"Mad Men's" Betty Draper and the Death of JFK (Spoilers)

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It took the death of the President of the United States to shake Betty Draper (January Jones) out of her unhappy, little Stepford world and make her shove on the flaps of her hermetically sealed, suburban envelope .  Not that Betty hasn't shown flashes of defiance before.  Like last season when she challenged her husband Don (Jon Hamm) about his chippies on the side and then thought nothing of a public bathroom quickie with a stranger. 

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But this was the Big Kahuna.  The, "I don't love you anymore" speech.  Of course she still delivered it in her prim and prissy, Stepford way but even Don had to put down his Lucky Strikes and take notice.   Gone was the tarted up sex kitten of just a few short weeks ago in Rome.

Even the Stepford children, especially creepy little Sally Draper, knew something bad was up between the parental units.

First a little background.  Preparations are in full swing for Margaret Sterling's wedding when the day before, the world of Sterling Cooper is thrown into despair by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Employees gather around grainy black and white images on television sets, barely able to believe that America has changed in an instant.

And the character affected in the most profound way is Betty Draper.

Yes, Roger Sterling's daughter's wedding becomes a distant afterthought as the country mourns and barely anyone attends.  Yes, the King of Weasels, newly demoted Pete Campbell goes totally off the rails and ditches the wedding in favor of watching coverage on TV with his wife Trudy.  Yes, Don's perfectly coiffed facade, already under serious strain after Betty's discovery of his double life last week, cracks even more.

But it's Betty who appears willing to risk the most in the face of the assassination, especially after watching the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby on live television. 

She jumps up screaming, "What is going on!?"  And when Don asks what happened, she says, "They shot him!"

Interesting how that was written.  Not "He shot him," but "They shot him."; implying the feeling among Americans of a grand conspiracy that's survived to this day.  After all, the murders were so monumental it was too awful to believe we were at the mercy of unstable individuals.  Better to believe there were unseen conspirators at work who at least had motives that made some kind of sense. 

Anyway, with Betty's worlds, inside and outside the Draper household collapsing, where does she go?  Why into the arms of the nearest man of course, Henry Francis.

Betty's romantic dance with Francis picks up the pace as she meets him in a parking lot.  She tells him Don's a liar and she's had it, and then Henry surprises us all when he asks her to marry him.

Um, did I miss something?  Like some kind of torrid passion between these two?  Or God forbid, some chemistry!?  Sure, Henry says he'd like to take Betty to see her favorite movie--"Singing in the Rain"--to make her feel better but...so?

What kind of sense would it make for Betty to marry him?  How would life with Henry be any different than life with Don?  Except Don is way hotter.

If Bets is as smart as I think she can be, she'll pass on that offer and get herself some Prozac. 

Meredith O'Brien at Notes From The Asylum agrees with me about the "chemistry" between Bets and good old Henry:

I absolutely did not see coming that witnessing Oswald’s murder on TV would send Betty running to Henry Francis, particularly after the doting behavior Don displayed toward her at the Sterling wedding. I was likewise stunned to watch as Henry proposed marriage to a cash box-hurling woman he doesn’t even know.

Over at Basket of Kisses, Deborah Lipp examines what she believes Betty really meant when she said she didn't love Don:

It usually means what Betty means: My heart is closed. The door is locked. And usually, if the door could be unlocked, there is love behind it. That’s what Don discovered.

But because Betty is right; because Don is the one who has lied and cheated, Betty sees no need to unlock her own door, and without that opening, the love has not been set free.

And after last week's emotional episode, Raked Reviews asked, "Who's Afraid of Betty Draper?":

For someone as collected and suave as Don Draper, it was really unsettling to see Don crumble. And Betty! Betty was like Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pressing him, needling him, questioning his every move, telling him what a great storyteller he is. Finally, he relents and tells Betty everything, that he’s Dick Whitman, that his brother dead. I have to say it’s the best bit of acting we’ve seen from two characters on the show.

Yup, last week and this week, very good acting all the way around.

Finally, a continuity question:  Was there really water based instant cocoa in 1963?  Pete Campbell's secretary brought him some, but I wonder if it wasn't invented later.  Anyone?

And also on the Pete Campbell front, "Best Quote of the Night" goes to the King of Weasels himself who responds to his wife's incessant questions with:  "Trudy, stop it with the Ellery Queen."  Hee.


Related Links:

Jessica Wakemen at The Frisky, "Betty Draper, Mother of the Year.  No, Seriously!" 


Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television/Online Video.     Her other blogs are Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock and Meg's Rad Reviews


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