Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Are you thinking of what to say or are you just looking at that door?"

The line above, as spoken by Betty Draper, inaugurates the most pivotal scenes of the most recent episode of Mad Men.

That's quite a line, one that passably summarizes the entire series to date: in their social world centered on advertising, salesmanship, pick-up lines, deception, and every kind of supporting verbal legerdemain, will the characters come up with the right words to answer the situation or will they depart, willingly or otherwise?

To the musings of Amanda Marcotte and Brian Moon, I will note the visual motif of open doors, which are rife in this episode -- for example, as it is framed, Betty and Don have their most significant conversation to date with an open door directly in the background of each. This builds the tension over whether the person Don left in the car will come walking through one of them, and underscores the broader theme of transition: moving forward, being there rather than here, decision, motion, leaving or staying, past versus future, changing from one place to another place, going from one state to another.

Conventional marriages, participants in which Don and Betty present themselves to the public, include a ritual of passing through an open doorway, and they also end when someone walks out a door.

The episode ends on what might be an even stronger line: without realizing the freight of the question, a neighbor -- while standing in an opened door -- asks Betty and Don with their trick-or-treating kids, "And who are you supposed to be?"

In reply, Don's look of shock combined with a wry smile suggests he is thinking of what to say while looking for a door.

Who indeed? Through what door?

1 comment:

Brian Moon said...

Ah, yes, the teacher in the car, waiting. Knowing she was out there, while Betty finally stood up and demanded answers from Don, added a lot of tension to the scene.

It seemed almost... clumsy... to me that Don would have forgotten about her out there. At first, he made a feint to go out and tell her that Betty was home, but Betty did not allow him to.

But then it allowed them a shot of Suzanne, opening and closing the car door, and walking off into the night. That story is now done.