The newest instalment of Mad Men, titled “The Flood” takes place the day of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death. Matthew Weiner has always done an excellent job at shining an unexpected light on historical events of the past. He goes beyond textbook, and shows you how people were actually effected by these occurrences. This episode mirrors season 3’s “The Grown Ups” where we got a first hand look at how Americans coped with the loss of JFK. The subject matter is similar, yet everything surrounding it is much different. Different not only for our characters, but for the entire country. Seasons 1 through 3 of Mad Men were shiny, glossy and gave us a bird’s eye view into the homes of people desperate to keep up plastic appearances. Perfection was an obsession, and fitting in was mandatory. It’s as if the entire country was stuck in the brain of a 14-year-old girl. Times have changed drastically since then. Women are no longer last on the totem pole, blacks are being integrated into the workplace and people are purposely going against the grain. Everyone is fighting for their own particular cause, and the country is moving at a much faster pace than in can keep up with.
Don seems to be having the hardest time dealing with the news of MLK’s death. His view on life is that everything is already horrible, so when bad things happen you hang your head, get drunk and bottle it up. Don’s emotions are of sort of like a junk drawer. Filled to the brim with crap that he’d rather not deal with. When the time comes that he must place something else in the drawer, he is forced to face the mess. In this case the mess would be his absence in his children’s lives. It’s very rare that you’ll ever hear Don Draper initiate any sort of conversation revolving around his children. You can be sure that his wallet does not contain any photos of Sally in her season 1 ballerina costume. He’s always viewed his children as more of a burden than a blessing. Don comes to the realization that Henry is replacing him as the father figure in his children’s lives. His children have lost their father in the same way the country has lost a great leader.
In an attempt to bond with his son for the first time, Don takes Bobby to see Planet of the Apes. Don is truly only just started to get to know Bobby, and his interactions with him seem forced and awkward. Don realizes in the movie theater that he does, in fact, regret not having a relationship with his son. He watches Bobby innocently try to cheer up a black theater worker about the events of the day, and it changes his entire perspective on fatherhood.
Megan walks in on Don drunk and sitting in the complete dark, which at this point should not seem like anything out of the ordinary. It appears to Megan that on a day that seems to have bonded the entire country, her family has done nothing but grown even farther apart. Don explains to her the experience he had with Bobby in the movie theater, and expresses to her that it was almost as if he was seeing his child for the first time. He confides in her that he faked the feelings of compassion that most people feel for their children when they are born. And that he finally knows what it feels like to no longer have to fake it. This is a profound moment for all characters in this family. All Megan has ever wanted was for Don to be open and communicate with her, and not only is he communicating, he’s crying. Even going on to say things about his childhood being rough. She sits back and lets him talk, almost afraid to breath. Knowing that the slightest thing could snap him out of the vulnerable state he’s in.
In the final scene of the episode Don crawls into bed with Bobby, in hopes to continue the father son bonding they’ve experienced. Bobby admits to Don that he is afraid, and not for any reason Don would assume. He’s afraid that something bad will happen to Henry. Don realizes that it will take a lot more than a day at the movies to make up for all the lost time between he and his children. His response is that Henry is “not important enough” for anyone to hurt him. The amount of sarcasm in that sentence could fill a room. Don then reaches over and places his arm across Bobby’s chest until he falls asleep.