Because I've been busy with the blogs Beyond Red & Blue and Extra Criticum, as well as work stuff and an obsessive fascination with election polls. I do hope to get back to regular posting here, once all that is taken care of...
At left: Salvador Dali shills for Mohawk Airlines.
Spoilers for Mad Men ahead.
There are some prosaic reasons for the raft of television characters that have difficult relationships with their fathers (as in Lost, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, etc.). One is that TV writers generally have to work in New York or Los Angeles, so a lot of them have left the places where they grew up and, consequently, have distant fathers in at least the literal sense. Another is that major characters' fathers are often played by "guest star" actors who are then unable to make return appearances, and, in fact, the actor who played Pete's impossible-to-please father on Mad Men last season has since died, so it's not surprising that the writers have given us the ultimate dissolution of the father/son relationship.
But almost every TV drama has gone over this territory, Mad Men did come up with its own twist. After Pete's father dies in the crash of an American Airlines jet, he volunteers to head up an advertising campaign to salvage AA's reputation, and even suggests that his own tragedy makes him uniquely qualified for the job. (Think of Hamlet proving his worth not by murdering Uncle Claudius, but by enthusiastically offering to help improve the new king's poll numbers.) Maybe "something good" can come out of the crash, Pete tells a simultaneously horrified and intrigued AA executive.
This is slimy behavior, but it's understandable. After hearing the news about his father, Pete immediately goes to Don Draper (the man he tried to blackmail last season!) to ask "What does one do?" in such a situation. Pete's wife, mother, and brother are too self-absorbed to provide moral support, so when he's approached to work on the American Airlines campaign, the only one he can think of confiding in is Don, who pretty much tells Pete to shut up and grow up. (Don is pissed off that the ad firm is going to dump one of his prized clients, Mohawk Airlines, to try to win the AA account.)
Mad Men was created by Matthew Weiner, a writer on The Sopranos, and I'm getting deja vu reading blog comments to the effect that Mad Men moves just too damn slowly. But I like seeing exactly how Pete ended up doing something that may seem cold-hearted and even vengeful. As Jess Oppenheimer, the head writer for a very different series called I Love Lucy once explained, "If you motivate your audience in a series of small steps, you can go to absolute heights." (Forgive the altitude metaphor.)