After what was—let’s be honest—a pretty pedestrian episode of Mad Men last week, one that devoted a head-scratching amount of time to Don and the mystery waitress’s who gives a shit affair and Megan’s awful French-ish family, the fifth-to-last episode of AMC’s sumptuously crafted series brought serious heat.
Yes, I’m talking about Glen Bishop.
There have been plenty of offbeat relationships on Mad Men, from young Dick Whitman (who in no way, shape or form resembles Jon Hamm) losing his V-card to a 40s prostitute at his brothel-home to Joan’s brief flirtation with Lane Pryce to Peggy’s nauseating affair with Duck. But the show’s weirdest relationship has always been that of Glen and Betty.
And now, the wonderfully strange saga of Glen and Betty has, it seems, reached its inevitable conclusion.
Glen, the ethereal man-child played by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s son Marten Holden Weiner, was the Draper family’s creepy neighbor and Sally’s trusted confidante. We’re first introduced to Glen—who, by the way, is the spitting image of a young Stanley Kubrick—at the tender age of 9, when babysitting Betty catches the lil perv watching her on the toilet. She berates him, he cries, and they make up. To seal it, he requests a lock of Betty’s hair, and she obliges. He later stores the essence of Betty in his treasure box.
In Season 2, Glen runs away from home and camps out in Betty’s backyard. Betty, who always enjoys a bit of attention, lets a dirty Glen in to shower, prompting the 10-year-old to announce, “I came to rescue you. I have money.” This little boy is the only one who sees just how sad, miserable, and alone Betty is.
On Sunday night’s “The Forecast,” Glen makes his triumphant return. Only he looks different. Very different. Glen, now 18, has come into his own—as a slim, hunky ’70s-era hippie rocking bell-bottom jeans and serious sideburns. Once creepy, his dead-eyed stare and air of mystery is now seen as… sexy? We’re as mystified as you are, dear reader.Betty gets incredibly flustered at the sight of him, and begins throwing strong Mrs. Robinson vibes at the new-and-improved Glen. “Go get my pocketbook,” she says, glaring at Sally. “Well, you’ve obviously grown into a fine young man,” she purrs.
Glen’s visited the Francis residence under the guise of picking up Sally for a trip to Rye Playland, but he’s really there to deliver a “formal goodbye” to his star-crossed love, Betty. “Betty, I feel like I should say a more formal goodbye. It’s just that… I’m shipping out next week. I’m reporting,” he says, in full Born on the Fourth of July mode.
Sally voices her disapproval, but Betty gives him the reassurance he’s seeking: “Don’t listen to Jane Fonda here. It’s a very brave thing to do.”
Plenty of other things happen in “The Forecast.” Whilst in L.A. and dealing with the awful Lou Avery, Joan meets Richard Bergoff (Bruce Greenwood), a retired, divorced millionaire real-estate developer who’s “free as a bird.” It seems the dynamic has finally switched, with Joan playing the traditional male role. After they roll around in bed, she says to him, “I’ll send you flowers,” and he follows her all the way to New York, polyester suit and all, books a swank hotel room, and phones her up at her office checking on her availability for dinner.
Later that night, however, just as the randy businessman is about to get underneath Joan’s shimmering dress, she places a phone call to her babysitter—revealing to the free bird that she does, in fact, have a young child.
“I don’t like this. I love kids, but I raised mine already. I know it’s sounds selfish, but I’m done with that part of my life,” he says, before berating her. “This is not how I saw this! I have a plan which is, ‘No plans!’ You can’t go to the pyramids! You can’t go anywhere!”
Poor, poor Joan.
But wait! At episode’s end, the gent’s returned with a bouquet, calls himself “a heel” for his outburst, and says he not only wants to make it work with Joan and her boy, but also is looking into purchasing a lush property overlooking Central Park so he can be closer to them. Will Joan, who had to put up with Roger and her rapist-husband, finally get her happy ending?
Meanwhile, Don is trying to unload his $85,000 (!) penthouse apartment, good ol’ 17B, but is called out for being a vainglorious loser by pretty much everyone in his orbit, from his real-estate agent to Peggy during her impromptu performance review (“Why don’t you just write down all of your dreams so I can shit on them”) to a fired copywriter (“You don’t have any character! You’re just handsome! Stop kidding yourself!”).The deepest burn comes from Sally. Earlier in the episode, she stung Betty with the following exchange while discussing her “Teen Tour” hitting 12 states in 12 days:
“There are going to be boys everywhere, and you’re going to be away from home, so I hope you have the good sense to not act like you’ve been let out of the cage?”
“Well, I’m sorry, Mother, but this conversation is a little late… and so am I.”
She saved her best for Don, though, after his flirty exchange with her randy teenage friend, Sarah, at a Chinese restaurant.
“You can’t control yourself, can you? Sarah’s 17, you know,” exclaims Sally. “But it doesn’t stop you, and it doesn’t stop Mom. Anyone pays attention to either of you, and they always do, and you just ooze everywhere. You know what I’m going to write down in my dream? I’m going to get on a bus, get away from you and Mom, and hopefully be a different person than you two.”
Glen is, in many ways, a manifestation of Betty’s childish insecurity, and her need to—because of her sorry station in life—be validated by all those who come in contact with her, milkmen included. So Sally has hit the nail directly on the head.
When Glen surprises a flustered Betty in the kitchen and finally makes his move, saying, “I know something could happen to me, but I feel safe—because I know you’re mine,” Betty realizes how foolish she’s been in leading this poor boy on to assuage her own anxiety. He’s off to Vietnam, and he did it, in part, to make her proud; to see him not as her chubby lil neighbor but as a man.
“You’re going to make it. I’m positive,” Betty says after politely rejecting his advance.
Glen may very well make it. As for Betty? Well, it’s not looking too good.