The Decline (and Fall?) of Peggy Olson

When season 6 of  Mad Men wrapped up, Peggy was in a place of both jubilation and heartbreak.  She seemed to take enormous  pleasure in Don’s shaming and exile.  She immediately invaded his office and eventually reclined in his chair to survey her former mentor/tormentor’s domain.  Amidst the triumph and quiet celebration of Don’s downfall, Peggy was laid low by Ted Chaough’s latest move in his game of “Come Here – Get Away.”  After telling Peggy that he was leaving his wife, Ted reconsidered and decided to flee with his family to the fledgling SC&P office in California.  As the season concluded with Peggy straddling an enormous emotional gap, it was obvious that the viewers were being set up for some kind of huge developments for her character.  Would she rise to the occasion in Don’s absence, or would her heartbreak at the hands of Teddy bring her tumbling down?

For the first time in her career, Peggy is truly on her own.  Don, who elevated her from secretary to copy writer, has been banished to the wilderness.  Teddy, who nurtured her at CG&C and gave her the approval and pats on the head she stopped receiving from Don, is 3,000 miles away.  She is also flying solo in her personal life after her messy/stabby breakup with Abe and Ted’s flight west.  The time has finally arrived for Peggy to fully develop in the absence of benefactors.  She has always had the brains and the talent to excel, but she has never really had the confidence to succeed on her own merits without some propping up.  Unfortunately for her, she has done nothing but fumble with the opportunity.


New Creative Director Lou Avery has no history with or investment in Peggy, and it shows.  He dismisses her creative solutions for the Accutron campaign and chooses the blandest option presented to him; “Accutron is Accurate.”  When Peggy tries to lobby for her slogan (or was it Fred’s?  or Don’s?) Lou tells her in no certain terms that he does not need her further input, nor does he feel the need to like or approve of her.  Her dismay at being shut down is palpable.  Even at the most contentious point of their working relationship, Don had always given her the room to state her case.  Ted was too busy making puppy dog eyes at her to ever contest or disagree with her ideas.  Now she is in completely uncharted waters working for a man who does not value her input or even show the slightest signs of respecting her.

Peggy also seems to be at the breaking point emotionally.  The battle over Shirley’s flowers was comical, but it was also sad to the core.  Peggy was sure Teddy would come crawling back and was getting way too much enjoyment out of being dismissive.  While feigning disgust with Ted, the notion of being irresistible  helped her pump up her severely deflated ego.  Once she discovered that not only were the flowers not from Ted, they weren’t for her at all, we got to see all of the air rush out of the Peggy balloon once again.  We’re seeing her coming unglued, whether she’s on her knees crying in her apartment or cowering sheepishly behind her office door after asking Shirley to throw out the roses and discovering that nobody thought of her on Valentine’s day.  Peggy is truly alone and she is desperately floundering.  I am very interested to see whether she pulls it together or someone has to swoop in and save her.  If she does end up being rescued, it would only further underline her inability to thrive on her own and command the respect that she believes she deserves.

~ by schlippo on April 21, 2014.

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