Mad Men, “Marriage of Figaro”: Don Draper’s multiple lives [Key Series Moments]

As we wait for the arrival of Season Five, currently scheduled to premiere in early 2012, stay tuned to TV Geek Army all summer long to get your Mad Men fix. Here we take a look at a key series moment from Season One, Episode Three: “Marriage of Figaro.”  

harry crane

Matthew Weiner and company have an uncanny knack for creating mini-masterpieces out of the third episode of Mad Men seasons. “My Old Kentucky Home” from Season Three and “The Good News” from this past Season Four immediately spring to mind, yet “Marriage of Figaro,” just the third episode of Mad Men to ever air, has so much going on it that one could easily write a book to cover it all.

The episode breaks out into two major sections (as does “The Good News,” as an aside). With “The Marriage of Figaro,” we begin with a major reveal when a man on a train recognizes Don Draper as an old army buddy, but refers to him as Dick Whitman, and Don/Dick doesn’t move to correct him. Then we have lots of action going on at Sterling Cooper involving Pete Campbell, Rachel Menken, and the people and situations that tie to Don’s office life. The second broad section focuses on the preparation and production of Sally Draper’s birthday party and allows us to get our first deep sense of who Don Draper is on the home front in addition to the people and attitudes that surround him there.

                                mad men

A key moment comes when we see Don sitting in his car under a bridge near the end of the episode. He has completely flaked out on the errand that Betty has asked him to do, which was to pick up a birthday cake for Sally’s birthday party. He’s also been drinking heavily all day, likely to drown out the memory of being called out as his true identity, in addition to the fact that the woman he’s truly interested in at the moment – the smart, independent, and beautiful Rachel Menken – has rejected him after they shared their first kiss (he tells her that he’s married, she tells him to buzz off).

As Don smokes and stares at the underside of a bridge and we hear the sound of a passing train nearby, we can tell – through the always fantastic performance of Jon Hamm as well as everything that we’ve seen – that he is attempting to reconcile the multiple identities and layers of truth that he must keep straight at any given moment. The relentless conformity and banal banter coming from the adults at Sally’s party has driven him past the point of being able to deal, at least for the moment.

He arrives home late that night, and it’s obvious from Betty’s reaction as well as from a comment that Chet has made earlier that Don disappearing for a number of hours (or longer) is not an uncommon occurrence at the Draper household. He has a gift though, a dog quickly dubbed Polly by little Sally. “I don’t even know what to say,” Betty says, but more than anything she seems pleased that Don is home and life will return to having a veneer of normalcy for the moment. 

By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

About the author

Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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