‘Mad Men’ Season 5, Episode 9: ‘Dark Shadows’ Recap

Published 3 years ago by

Jon Hamm Mad Men Dark Shadows Mad Men Season 5, Episode 9: Dark Shadows Recap

In a bit of convenient timing, Mad Men just so happens to have an episode referencing Dark Shadows, the corny, mid-1960s horror soap opera, the same weekend Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s big budget theatrical take on the material attempted to win over audiences across America (read our official review of the film). But in Don Draper’s world, ‘Dark Shadows’ takes on a more layered meaning; like the feeling something unpleasant is looming overhead, or on the horizon.

There’s been a great deal of emphasis on the generational shift in this season of Mad Men, one that – up until Megan (Jessica Paré) left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to pursue her acting career - didn’t seem to have much of an affect on Don (Jon Hamm). Sure, he acted somewhat dad-like when around the young ladies lustfully hanging around the smoke-filled backstage of a Rolling Stones concert, and freely admitted he didn’t get The Beatles or why music had suddenly become so important. Jokingly, Don said he’d grown up in the ’30s and all he ever wanted was indoor plumbing – so finally getting the wife he’d convinced himself was at the heart of his desires was something of an end game for the man who famously told Lucky Strike where they could stick it.

However, as soon as Megan revealed she wasn’t as ready to kick back and become blissfully unaware of the world outside her posh new apartment, Don suddenly finds himself with a reason to be at work, other than to figure out a reason for Megan to lock his office door behind her. As Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) mentioned in ‘Far Away Places,’ Don has been drunk on love, and now he’s moved into a period of forced sobriety. In this clearer state, Don struggles to come up with compelling copy for a product called Sno Ball, and stumbles upon a folder full of ideas by SCDP copywriting wunderkind Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman).

While Ginsberg’s idea is to have people in a position of power be smacked in the face with a snowball, Don takes the snowball’s chance in hell route – complete with a bad devil voice – and wins the approval of Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Stan (Jay R. Ferguson), mostly because he’s Don Draper and they’re not. Though the team agrees to pitch both ideas, Don makes a last-minute decision to ditch Ginsberg’s idea and just pitch his instead.

Despite the fact that Don’s pitch wins them the account, Ginsberg feels compelled to have a confrontation with the man he supposedly idolized prior to being hired at the agency. For obvious reasons, Don is more prepared to handle Ginsberg’s questioning of his authority than when Megan does it. And, much like the world at large, Don disregards this young, looming threat to his legacy by telling Ginsberg he doesn’t think about him at all.

With Megan not at work, it’s only natural that a disruption would come to Don’s home life as well. So we welcome back a slightly slimmed down Betty Francis (January Jones), who hasn’t made more than a brief appearance since ‘Tea Leaves.’ It turns out Betty has been in Weight Watchers and while the positive reinforcement she’s received there has allowed her to shed some heft in half-pound increments, having to enter Don’s apartment and see Megan in a state of undress causes her to slip and take a straight shot of Reddi Whip – which she spits out, not wanting to fall completely off the wagon.

January Jones Mad Men Dark Shadows Mad Men Season 5, Episode 9: Dark Shadows Recap

It turns out Don is still a name that fills Betty with emotions she’s unable to fully process, so she buries them under ice cream sundaes and boxes of Bugles. After finding a lovely note Don wrote to Megan, Betty decides to poison the well between them by telling Sally (Kiernan Shipka) about Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton) – essentially Don’s first wife. Feeling as though her father and Megan had duped her, Sally lashes out, and Betty’s petty plan nearly comes to fruition – foiled only by that pesky youngster, Megan, and her desire not to play into such shallow games.

Later, discussing the future with Henry (Christopher Stanley), Betty remains calm even though his concern of jumping ship to join up with the wrong candidate may be remarkably similar to what is currently running through her otherwise vacuous mind.

Elsewhere, in an effort to exclude Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Roger (John Slattery) and Bert decide to court the business of some Jewish winemakers on the sly; a decision that finds Roger once more paying people out of pocket to get them to do what he wants. It also forces him to enlist the aid of his soon-to-be former wife Jane (Peyton List). A successful dinner out with the winemakers puts Roger in much the same situation that resulted in Joan (Christina Hendricks) getting pregnant, but instead, he’s just filled regret at the thought of packing Jane’s new apartment with painful memories of their failed marriage.

Meanwhile, Pete, who has decided to not hit rock bottom just yet, conjures up a fantasy of Beth (Alexis Bledel) to help him get through another miserable day. Unfortunately for him, Don’s dismissal of Pete, due to a failure to get SCDP mentioned in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, may have Mr. Campbell needing that suicide policy on his life insurance after all.


Mad Men continues next Sunday with ‘Christmas Waltz’ @10pm on AMC. Take a look at the episode below:

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  1. Anyone else liking Megan more and more and Betty less and less as episodes pass? What an incredibly unhappy woman.
    And I hope Don pushing his idea through instead of Ginsberg’s – clearly the better idea – bites him in the arse eventually.

    • Ugh, the return of Betty…
      I’ve never liked her and this episode was proof why.
      I find zero redeeming qualities in that woman…

  2. Honestly, I felt that Don is threaten underneath by Ginsberg. Even though he says that he doesn’t think about him, you could see the anger he had in his eyes when he walked away. Times are changing and you could tell he doesn’t like to lose control of his life. But in saying that, I’m happy Don put Ginsberg in his place, ever since he has arrived, he has been very cocky and conceited. Don just proved to him that he still can come up with something catchy and relevant as well as him.

    • Perhaps Ginsberg’s creativity and drive mirrors a younger Don although I’m sure Don was much more cool and suave at it.

  3. There’s so much to love in this episode! (Yes indeed, very convenient Dark Shadows timing.)

    But all the diabolical back stabbing (neck biting?), the scenes in the elevator that evoke traveling back and forth to Hades, Don’s “snowball’s chance in hell” that he pulled off… this time.

    This was a nifty episode of comparisons and skirmishes, envy and acting out. And you have to wonder how much sooner Sally will need therapy, given her mother’s um, “biting” tendencies.


  4. I really liked this episode. I thought it was time that Don go back at what he does best: create ideas and make them feel alive. I loved that some episodes tend to focus on other characters and expanded their story, but I can’t deny that my favorite episodes are that show Don working and being defensive about his talent and “seniority” on advertising. Also I like that Betty return and it seems someone really did jump ship on the wrong boat… And Megan is growing and showing she’s not a pushover, just don’t tell Betty she might just try to eat her literally…

    • No pun intended

  5. Don’s dissing of Ginsberg will come back to haunt him in the future. Such is the cut-throat business of advertising.

  6. Is Betty the most unpleasant character on television?

  7. Is Megan always barefoot for a reason? She’s not pregnat of in the kitchen.
    BTW, Peter is the Sleeze Ball!