Mad Men, "Mystery Date": careless appetites

Quick Take: Mad Men, "Mystery Date"
"Hey Trotsky, you're in advertising." - Roger 

Review: Mad Men, "Mystery Date"
(S0504) Despite the absence of the new-look Betty Francis (January Jones), "Mystery Date" was a heavy, heavy hour of television. Mad Men has always been a relatively dark show, but I'm hard pressed to think of an episode that was darker than this one. While there are certainly funny moments, nothing in "Mystery Date" approached the level of comic relief of, say, a scene like Harry (Rich Sommer) scarfing down White Castle in the passenger seat of Don's car.

The tone and the vibe of "Mystery Date" is informed by news of the mass murders in Chicago by Richard Speck. The specter of Speck and the heinous crimes he committed hang over this episode like a thick fog.

Interestingly, the character who seems most affected by the Speck story is typically unflappable Don (Jon Hamm). In the throes of a fever dream, Don imagines that he strangles to death a former lover. It's an incredibly powerful scene, one edited in such a way that the viewer actually believes for a moment or two that the "hero" of this story is a cold-blooded killer.

After Don, it is Sally (Kiernan Shipka) who is scarred most be the killings in Chicago. Sally is home on summer vacation and forced to endure the torture of babysitting courtesy of Henry's dreadful mother. After Sally hears of themurders, she tries to talk to her step-grandmother about it, but she simply makes Sally's fears worse. Instead of comforting the girl, Grandma Francis opts to give her some kind of tranquilizer pill.

Meanwhile at the Harris household, a joyous moment transforms into a sorrowful one. The terrible Dr. Greg (Sam Page) returns home unscathed from Vietnam, only to announce that he is heading back overseas for another year-long tour of duty. Joan, sick and tired of being a single-mother, decides enough is enough and tells Greg their marriage is over. Thank goodness.

The only ray of sunshine in "Mystery Date" comes in the form of Peggy (Elisabeth Moss). When Roger (John Slattery) forgets to have Ginsburg (Ben Feldman) put together a campaign for Mohawk, he leans on Peggy for help. Peggy, a person that in previous seasons Roger would barely speak to, finally seems to be garner the respect from her co-workers that she has sought for years. In an awkward exchange with Don's new secretary, it dawns (no pun intended!) on her that she has been forced to sacrifice some on her femininity in exchange for the respect she hasearned at at SCDP.

It's funny that the episode features Madchen Amick (who played Shelly on Twin Peaks) as Don's former lover. "Mystery Date" has a distinct, bizarre dream-like quality that David Lynch perfected with Twin Peaks.

After last week's uneven Jon Hamm-directed episode, "Mystery Date" is a return to form -- albeit an unfamiliar form -- of sorts for Mad Men. Despite its dark elements, "Mystery Date" is a thrilling hour of television that highlights the fears and paranoia of the times -- violence, war, gender roles, and racial strife. 

By Lucas High

About the author

Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at, on Facebook and on Twitter at

More From Lucas High

"String theory is complicated, that's just yucky." - Sheldon
Read More
"Sometimes I'm like, 'How do I not O.D.?'" - Deanna
Read More
"We sell history." - Alex
Read More

Email (Will not be used):


characters left

Featured Articles

Popular Today


Recent Comments

"Mysterion Rises" with The Cute Lord Cthulhu - South Park review
Actually, the birthing of Kenny in "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" doesn't necessarily conflict with the circumstances of Kenny's reincarnation...
Alien Encounters, "The Message": a hard to find little show that's worth the search
Mind Reading Technologies and Tongues Governments from around the world have been using mind reading technologies that can read...
Dog The Bounty Hunter, "And Baby Makes Three": revisiting an old favorite
i do like your show i wish can be your fan club i want all of your show on dvd please
Boardwalk Empire, "Two Boats and a Lifeguard": daddy issues
Are you looking for a partner for the relationship or for fun? Then you came to the right place. We are providing you the best dating...
The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
I can verify Bear Claw. Good man. I cant vouch for the other participants. It is to bad society does suck so bad that this type...
The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
Lake Michigan is not an ocean. Has anyone seen my white dog? Lost him while hiking in Arkansas
The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
I too also as well live on the island, I can attest that Dan lives in the ocean as he has for hundreds of decades. We locals call...
Parks and Recreation: why is everyone so mean to Jerry?
It's funny because its so not funny.
The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
I too live on the island and ISLANDER does not know what they are talking about. Dan lives out in the middle of the island with...
The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
this is not real i know that goat and it is not "doc's" its my neighbors goat. and by the way i live on the very top of that mountain...