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The Ballad of Peter and Peggy, Redux, in “A Little Kiss”

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(It goes without saying that this is another one of those posts.)

Poor self-defeating Pete, trying his best to become the very Draper whose misery’s invisible to him. Remember when Pete had hope, and director John Slattery hammered the possibility of it home via reverse shots? How Pete saw Peggy longing for him:

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Returned her implicit, medium long offer in kind:

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And was returned in kind:

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And again:

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And again, an almost final invitaiton?

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Of course, between them in each reverse shot is the not-insignificant–and increasingly significant, given the racial aspects entering the series in future episodes–glass door separating the firm from the world it claims to represent. As I wrote in the post linked above:

The viewer is looking at Peter looking at Peggy in the first medium close up in the scene.  (There is a slight unreality to this point of view shot: it zooms in on the pair in a way only cameras can.  The zooming seems to act as a cinematic proxy for attention or concentration.)  Slattery made sure the nearly invisible wall separating them remained visible, which creates a tension between the intimacy of the close up and the reality of the glass walls separating them.  That he chooses a more intimate when these two are in different rooms is, for obvious reasons, significant.  She sees him peering at her and, by its positioning, the camera acknowledges the bond that will remain despite the increasing distance between them: the baby they had together.

But now Peter’s a father, only not of Peggy’s baby, but of his own. Who’s screen presence exists as such:

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See the baby? The one he had so he could be more like Draper? It’s sitting there, frame central, hovering invisible in that tacky chair he should’ve had the decency to replace if he’d had any sense of style. He’s becoming Draper–disappearing into the life he mistakenly believed he wanted. No children to greet him, just cold dinner and a warm shot of whisky. Don’t believe me? Let’s rewrind to the first season and remind you of a similarly framed shot:

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In this case, however, Betty’s lying about going to the community center to watch them film the pool–she’s off to watch pretty things die, as per the episode’s title, for”Sport.” But there’s something more than sport to her deliberations. She wants to savor the experience of watching something die. First she feeds the children, then she does the laundry:

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Then the camera acknowledges that she’s had an idea and zooms into a close-up to reiterate that fact:

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Note the joy on her face. Knowing that her idea is one that–whatever joy it might bring her, society would disapprove of, she ponders her decision for a moment:

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Moments are fleeting:

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Her decision has been made. Cut to exterior:

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Relief. Betty’s just a central figure staring at the sky in wonderment at all God’s creations:

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Look at those birds? The fact that they’re incapable of being centrally staged only emphasizes their freedom. The frame can’t constrain them! They’re free! If only Betty had an equivalently symbolic emblem of relinquishing societal constraints:

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She does. Her feelings of entrapment are nothing a healthy dose of nicotine can’t cure. Except why has she shifted stage-left? She had occupied the central portion of the screen, but now it’s as if she’s making room for something else. Whatever could that be?

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Of course, she being an American, the only thing she can do with her symbol of freedom is shoot it with … another symbol of her freedom. I wasn’t able to capture her aiming the gun, which is why the space on the right side of the frame had to be cleared, but that’s why it was. Oddly, her cigarette still occupies the central portion of the frame, as if, like the nicotine it delivers into her blood, is calming her down, making her transgressive violence possible. Can’t be sure. However, visually speaking, the indication is that Draper’s created/creating a sociopath, and the implication is that Peter’s following a similar path. He began his morning commutes in “A Little Kiss,” you’ll remember, alone and engrossed in a paper:

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His loneliness is highlighted by both the empty chair beside him and the man with the solitaire board across from him. By episode’s end, things seem a bit different, though:

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Wonder why that might be? Couldn’t have anything to do with, say, this:

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Nothing at all there. Not between Peggy and Pete. Not with a viable baby hanging out right there in a carriage.

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