Exciting 'Mad Men' Finale Column! (Finally!) Or, Duck And Cover: There's Always Room For A Season 2 Recap!
Of course, "Mad Men" is all about identity and duality (although Don Draper's identity, unlike that Certs slogan, is so much more than two, two, two things in one.)
Title of the show (and Don's multiple-identity hell) notwithstanding, Peggy is the character who has grown the most. The secretary who last year spoke in a little-girl voice and dressed like a secular nun, she's now a living, breathing embodiment of "Who does she think she is?"
Indeed, in an era when young women were broadly indoctrinated to believe that their highest calling was to be at home, as wives and mothers, Peggy became preternaturally wise, independent, self-confident, and powerful, prowling around the offices of Sterling Cooper at all hours, cadging cigarettes and building her own empire.
So what allowed Li'l Peg, a secretarial school grad from a suffocatingly close, working-class family in Brooklyn, to ask for her own office with her name on the door? (The noive!!) What's more, she gave account exec Pete Campbell, the upper-class cad who impregnated her and later confessed his love for her, the "there-there" touch on his shoulder, poor boy, to let him down easy while decimating him with the news that not only did she give his baby away, but that she had no desire for him or a family.
Most astoundingly, how was she able to stand up to no less a body than the Catholic Church, in the form of Father Gil? After he informed her that she was risking going to hell for not having confessed her sexual sins, she neither crumpled nor cried; instead, she told him, "I can't believe God is like that," and turned on her heel! (And also turned to her own improvised, Olsonian interpretation of church doctrine, years before that became more possible with Vatican II.)
The clues were being seeded all year with her skirmishes with her family and the Church of the Holy Innocents. (Oh, those writers are so smart!) Call it the Popsicle Click. (Ten or so years later, women would write to Ms. magazine about the moment they felt "the click" that allowed them to become feminists.)
Don was gone, and she was in charge of pitching Popsicles. With the help of art director Sal, and his own mother's penny-pinching ways, Peggy transformed the split into something religious: she recalled her own mother lovingly breaking the ice pop in half, giving one half to each of her daughters, treating them equally, as "beloveds," in a ritual. Her jealous, frustrated sister would perhaps not remember being treated that fairly. No matter. Like all great preachers (and many of the earliest advertising copywriters, who promoted patent medicines, were sons of preachers), Peggy instinctively knew how to make the allegorical commercial. "Take it, break it, share it, love it," she wrote, as a way to sell the frozen stuff in winter or summer, from the kitchen or the truck. As she had learned as Don's acolyte, the important thing was establishing a powerful emotional connection for the consumer.
It worked. The client loved it, although he thought the illustration (of Peggy as either Jesus or Mother Mary, bestowing treats on the supplicants) reminded him of something. And once she singlehandedly won the Popsicle account, ("take it, break it...") she could also make her own formal break with the church, and her past. Now, all is future, as Don had trained her to think. Still, she had a little secret: she could use the power of the church and transfer all that devotion and passion -- "share it, love it" -- to a new religion: advertising. ("Let me tell you, the Catholic Church knows how to sell things," she had previously told her group. )
Actually, Peggy's mom seems to have known how powerful her daughter was, all along. At the dinner with the new priest in her house, she seems to link Peggy with the power of the Pope: Father Gil says he's on his way to Rome, which makes the proud Mom respond, "Peggy works in Manhattan."
Indeed. Ms. Olson sees her seat at the agency as the Holy See. Shortly after she gets her own office, Pete sticks his head in and suggests that she should make the place her own by warming it up with family pictures. Peggy immediately responds that she wants to frame some of her campaigns.
Actually, it was the Xerox service guy who gave her the will to ask Roger for her own office, when, as Roger himself put it, none of the guys "had the balls" to do so.
"If you want it to work, you have to treat it with respect," the copier repairman scolded her, and we already know how well she takes to angry men trying to manipulate her. Then she discovered that she was worth more than a machine, damn it!
Will her zeal lead to destruction?
Will she someday see how she sacrificed a satisfying private life for the superficial posturing after status at an ad agency?
Maybe not. And for now, Peggy has the fierce determination of a true believer -- something Don lost long ago.
Editor's Note: Ok, Mad Blog is now officially on hiatus -- just like "Mad Men."