Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

The Color Blue (Mad Men S3:E10)

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on October 25, 2009

“The truth is, people may see things differently, but they don’t really want to.”

I tend toward hyperbole, but “The Color Blue” may be the best episode in the history of the series. Right up there with “The Gold Violin” from season two.

Betty is not pleased.

Betty is not pleased.

It deals with issues of permanence, the burdens of the past as well as the power of delusion. For Burt Cooper and Don Draper, the past is uncomfortable for different reasons. Burt struggles with the fact that all his friends are dead and his business isn’t the way it used to be. Don, on the other hand, has spent his whole life trying to escape his past. Still, he keeps a shoebox of memories and carries nostalgia…for something, which is partly motivating his affair with Miss Farrell (“long curly hair, no one has that anymore…”).Unfortunately for him, while the permanent nature of the written word makes for good ad copy for Western Union, it comes back to haunt him when Betty finds the remnants of his past.

While the episode is about the inescapable nature of the past, it’s also about how readily society accepts facades. It’s a theme that harkens back to the season opener. “London Fog,” like Don Draper, is a misrepresentation that people willingly choose to accept. Generally, society wants the simple answer, the more appealing answer, which is why it’s easy to build facades (like the Drapers going to church on Christmas to appear devout). For Don, this exists in constant conflict with the past. While his image at the Sterling Cooper 40th anniversary dinner is one of perfection–a man on top of his craft in a “wedding cake” marriage–it’s a lie (which is why the last scene, with Betty seeing the falsity for the first time, was perfect).

Beyond Don, though, this is how society operates. From Kinsey dating a black woman last season to appear progressive to the Brits’ motivation for the 40th anniversary celebration, this episode makes the case that most of what we experience is not what it seems. There are unseen motivations behind every action, and, most of the time, we cope by seeing things the way we want to see them. The only question remaining is, what happens when people (Betty, Miss Farrell) start to figure out that things are not what they seem? It’s going to be an interesting last three weeks.

A few more thoughts:

-Don is in big trouble with Miss Farrell. From her desperate “I want you to stay all night” to wanting to introduce him to her brother to getting on the train to calling the house (you know it was her), she’s not going to let him go away quietly. But maybe that’s what he wants. Maybe knowing that this affair could wreck his marriage gives him the escape route he’s been missing ever since he signed the contract. It’s probably subconscious

-Betty won’t bring up what she found. But she’ll use it as justification for her own actions–either to leave Don eventually or to have the affair with Henry Francis.


3 Responses to “The Color Blue (Mad Men S3:E10)”

  1. Mr. Feeny said

    Of course you would call one of the most boring episodes of the season your favorite. Except for Betty’s determination-turned-ignorance on Don’s secret, there’s nothing interesting in this episode. Just more of the same drawn out metaphors and woe-is-me character development. Scratch that…character restatement. The best episode of this season was the one where Don signed the contract. Not even close.

    I hope the next episode is Don, Roger and Pete reading out of the New York Metropolitan Area Phone Book for 50 minutes. That’s sure to be your favorite.

    (Editor’s note: My tone might be harsh due to the Bears’ humiliating defeat. But I stand by my point)

  2. Christopher Moltisanti said

    OK. Themes are repeated in every good show, book, movie, etc. Mad Men covers a lot of the same thematic ground, but layers are added and they’re presented in different ways and in different contexts. It’s a great show because they use a narrow setting and say something universal about the ways people live their lives and interact with others. It’s that realism that makes it such a rich and fulfilling show.

    You seem determined to dislike this show (a) because you think it has an elitist fan base and (b) because you just want to be contrary.

    It seems like you’re interested in a show that’s pure entertainment and offers no deeper insights into human nature or society. Fine. Just don’t pretend Mad Men doesn’t execute what it’s trying to do well, even though you may in fact hate everything it’s trying to do.

    • Mr. Feeny said

      But I don’t dislike this show. Not at all. It’s a quality drama. It keeps me interested, has great characters, is pretty well scripted. I enjoy it a lot. I just don’t think it deserves the heaps of praise it’s getting, like it’s some masterpiece. And it definitely is an elitist fan base. You can’t deny that.

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