'Mad Men' Season Premiere: Betty and the Violinist

Monday, April 08, 2013 - 08:00 AM

Viewers can always count on Betty to supply some of the weirder, darker subplots on “Mad Men,” and the season six premiere Sunday night did not disappoint.

The episode ("The Doorway”) includes an early scene with the Francis family – Betty, her husband Henry and children – gathered around the Christmas tree in their Rye, NY home. Daughter Sally’s 15-year-old friend Sandy, a violinist, serenades the group with an arrangement of Chopin’s Nocturne E Flat Major Op.9 No. 2. ("I love to hear you play the violin,” says Betty in a monotone voice. “It makes me feel so much.")

Accolades go around, but later that night Sandy confesses to Betty that she just was rejected from Juilliard. Sitting and smoking in the dark kitchen, Sandy says, “I’m old for a violinist – at least for one as good as I am. It will be too late.”

Betty immediately suggests she fudge the truth by telling people she wanted to finish high school first.

“Plenty of girls do just fine without Juilliard,” Betty adds. “I go to the symphony quite a bit, whether I like it or not, and I am certain that you are talented. Sally was crushed that you were going away.”

Later, when Sandy vanishes, Betty looks for her at an abandoned building on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. Betty finds the violin, but not the girl. Sandy has split for California, say some angry homeless kids.

The Chopin Nocturne is the most prominent musical selection in this episode. The piece was written as the young composer was fleeing Warsaw for Western Europe, shortly before an uprising swept Poland. Whether or not the "Mad Men" creators found a parallel to Sandy in tumultuous 1968 is hard to say. Nevertheless, the searching-for-Sandy subplot winds up being a tough reminder that Betty is not the free-spirited young model she once was. Betty sees herself in the girl, but she can't run away.

Matthew Weiner discussed the subplot in an interview with New York magazine: “She is uncomfortable being seen as a mom, as a suburbanite, as someone who doesn’t care...Betty’s very childlike. She identifies with Sandy, and that moment when she decides the futility of her attempt to rescue that girl and preserve her innocence is just very touching to me.”

Weigh in: What did you think of the "Mad Men" season premiere?


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Comments [8]

GCL from Astoria Queens New York

I found that episode interesting. I also found last night's episode to be surprising. In one scene Don, and the woman he's involved with are, let's say there, and the radio is heard. We hear the WQXR hourly news broadcast, and it's not a good one. For the life of me, I can't recall who was the lead news reporter for the station then, and I grew up with the station.

Apr. 15 2013 11:46 AM

Who plays sandy?

Apr. 11 2013 11:26 PM
Cleo from NY

Death is everywhere in every shape & shade this season Love this show and how it plays around with themes, culture, fashion. Don is a basket case. Betty's character is parallel to Don's; her demons are aesthetically presented; Don's are alpha! So glad Chopin was incorporated!

Apr. 11 2013 09:41 PM
pnf from nyc

Do I hear Brooklyn talking? Did anyone notice a change in Peggy's accent in season 6? In seasons 1-5, her diction was crisper and her voice breathier. In season 6, certain vowels are noticeably flatter and her voice is more nasal. Certain words are stretched out, too, as when she said, "Can you get me some caaw-fey?"

Apr. 11 2013 08:17 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Only watched one season of Mad Man. These people reminded me of my coworkers during the late 50s and 60s and the remarks against Catholics, Jewish and American Italians. I do not fit the stereotype of Italians since I am fair skinned and green eyed. Ran across too many nasty people. I actually worked for a manager who would refer to one of my co-workers as Jew-boy. Also remember quite a few of management coming back from lunch who drank too much.

Apr. 10 2013 09:33 AM
Anne-Sophie Blank from St. Louis MO

I do not have cable and I watch Mad Men on DVDs which I rent from my local library. I was intrigued by the title Betty and the Violonist, so I read it. I should not have because it "spoils" the fun of watching the 1st episode.

Apr. 09 2013 03:32 PM
Frank from UWS

@Mark get over yourself. Nobody's making you read it.

Apr. 08 2013 07:45 PM
Mark from Brooklyn

I didn't watch the program. I was annoyed by the advertisement--yes, let's just call it that & be done with it--that QXR ran promoting the show. I find this day-after editorial coverage of the show a step too far, an unacceptable overlap of advertising and editorial (doubly unacceptable on QXR than it would be on a commercial station).

Apr. 08 2013 06:58 PM

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