Roberta said it first: Don loves Rachel.
Until my DVDs came, I had only seen Marriage of Figaro once—the only episode of Mad Men for which that was true. I didn’t start saving them right away, and around the time they were rebroadcast, I was in the midst of switching from Tivo (rocks) to Io DVR (sucks) and screwed up the recording. It’s an amazing and important episode, and I’d only seen it once. So I rewatched it right away, pausing only to write up everything and watch an extra feature.
In the early part of the season, I wondered if Don wasn’t seriously, even suicidally, depressed. And certainly his helpless sorrow in Marriage seemed to point in that direction. It seemed to be about the darkness of the American dream, the dissatisfaction of his supposedly perfect life, a cry of “is this all there is?” And that’s all true. But on re-viewing, I see how everything he sees in the darkness that descends upon his sunny Saturday has to do with the kiss he shared with Rachel Menken Friday night.
He wakes up to see the cufflinks. He looks in on a couple kissing, and the man lifts her chin, and she’s a brunette, and Don is lost. He goes out, lost. And comes home with a big dog. Not a puppy; a big dog like the ones on the roof. Because Rachel said that sometimes, that’s all a little girl needs.
Most of this Roberta already said; better than I. She understood that dog thing. When I was watching it, I actually had forgotten how much her post was about that dog.
But there was that one other thing; that kiss. At the birthday party, a married couple kiss. It explicitly echoes Don and Rachel on the roof. She is dark haired, they have a moment, he lifts her chin. And that captivates and devastates Don; he leaves soon after. So I saw that, and I wrote this post, and then I watched the episode again, this time with commentary on, and I was so pleased to learn that Matt Weiner made sure the second kiss echoed Don and Rachel’s kiss; that was on purpose. And that couple, they’re the only happily married couple we see, so that means more than just a visual echo; to Don, it’s his chance, and he blew it.