"Mad Men" #6: The TImes, They Are A'Changin'.

The beautiful thing about this show — its interwoven layers of social and personal analysis; of literal and metaphorical storytelling; of drama and comedy — splattered anew when poor old Guy McKendrick’s foot ran afoul of the John Deere rider mower.

Most immediately you saw the geyser of blood. Heard the cries of shock and horror, and felt the gruesome impact of bodily harm, right there in vivid early ’60s color. But the picture contained even more for you to think about. The collision of the new world (a rider mower, the very picture of modern American suburban ease) with the smartly-shod foot of the British empire. The crumbling, once again, of a man’s best laid plans. The pull of the future and the fraying of the past. And maybe, just maybe, the foreshadowing of some other, shockingly gruesome public event.

Plus, it was strangely, darkly hilarious.

“Jesus, it looks like Iwo Jima out there,” Roger Sterling shrugged later as the custodian wiped gore off the office window. Sacrifices made, life goes on. “Somewhere in this industry this has happened before.”

Follow the jump for more….

I’ve read some “MM” deconstructions positing that the show’s most literal story — the mystery of Don Draper and the struggles of his family and contemporaries as they move through their days — was somehow discrete from its larger, social context. I disagree: no one’s life happens in a vaccuum. The lives we experience, the decisions we make, are both affected by, reflect and, to an extent, create our times. So when a death-haunted, baby-jangled Sally Draper hurls her new Barbie doll (a gift, Betty tells her, from her baby brother) out of her window (and then shrieks in horror when it turns up again) it’s impossible for me to separate her personal travails from the fact that a 1963 grade schooler will be 1969’s high schooler: a feminist-era Baby Boomer whose sense of Barbie-style sex roles will be little short of horror.

Same deal with the machinations at Sterling, Cooper, where the colonial Brits have come to wield their power. Their first move: to send Lane off to Bombay — the very seat of the old empire, now in its death throes — to make room for the charming, empty MacKendrick. (“I know everything about you!” he assueres everyone, reflexively). A new authority flow chart deletes Roger Sterling (the personification of Sterling, Cooper’s ongoing self-rule) and elevates no one but Harry Crane, whose savvy for the TV industry is nearly as enticing as his absence of guts and gumption. A perfect puppet figure, in other words.

But best-laid plans go awry everywhere you look: Bert’s promise to Draper that he would be elevated to some overarching London/NYC authority; Joan’s husband, Greg’s plan to become chief surgery resident, thus elevating Joan from having to work and assume the pampered life of the cared-for, at-home wife; and on and on; the ascension of the increasingly feckless Cosgrove.

Then the celebratory party begins and out comes Cosgrove’s rider mower. . .

Don Draper, however, has been summoned to visit Conrad Hilton, who turns out to be the self-made Connie he’d met at Roger’s country club party a few episodes back. Now Hilton clearly wants to offer his self-made friend some massive piece of opportunity, but Draper settles for a “shot at your business.” Hilton is at first disappointed that his new friend doesn’t shoot the moon when given the chance, but Don’s quiet confidence in taking things more slowly ultimately impresses him.

Hilton is an old-fashioned American empire builder. He recognizes common sense when he sees it. What he can’t see is the future beyond his generation, beyond his kids’ generation: The new, media-created royalty that will eventually make his own empire seem just as ridiculous as the Brits. The Hiltons won’t always have Conrad. But Paris is on the way.

The credits played out over Bob Dylan’s “Song to Woody.” A salute to yesterday’s folk hero from the chief folkie of the day, self-made in Woody’s image, but soon to shed that persona for a thin, wild mercury of his own devising.

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