Archetypes: Television: Review: ‘Mad Men’: Peggy Takes Back Her Projections

AMC

AMC

Last night’s episode of “Mad Men” was aptly titled “Lost Horizon.” Visually conjuring up an inability to pinpoint where the sky ends and the sea begins, the image is about fuzziness which, when applied to the lives of this series’ characters, amounts to an existential blur. But from what just transpired in this episode, that’s all changed.

“Lost Horizon” was a paean to Peggy’s taking back her projections with a most appealing lip-smacking triumph.” Projecting, a well discussed topic discussed in psychotherapy, happens when we paint other people with the faults – or talents – we refuse to own. Take people with anger management problems. They know how to provoke others who, out of frustration, blow up. Suddenly the person who’s buried the anger has a scapegoat. Facing the truth about oneself and embracing reprehensible traits are not easy. Which is why “Lost Horizon” was off-the-chart brilliant in its compactness and focus.

Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) has been uncomfortable in her own skin from Day 1. She’s had boyfriends but sex always seemed like an afterthought. Children were challenges to be managed (or given up for adoption). She invariably projected the seductive potential she never owned onto Joan (Christina Hendricks). Last night: Peggy reverted to roller skating like a kid and accepting the gift of Japanese artwork centered on substantial and graphic sexual handiwork. As she sashayed into McCann, Peggy was intoxicated with promise and never more clear-headed or determined.

Not only Peggy restored equilibrium.

Joan has often paid a high price for financial security, including marital rape and selling her body for the good of the corporate team. She projected her desire to advance in her personal and professional life – without demeaning herself sexually – onto other men. Last night: Joan’s demands to her immediate supervisor did not change his mind about keeping women in their place. But she took back her projection of weakness and the grim possibility of being Ferg’s sexual playmate to leave McCann on her own terms, and without the help of a brass-knuckled “guy” to assist.

Roger (John Slattery), never owned his paternal responsibilities. Last night: He played Dad to Peggy.

Betty (January Jones) went to college to find a husband. Last night: She’s pursuing an advanced degree to do good.

Don (Jon Hamm) has always been a taker, including obliterating his identity as Dick Whitman and stealing the life of Don Draper, a wartime opportunity that fell into his lap like a piece of ripe fruit. Last night: Don took back his projections, which include generosity, going out of his way, anti-conventional behavior and the notion that only chumps put themselves out for others. Fueled by an overhead jet, Don drove to the Midwest to look for wayward mother Diana and, by the end, decided to drive further off his intended route to accommodate a hitchhiker.

“Lost Horizon” suggests a magnificent redefinition of boundaries may be in the offing.

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