In Sunday night’s Mad Men, Joan Harris/Holloway did something that traumatized all viewers of the hit television show. She slept with a client so SCDP can get the very-much-needed Jaguar account. Just like every stunt Weiner has pulled this season (see Fat Betty), it polarized fans and critics alike. There are people who understood what Joan did, and they believed “The Other Woman” was one of the show’s strongest episodes since “The Suitcase” and there are others who believed it was uncalled for; they didn’t prepare us for such a move. It was a misstep. Till now, I, honestly, do not know where I stand.
In the beginning of the episode, when Pete suggested it to Joan, she said “NO” flat-out.Pete: “What would it take to make you a queen?” Joan: “I don’t think you can afford it.”
But still the partners talked about it. Is it possible? Can they do it? Besides Don, no one objected not even her baby daddy, Roger. He said he would not interfere, but he did not stand up for the woman he supposedly loved. Lane, being the embezzler that he is, needed the cash they were supposed to give to Joan. So he told her to ask for a partnership – not cash. That way she can provide for her son as long as the company’s there. Sure, Lane has feelings for her. Remember when he kissed her and she pulled away ever so gracefully? But does he, really? Did he just tell her that line to win her over?
And then we learned that Joan’s fridge is empty and it’s broken. She’s a single-mom who’s just been served with divorce papers by her asshole of a husband. She’s confused and betrayed and has been treated like an object forever. Last season, Joey, a new employee, draw a pornographic picture of her and hung it to her office. It was a sleazy move, but Joan was used to it. She was objectified every single day in her office because of her looks.
So she agreed to do the deed – on one condition: she’ll get 5% of the company.
Don showed up at her place and told her it was not worth it. Who would wanna work with people like that anyway? It was definitely a sweet move from Don – Don, the man whose mother was a prostitute, a man who understood the consequences of the deal Joan had made. (I actually forgot about that while watching the episodes, but was then reminded about it while reading the multiple articles that discussed “The Other Woman”)
But we found out later on that she had already slept with the douche-bag. That revelation was one of my favorite things about the episode. But the question is: could he have saved her? When she told him, “I was told everyone was on board.” She was disgusted by the men in her office; she was being discussed in between closed doors. Somehow, it felt like she couldn’t have done anything else. But if she knew what Don thought about it, if she knew that there was someone out there who was ready to protect her and who believed she was worthy of respect and admiration, would she still have done it?
I think in a way “Christmas Waltz” built for that speculation. The relationship between Don & Joan is a relationship built on mutual respect. They were thisclose to having an affair together, but they both knew they couldn’t. So the question of whether he could have saved her pops instinctively. But I guess we’ll never know.
In the interview Hendricks did with GQ about the episode, she says that the look Joan gave Don is look of “”Don’t judge me, I’m in this room,” “What’s done is done,” and “Thank you,” all at once. It’s this sort of, here I am and let’s move forward” But can they all really move forward? Will the partners ever treat Joan the same after knowing what she’d done? Pete is a sex-trafficking jerk, so he doesn’t matter. And Cooper is barely there. But what about Lane, Roger, and Don? Those three have had meaningful relationships with Joan each in his own way. Will they ever be the same again?
Another thing Hendricks talks in the interview is the fact that Weiner wanted to use that storyline before but thought it wasn’t the right time which begs yet another question – a question James Poniewozik asks in his Joan Harris character study: Was it a matter of what the writers wanted to happen as opposed to what the character really needed? At this point in time, would Joan really do something like that? And that question has been tormenting me ever since I watched that episode. I really have no answer. I really don’t know.
Joan did not accept any money from Roger for her baby – their baby. But she has a job – a successful job and she’s a very successful employee. But after everything she’d been through, maybe she was too emotionally strained to have made a better decision?
Talking about Roger, lots of people have noted that Joan wore the same fur coat Roger bought her when they started sleeping together. And Weiner never does anything because it looks good or it feels good. He does it because he’s trying to say something. What was he trying to say here? Did Joan feel like she was a prostitute with Roger, too? He gave her gifts and spoiled when they were together. Or did Joan wear it out of spite? She was stunned when Lane told her that Roger did not object about Jaguar Guy’s offer. Was she trying to get revenge against Roger somehow by wearing the coat HE bought her?
And the final comment about the Joan-related part of the episode: are we all fussing about this just because she’s a woman? Each of the characters have had their indiscretions: Don has a secret life and has basically slept with anything that moves, Pete raped his neighbor’s nanny, and Lane embezzled for his own company. Did we freak out about all of those the same way we freaked about Joan? Or is it because it’s JOAN, the character that has become so popular and adored by SO many people, not just another woman or another character that we’re freaking out that way?
I have learned to trust Mathew Weiner over the last four seasons. He’s a genius and no one can refute that. So I’m gonna trust him. I trust that he won’t ruin of my favorite characters on TV of ALL TIME. (Or else!) I’m going to wait to find out what he’s planning to do with Joan after this. There are two more episodes until the season ends, and I’m looking forward to them.
Can you help me answer those questions?
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