A few thoughts about Helen Bishop in New Amsterdam.
She and Betty get pretty up close and personal, (though it pales in comparison with Glen Bishop’s version of up close and personal. But enough about that). With Helen and Betty you certainly never feel that they connect. Betty hears a lot about a marriage gone bad. It is probably the first time she’s ever heard these kinds of details from a divorcée.
Later in the episode, Betty tells Dr. Wayne, (aka “Mr. Personality”) that Helen is likely jealous of her.
Wait. Seriously? Umm… didn’t Helen witness Don walking out on Betty at Sally’s birthday party a few weeks earlier? More than witness it; she was part of the rescue committee, what with her Sara Lee cake.
There is this one moment I love; Don comes home late, sees Betty and Helen sitting on the couch, gives a very brief and polite hello and then slinks up the stairs. I found it hilarious. So much unspoken from Don—What the hell could they possibly be talking about? Damn, she’s my type. Wow, she knows I ran out on my kid’s birthday party. I am SO not allowed to talk to that woman.
And somehow I felt like Helen got all that subtext, and was unphased. Helen is a bit like Joan in her understanding of men and their responses to women.
Also, both Helen and Dan, the ex-husband, address Betty’s denial with complete directness. I thought it was reeeally interesting.
He (Dan) is yelling for Helen to open the door excuse me miss, I know you can hear me. Miss?
1) Betty is walking Polly and sees Dan trying to get into Helen’s house, yelling and stuff. He spots Betty. Excuse me, Miss. Betty ignores him. I know you can hear me. Miss?
2) Helen comes to the Drapers’ later that evening. She offers up to Betty, I’m really sorry. I’m so embarrassed. Betty says, I don’t know what you’re talking about. And Helen… Yes you do. I was at that window. Helen’s tone is almost one of talking to a child. Like, Don’t give me that bullshit, I KNOW how many cookies there were in that jar.
I found the honesty (Dan’s and Helen’s) in those moments surprising and refreshing.
But then later, Betty had an honest moment that hit me almost the same way. Helen is asking her to babysit. She is due at Kennedy headquarters and I hate to back out because well, you know, New York state is so important.
To which Betty replies, I didn’t know that.
I love that.
Regarding the notion of not letting strange men into your home, I took a quick refresher peek at the Clutter family mass murder. Changed the United States, got everyone locking their doors.
But it was new, and not absolute. In an interview with Darby Stanchfield, who portrays Helen, she talks about the innocence of the times:
The thing that really struck me last season is that nobody locked their door in those days. If they locked their car keys in the car, you could just call on your neighbor. …I don’t even know Betty that well, I call her up and see if she’ll babysit. There was such an open and trusting environment, like there were fewer risks and less danger in terms of raising children.