People all live between two halves of themselves—the one when they’re entirely alone, and the one they bring along with them to work, out with friends, or even around family—that hopefully create some semblance of a whole in the end. No one really knows which is created as a coping mechanism and which is the real version, but honestly even the answer to that depends too much on the situation to be true all the time. It’s no secret to say we’re different around our spouse than we are with a waitress, but the question isn’t why are we different given the circumstance, it’s how. Do we lose a sense of our self to appear vulnerable in hopes of being taken care of or pitied the same way a child would when staring at a problem it knew it couldn’t solve; or do we instead highlighted part of us in order to seem confident and strong in an attempt to galvanize those around us? It really boils down to those two halves: do we choose to be better or worse?
This week every character was faced with the parts of them self they’ve been protecting from the other, leading to an ultimate showdown between who they are and who they’ve been pretending to be.
Too bad Roger Sterling is already too old to honestly give even one single f*ck about who he is, while others will empty the entire basket. He’s not much different from my grandfather in the sense that everyone knows how he’ll act no matter the company, be it the country club or the supermarket. My grandfather, now comfortably the forgotten patriarch of the family, has resigned to yelling his opinions for half the night before eventually finding the largest recliner in the house and napping the rest of family time away. He’s also proven wherever he stands is a sufficient spot to let loose the gas between his cheeks. He doesn’t care. He knows people will perceive him how they want to at this point and has since stopped trying to ever please anyone’s perceptions. Even my grandmother simply rolls her eyes or slaps his shoulder, but that’s it. She knows she’s going home with him and he’ll be roughly the same person there, too.
Roger isn’t far off except his hot air expels from a different orifice. He’s lived for so long that his two halves, while still existent, more closely mirror one another in the same way Clark Kent clearly looks like Superman with glasses on: we all know the truth and it boggles our minds when others don’t seem to get it. Similarly, I felt bad for poor Roger having his grandson taken away from him for only wanting to try and make a connection and have a good time. Maybe it has more to do with the fact my parents let me watch movies like The Terminator when I was a child, so Planet of the Apes wouldn’t enter my mind as something a four year-old couldn’t watch either. However, though, the point is that Roger taking his grandson out for the day meant he was bound to do something his daughter disapproved of, so how could she honestly get angry? The half he’s showed her has been consistent and to expect something else becomes her problem.
Peggy, on the other hand, is finally confronting the idea that she is also two different people. The merger of SCDPCGC has done nothing positive for the youngest copywriter in New York advertisement, but has instead led her to try and discern which of the two older men in her life she can trust to be there for her. (The fact that it’s Don, isn’t proving to help her in the least, by the way.) She then takes these problems back to a ramshackle home where the threat of a violent intruder is just as real as domestic delusion. Peggy had been spending so much time at work trying to quell relationships that she put hers on the back burner—Don would be so proud. Yet this meant when the opportunity presented itself to leave the relationship—after she accidentally stabbed Abe in the stomach with a homemade harpoon, nonetheless—she immediately collapsed upon herself as any victim would, ignoring the strong.
Even though she knows victims get no attention in her work world, she did want to try and be caught on her way down, figuring, “If they’re gonna fight over my approval, I might as well be appreciated along the way.” However, as is the case in the male-dominated office, her pleas were ignored and she once again found herself confused and unaware of who she truly is. She’s spent so much time cultivating an impervious persona she didn’t know how to authentically be vulnerable in the ways necessary to be taken seriously.
The best part of the episode was the reintroduction of Betty (Draper) Francis who came back to play the game we’d all figured she’d forgotten the rules to! Now I know some would argue Betty doesn’t have enough personality for one half of self, let alone two, but I’ve always liked Betty and seen more in her than a flat speech pattern and finely burnt cigarette growing between her two fingers. She’s a veteran at understanding how different worlds work in tandem with one another; yet what we were unaware of was her new ability to stare at both without flinching. I suppose all those years spent at the Don Draper School of Duality earned her an honorary degree. Of course, giving Don all the credit discounts her own life experience of being slammed, degraded, and silenced by too many categories of people to count, which would, in turn, miss the point entirely: people shift based on how they’re treated, re-appropriating the value they hold for themselves continually, and Betty, after once again being upheld as a trophy in her married life, decided to embrace that sinister other side of her no one knows about except Don.
Like a true veteran, Betty got the call and, without stretching, walked to the table to get in, and immediately sank two buckets, grabbed a board, and set a massive pick just to remind everyone she can still play and knows how to hurt as well.
Finally, Don Draper, we know, doesn’t like to split his differences and, even given all of his talents of mystery, might be the truest person any of us have ever known. This isn’t even because we’ve been privy to watching him in every type of situation—manipulative, loving, angry, sad, confused, creative… thirsty—though that does help. No, instead this is true because he has learned how to be the most like his true self at all times; even better than Roger because there isn’t a person he’s ashamed to admit his true self to; there are secrets he keeps, yes, but that has more to do with knowing people don’t react well when someone indulges in the socially abnormal. Yet if he was ever confronted with the truth he would simply muster all of his manhood into his gritted jaw and explain exactly who he is: and even if he lies, he’s telling more truth than anyone else would when forced into honesty because the rest of us aren’t that experienced in defending our imperfections.
Sylvia was the last barrier Don ever had to face: a woman telling him no and meaning it to the point he knew he was wrong, too. Even this week, Don seemed genuinely concerned and willing to fix the problems his marriage endures, as opposed to hearing the white noise of boredom from before. As always, how long he’ll be interested in fixing it remains to be seen.
I’ve made the point of highlighting how Don’s worlds are collapsing in on each other for a few weeks now and we’ve moved past the point of no return: everyone is now having to deal with their insecurities and misdeeds. Don’s already reconciled those and now lives purely for him. Whoever learns to shed the other layers of personality and be the most pure form of them self will survive this tumultuous upheaval, not so much unlike the merger facing them at present. If they want to be considered successful and worthy of attention, they’ll have to figure out how to best present themselves at all times. That, or Peggy will just go around stabbing everyone that gets in her way.
The title of this episode, “The Better Half”, is a subjective truth everyone has to figure out for them self. People love to tell you the worst parts of yourself and disguise it as constructive criticism or some type of diluted harsh reality they think you need to hear. Sometimes they’ll tell us what they like, but that mostly has to do superficially with how we best match them, so, in the end, it’s up to you to be comfortable with who you are and not wait for another to love you the same. They’ll love the You they know. The You you present.
Hopefully you’ve given them the best side.