‘Mad Men’ Review: “The Better Half”
‘Mad Men’ season 6 pitches its ninth episode of the season, “The Better Half,” as Don finds something tense between he and Betty at Bobby’s camp outing, while Peggy struggles to adjust to her uneasy situations at work and home, and Roger spends the day with his grandson.
Last week’s ‘Mad Men’ episode “The Crash” saw Don and the entire office deliriously struggle with a Chevy ad campaign, while Sally found an unexpected visitor at Don’s apartment, so what will the newest episode bring?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Mad Men’ season 6 episode 9, “The Better Half”!
Don and Teddy debate their respective pitches for margarine, bringing Peggy in on the meeting to decide, though she refuses to pick out of loyalty to either. After the three leave, Harry advises Pete to check out a headhunter in case the chaos of the merger costs either of them their jobs. Elsewhere, Megan shoots a scene as her maid character’s twin, though the directors don’t seem to respect her choices with the role.
Don presses Peggy to make firmer decisions, though she reminds him that Ted doesn’t put her in such tense positions. Elsewhere, a still-slim Betty fends off the advances of one of Henry’s rivals at a function, before Henry himself appears and whisks her away. Peggy returns home to her apartment to find Abe was stabbed on the subway, but refused to implicate the ethnicity of his attackers to the police. She resolves to sell their apartment building, while an injured Abe wants only to write a story about the police’s racial profiling.
While Don and Megan barely share their respective bad days, Henry forces Betty to admit how much she’d been hit on, before the two get intimate on the limo ride home. The next morning, Margaret Sterling drops her son off for Roger to take out for the day, while Pete meets with Duck Phillips in his apartment about potential headhunting opportunities, and Duck urges Pete to get his family affairs in order first.
Don arrives at a gas station to find the attendant ogling a woman, who turns out to be Betty. Don offers to lead her to the campsite they’re attending for Bobby, while back in Manhattan Ted pulls Peggy into his office and chides her for being affectionate with him around the office, given the kiss they shared earlier. Both admit they have feelings for the other they shouldn’t act on, but Teddy assures they can keep it under control.
Bobby, Don and Betty share lunch at the camp, while back in Manhattan Pete asks for Joan’s advice in managing his family affairs, though Joan insists her personal life is just as out of control. Meanwhile, Megan has the director’s wife Arlene over for drinks and worries about her career prospects, but Arlene assures her not to fret about the scenes.
Don finds Betty waiting alone outside her room, and the two flirtatiously share drinks and memories of the past. A light touch leads Betty to pull away and return to her room, though she leaves the door open for Don to follow. Once inside, the two rekindle their old passion. Meanwhile, Megan’s talk of loneliness to Arlene leads the woman to make several advances of her own, though Megan shoves her off and reminds her she isn’t interested.
That night, Don and Betty debate what it means for someone to be close to Don, particularly with regard to Megan, while back in the city Peggy finds Abe repairing the windows after someone hurled a stone through theirs. Unable to deny the difficulties of their situation any longer, Abe finally agrees to sell the building. The next morning, Margaret calls Roger to admonish him for taking her son to see ‘Planet of the Apes,’ forbidding him from visitation, as Don wakes up in his bed alone and shortly thereafter sees Henry having breakfast with Betty.
Joan and Bob Benson pack to go to the beach while discussing Pete’s situation with his mother, when Roger awkwardly drops by looking to drop a bag with Joan. Unnerved by the situation, Roger quickly excuses himself, though Joan denies to Bob the significance of Roger’s visit. That night, more neighborhood crime wakes Peggy as she clutches a knife taped to a broom handle, accidentally stabbing Abe when he startles her! Peggy rides with a woozy Abe in the ambulance, but Abe firmly breaks up with her, unable to tolerate what she stands for in life, but thanking her for giving an ending to his article.
Don returns to find Megan waiting alone on the balcony, wherein she confesses how lonely she feels with Don out all the time. Don admits he’ll try harder to be present literally and figuratively, while the next morning Roger meets with Joan to offer his gift for Kevin. Joan accepts the gift but asks Roger not to come by her apartment for fear of confusing Kevin, despite his noble intentions to be there for the both of them.
Bob invites himself into Pete’s office to discuss the awkward matter of his mother needing a nurse, offering the services of a nurse who previously helped Bob’s own father. Pete timidly accepts the man’s help, while downstairs a disheveled Peggy visits Ted in her office and explains what happened with Abe, leaving out her role in the stabbing. Ted platonically assures her she’ll find someone else, and ushers her outside the office, acknowledging to Don that they settled the margarine account. Peggy watches both of her mentors return to their offices, leaving her in the middle alone.
To be fair, most anything ‘Mad Men’ could throw at us after last week’s drug-addled haze would seem a masterful episode, but we felt particularly cathartic with the momentous turns of ‘The Better Half.’ It’s an impressive feat that the writing actually managed to make Betty and Don sharing a night together seem sympathetic, or Abe’s multiple stabbings into moments of comedy.
Come to think of it, near everyone comes off surprisingly sympathetic this week, a quality many had accused the current season of lacking, where tonight Peggy has her heart broken twice while her bosses pull in different directions, Pete and Joan acknowledge their mutual respect, and poor Roger finds both major women in his life want their children to have nothing to do with him.
Our only real complaint perhaps, if it can even so be called, is that sooner or later the writers will need to provide a more conclusive identity for the mysterious Bob Benson. It remains to be seen how much involvement James Wolk will have with the series, given CBS opted to pick up ‘The Crazy Ones,’ but Wolk’s ‘Mad Men’ character has proven maddeningly enigmatic, and altruistic beyond measure. What’s that guy’s deal, already?!
Did you get your fill of moving ‘Mad Men’ drama? What did you think about Sunday’s episode “The Better Half”? Check out all our other ‘Mad Men’ season 6 coverage here, and preview next week’s episode of ‘Mad Men’ season 6, “A Tale of Two Cities” below!