“Far Away Places” or, as most of us will refer to it, “the Roger/LSD episode” presents a day in the life of Peggy, Roger and Don. The episode is rife with primal imagery, as man longs escape from the unnatural pressures of society. The three characters, in their own ways, take a trip.
Peggy still struggles with her gender role. She’s the man at home, distant and preoccupied by work. She’s the man at work, giving the Heinz pitch in Don’s absence. She opts for aggression and the pitch goes poorly, leading her to be removed from the account and belittled as “oversensitive” and “a little girl.” She leaves the office to go to the movies. She submits to base impulses in the theater, giving a complete stranger a hand job. She hears Ginsburg’s startling story about being born in a concentration camp, passes out on Don’s couch and finally calls Abe at night.
Roger initially tries to escape an awful dinner party with his wife. The awful dinner party ends up being a prelude to a turning on session with LSD. It’s through distorted perception or having artificial social constructs broken down that Roger and Jane achieve clarity, communicate about the dissolution of their marriage honestly and decide to get a divorce. Opening the door for Joan, perhaps?
Don plans a faux idyllic work trip with Megan to Howard Johnson’s in upstate New York. Like the destination the sentiment is entirely superficial. He wants to rekindle that passion. He has a flashback to the trip. The restaurant is startlingly similar to the one where he “fell” for Megan. Reality creeps in, with Megan’s concerns about her station within the workplace and her marriage. A fight and the mention of Don’s mother causes him to flee. He returns only to find that Megan has fled.
When he returns to find Megan at the apartment, Don loses it. He presents sort of a dichotomy of man with women. He kicks the door down, hunts her down in the apartment and tackles her to the ground. Moments later he’s on his knees clutching at her womb and begging her not to leave as though she’s his surrogate mother.
In a parallel to Peggy’s work/life conundrum, Don gets confronted by Bert for being lazy at work. While he has been trying not to be Don Draper this time in his personal life, he has not been being Don Draper in his professional life. It’s not Bert’s “business,” but it is his business.
Both films referenced enhance the primal imagery motif. They are both returns to Africa. Tj Naked Prey features an elephant hunt gone wrong where an African tribe brutally tortures and kills the hunting party, save for one man, the guide, who escapes. In Born Free a woman raises a Lion cub but problems acclimating the wild animal force her to release it back into the wild.
Jewishness arises in a couple of contexts. There’s Ginsburg’s relationship with his father and the revelation that he is literally a child of the Holocaust, the historical moment where society, through trying to exert the utmost control, unleashed the basest of human desires in horrifying fashion. Roger also mistakes his wife for speaking German when she is speaking Yiddish.
The episode plays on multiple levels, with the malleability of time and truth. The broken chronology disorients the viewer. Roger and Jane literally struggle with this on an LSD trip, somehow finding a clearer picture of truth within a jumble of time and space. We also see time speed up and slow down for both Peggy and Don at different moments as they grapple with the truth.
We’re also sticking with the character-centered episodes, perhaps a compromise between Weiner and AMC. The episodes streamline the show itself, without streamlining the cast.
[Photos/Videos via Mike the Intern]