggy’s love for Ted. But in the comments on blogs, many of the Show’s fans are reacting like, “Oh damn, the one time Don doesn’t deserve to be called out, Peggy goes for the kill.” What motivates Tom to expose Ted like that is no doubt complicated — when he sees Peggy in the theater with Ted, a technique he taught her to do when searching for Ad ideas, he looks almost like he could cry. The loss of Peggy AND Sally demonstrates his misuse of power more than anything. But his ability to accomplish so much with so little: to warn Ted about his budding romance, to save the account, to preserve the trust of the client, to get Peggy’s great idea the oxygen it needs to survive…….that shows the spirit of a fighter, which is I think what people love most about Don. He’s weakened, but he’s trying, and sometimes, succeeding beyond what most people could do in that moment.

Also, here’s Portia’s speech, because it’s important.

Portia’s Speech from The Merchant of Venice

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,
Upon the place beneath.
It is twice blessed.
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
It is mightiest in the mightiest,
It becomes the throned monarch better than his crown.
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
An attribute to awe and majesty.
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself.
And earthly power dost the become likest God’s,
Where mercy seasons justice.
Therefore Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice we all must see salvation,
We all do pray for mercy
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.
I have spoke thus much to mittgate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou dost follow,
This strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentance gainst the merchant there.

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