Fans of ABC's most popular political drama would have no problem recognizing Scandal star Darby Stanchfield. The red-headed actress has portrayed Olivia Pope's fellow gladiator Abby Whelan ever since the show's pilot three years ago. But after watching Stanchfield fix the problems of Washington's elite for 47 episodes, it's possible viewers may have forgotten where they saw her first. The more sharp-eyed among us will recognize Stanchfield from Seasons 1 and 2 of Mad Men , where she played a very influential person in Betty Draper's life.
As neighbor Helen Bishop, Stanchfield was a symbol of everything that Betty was not. She was a single mother raising two children by herself. She was openly political, volunteering for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. She was a divorcée, having extricated herself from a troubled marriage in a time when divorce was frowned upon. And she was independent, something Betty never dreamed of being. In Helen, Betty saw both a rival and a source of inspiration. She hated Helen for her strength, an attribute Betty had always lacked, but she also saw in her neighbor hope that her own future may turn out alright. And of course, with Helen came her troubled son Glen, who has himself been an influential figure in another Draper's life: young Sally.
The tenuous bond between Betty and Helen was severed when Helen found out that Betty had given a lock of her own hair to Glen while babysitting him. The discovery of this disturbing gift led to a chilly confrontation in the middle of the supermarket:
The two women never rekindled their friendship, although they reached something of a detente when Betty finally made the decision to separate from Don. Helen was in a unique position to offer Betty some support, being the only person the housewife knew who had been through a divorce. When Betty worried that "Sometimes I think I'll float away if Don isn't holding me down," Helen agreed, telling her that the hardest part of divorce is "realizing you're in charge."
While her son Glen has continued to make occasional appearances in Sally's storyline, Helen has sadly been absent since Season 2. (Stanchfield has been busy in D.C., it seems.) But with Mad Men entering its final season, is seeing Helen one last time too much to hope for? Many shows revisit old characters and plots in their home stretches, and with Glen as a consistent presence on the show, it's not impossible that Helen could appear one last time to offer more words of advice to her frenemy. God knows Betty could use some support, what with falling back in bed with her ex-husband and constantly battling a resentful teenager. And heck — if anyone knows about troubled youths, it's definitely Helen.
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