Emmie (angearia) wrote,

Reflections on Mad Men's "The Gypsy and the Hobo"

My growing love of Mad Men (thank you eowyn_315 and penny_lane_42 for encouraging me to watch!) has finally led to some thinky thoughts. And what an amazing episode last night.

After watching each episode, I go to Alan Sepinwall's blog to read his reviews. Most of the time, I agree with much of his interpretation. But one line in his review felt so completely wrong to me and how I'd interpreted the story:

Or, if not mature, then secure - as in, maybe he really does think Jane is The One, does love her enough to not cheat on her (as opposed to just being afraid of getting caught), and has genuinely been looking all his life for someone just as carefree as himself.

"This woman is important to me."

I think that quote says it all. Roger references Jane as an easy excuse to disentangle him from Annabelle's clutches, essentially hiding behind his marriage, but in other interactions, we see him lighting up at Joan's call, resurrecting his nickname "Joanie" for her, devoting his time and delighting in being able to help her. Just as she is "important to [him]", he's happy to know that she thinks of him and that he can be important to her. It's rare for Roger to feel needed and we see how much he's come to value being needed recently (Guy's appearance threatening to make him irrelevant was the nightmare vision of his future that reawakened his need for relevance).

He was talking about Joan being the love of his life, loved and lost, not Jane. I think the significance can be shown in the way Roger treats Annabelle in the first meeting, before Joan calls him asking for help, and then when he meets up with her again. When he set the dinner "meeting," he seemed eager to stroll down memory lane with Annabelle and perhaps have some fun. Yet after Joan, he acts caustic to Annabelle, resentful of the way she ended things. Before Joan's call, he was the carefree playboy looking for fun. After Joan, he'd leveled out to this moment of honesty with his emotions and his history with this old flame. Then you have the lines, "this woman is important to me," and that he likes being on Joan's mind. The setting of the late-night call is also special - after the failed dinner, does Roger go home to his wife who he loves so dearly? No, he goes to the office and works (works), calling buddies to line up a job for Joanie.

When Roger uses Jane as an excuse to untangle himself from Annabelle (happily married, this girl is different, the newlywed stage) and you hear him say "this girl is different," does anyone honestly believe that he means Jane? Would anyone call Jane different? We've seen Roger telling people it's different this time, desperate to convince them and himself, but that's just an illusion he's clinging to because he so desperately wants to be happy. Roger's good at spinning lines too but we see through his humor and sense of irony that he's able to call a spade a spade, that he's very perceptive of the differences between reality and the face one presents to the world - he might say Jane is different, but he knows Joan is different. Just as we, the audience, know Joan is different, that she's special.

I think it's always been clear that Roger views Joan as "different," a cut above the rest, special because he never has been able to control her and when she defies him, that seems to only make him more fond and admiring of her. She sets the tune and he likes that, the way she plays the game and, in fact, makes it him play her game. I think his disappointment in her settling down and marrying the doctor was very much rooted in seeing her giving up the game, kowtowing to society's demand that a woman marry and settle down - he loved the way she defied convention, that she was her own person. It was seeing the quality he most admired in her tossed aside.

Roger/Jane/Joan/Annabelle seemed to also be paralleling Don/Betty/Suzanne/Anna. Both Roger and Don have hard-to-define emotional attachments to their wives that revolve around her being their ideal notion of a partner. Both men have women (Joan for Roger, Suzanne or Midge or other affairs Don has had) with whom they share more passionate encounters that reflect equality; these relationships are less about illusions of ideals than they are about people connecting and genuinely enjoying each other's company. Finally, both men have women in their pasts who've shaped who they are today (both Roger and Don have adopted personas, the Playboy vs. the Mountain King, covering who they are emotionally underneath, though of course Don's is the more pervasive illusion).

Annabelle was the birth of Playboy Roger, while Anna helped resurrect and solidify Don's borrowed identity (she gave him the divorce, her acknowledgment of him as Don removed the greatest obstacle to his facade). When both women are revealed, the men are forced into a place of honesty.  Roger acknowledges the truth about his history with Annabelle, that she was never "the one" for him. Instead of reigniting their affair as any good playboy would do without a second thought, he devotes his time and energies to Joan who is "important to [him]," who needs his help and he likes being needed by her, more so than he likes being needed by Annabelle to rescue her company.

When Anna is revealed, her discovery forces the Betty/Don confrontation and the real man underneath the Don Draper facade comes to light. Both women helped build the facade and when the women behind the men are revealed, the facade topples like a house of cards. The reveal of Annabelle added another layer that brings Roger and Don closer together as brothers, mirrors of each other - and considering how similar they are in how they approach the world, it only makes the divide between them more layered.

One final thought.  Is the title "The Gypsy and the Hobo" meant to only reference Don?  Or could it also be about the facade that Roger sheds here - both gypsy and hobo connote the image of the wanderer, but gypsy also includes the idea of a freer type of love and sexuality.  The wandering eye as well as the wandering spirit.  That's something both Roger and Don share - affairs outside their marriage - and it's something both men reject in this episode when they drop their facades, instead returning to their homes.  Interesting to note that for Roger, his "home" is the office of Sterling Cooper. 

This show. My god, this show. The relationships are so complex and intertwining and reflective. Love love love.

And finally, this moment made me cheer outloud, "Yes yes yes!"

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What did everyone else think of this episode? And does anyone want to join the Roger/Joan club with me?  And I desperately need a Mad Men icon - anyone know of some good fan artists out there?

Tags: mad men, meta

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