Don Draper The T[h]inker – Mad Men S01E03

In episode 3 there were a few key scenes that stuck out to me.

Obviously, Mrs. Rachel Menken taking Don to the rooftop is paramount of these. Aside from that, I would include the scene watching Don as he sits on the train home, Don making use of a Super 8 camera and the interaction between Don and Helen Bishop.

Rachel Menken and Don Draper

Rachel Menken and Don Draper

I’ll start with Mrs. Menken because I believe this is where the narrative takes its first big diversion. The sexual tension between these two is undeniable from the outset. However, whereas Don can separate his feelings and emotions when bunking with Midge, it’s pretty obvious Rachel gets the better of him. And while small, her choice of Knights for his cufflinks couldn’t be more fitting. This ‘knight’ is beginning to show many chinks in his armour. As a point of comparison to this narrative thread, we see Campbell able to separate his relations with Peggy, and focus more squarely on his marriage. Yet where Campbell is pragmatic, Don is increasingly cunning – one might take Don’s line that it is not a ‘lie’, rather ‘ineptitude with insufficient cover,’ and apply it to his own extra marital affairs. Indeed, we sense his cover is beginning to fade.

It is fitting then, that Director Matthew Weiner chooses to shoot Don in close up for a lot of the remainder of the episode. While this isn’t always the case in ensemble shots, it certainly is when we are sharing screen time with Don alone – for example, as we sits and ponders on the train home.

Until this point, Don has seemed more or less infallible. But it all seems to be slowly but surely catching up to him. As he sits and ponders, quite furiously indeed, the ticket inspector returns Don’s paper which he has dropped. As petty as that may sound, the Don Draper we know wouldn’t drop his guard at any pont, lest when he is on his own. However, this time he does. The paper drops, and is returned. But it is followed by the ‘click, click’ of the ticket puncher – clear and strong. Like a revolver cocking, or, perhaps more fittingly, the cogs of Draper’s well oiled brain working through the motions to figure out his predicament.

Another occasion where this focus is tightly pulled on Don is through his use of the Super 8 camera. Through the first 2 episodes it has been overwhelmingly clear how distant Don is from his family. Therefore there couldn’t be a better way to frame this distance than Don framing the things around him that he should love – the things he should enjoy – as if they are some foreign object or event or emotion or existence that he cannot truly be a part of – forever looking on due to his own inability to be a part of someone else’s moment that isn’t his own.

Don Draper using 8mm Camera

Don Draper using 8mm Camera

Yet this isn’t to say Don isn’t aware of his outsider position. As mentioned earlier he is cunning. Not only with words, but actions. For example, taking a good half of the day to return with his daughter’s birthday cake – instead returning with a dog. So too, he passes comment in response to Ms. Bishop’s suggestion that the mothers are a ‘strange crowd out there’ – to which Don replies watching over the children on the play house, ‘same crowd out here’.

It is as if he doesn’t quite understand it all. As if it just doesn’t compute. He knows how to satisfy people’s wants, but it would seem he is inept at satisfying their needs. His wife’s. His children’s. His own.

The overwhelming sense of the foreboding is creeping closer and closer to home.

‘Happy Birthday Baby’, I hope you can sort this out soon, Don.

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