Characters find themselves thrust amongst the bigger picture
It was a momentous and sombre day for Mad Men’s latest episode, with the show revolving around Martin Luther King day – the day that he was killed to be specific. This was a pretty big issue for Mad Men to address, with past views about the racism of the plot line – which it has perhaps been to a point, given that it’s trying to reflect the divisions of white middle class America and its view of other ethnic groups at the time.
As Hollywood Gossip points out, the episode ‘The Flood’ echoes the season 3 episode The Grown-Ups, which was based around the subtext of the Kennedy assassination, though at that point the backdrop was used as a reminder to the characters in Mad Men that things in America were not as pristine perfect as they’d imagined, while the death of Luther King, and the impact that he had on American society, forces the characters to confront their demons and forcedly removes the barriers that the story lines operate in – that of rich, white, suburban porcelain.
So we’ve got Harry adjusting TV schedules in wake of the assassination, being accused of racism for doing so, while a bizarre advertising man approaches SCDP pitching an ad that plays off the death. Elsewhere, there’s awkward exchanges with the black characters in the show, with Don’s secretary Dawn coming into work when they’d assumed she wouldn’t, while an exchange with a black usher at a cinema also goes wrong. The episode, then, is about the awkwardness of these previously self-contained characters suddenly finding themselves pitched into the bigger picture, beyond their own bickering and arguments.
Jon Hamm's Don Draper