Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He produces the Café Concerts series and the podcast/show Conducting Business. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
'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?