This is the Way the World Ends

August 31, 2009

There’s a lot to unpack in last night’s Mad Men episode, but the one really heavy bit of foreshadowing that stuck out the most was all of the apocalyptic allusions scattered throughout. There was Betty’s father, John McCain, greeting Don with a cheery, “How’s Babylon?” and having his granddaughter read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to him. Then remember what he says right when they finish reading? “All hell’s gonna break loose.”

Then there’s Kinsey reciting the final stanza of “The Hollow Men”:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

I don’t think I need to draw you a picture here. There’s a brief exchange between Don and Roger about the poor fortunes of the Republican Party around that time, and of course we know what they only suspect: that neither Rockefeller nor Goldwater will be president. After Kennedy’s assassination, LBJ will win the next election in a landslide. And as the face of American government changes forever, so will American culture: Peggy’s experimentation with reefer is just one sign that the times are, indeed, a-changing.

Which brings us back to the apocalyptic, almost Biblical undertones running through this episode. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is, I’d suggest, the key to this entire episode. Roger’s party is repulsive in its excess, and not all that different thematically from the orgiastic celebrations of an ancient empire in decline. But that’s the best and brightest at Sterling-Cooper for you: fiddling while Peggy burns one.

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3 Responses to “This is the Way the World Ends”

  1. […] 1, 2009 I’m so glad Ned mentioned this in his last post, I’d made a joke about it while I was watching the episode but since […]

  2. Michael Strangeways said

    Judging by the promos (Don and the rising flood waters) and all the foreshadowing and subtext we’ve been getting, obviously something bad is going to happen, (besides the Kennedy assassination). My guesses:

    1)Grandpa molests Sally.
    2)Grandpa does something that hurts the kids or potentially could hurt the kids.
    3)Grandpa finds out about Dick Whitman.
    4)One of the previous happens and Don kills or accidentally kills Grandpa.
    5)One of the first three happens and Betty kills or accidentally kills Grandpa and Don has to help her cover it up.
    6)Someone else, either someone we’ve met or haven’t met, shows up to blackmail Don and Don kills or accidentally kills the blackmailer.

    Regardless, I think that there will be blood…

  3. Michael Strangeways said

    oops…well I guess Gramps is out of the picture…but I still think there’s going to be some blood…

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