'Mad Men's Dawn Finally Gets a Storyline (and Shirley Does, Too)
Well, it's about damn time. No, I don't just mean Joan finally being moved to a proper office (though that was pretty great in and of itself). I'm referring to an episode of Mad Men that predominantly featured Dawn (and Shirley, for that matter) with a proper storyline attached. Last night's episode "A Day's Work" featured interesting exchanges between Don and Sally, as well as an utterly humiliating Valentine's Day meltdown by Peggy, but it was all about Dawn and Shirley. Where have they been all of our Mad Men-obsessed lives?!
While Dawn was busy trying to keep Don's work affairs in order (an especially time-consuming task considering he doesn't even go here anymore) and put up with Lou's bullshit, poor Shirley was feeling the Valentine's Day wrath of Peggy who immediately assumed the bundle of flowers on Shirley's desk were not for Shirley from her fiance, but from Ted for her. As Shirley hilariously cracked to Dawn (played by the excellent Teyonah Parris) in the kitchen, "Who's sending her flowers?" I seriously could have watched an entire episode of Dawn and Shirley putting SC&P employees in their rightful place.
Of course, it was hardly a bed of roses (or a stolen bouquet of them) for these two. Sure, this is 1969 and the times they are a changin', but there's still the Bert Coopers of the world who think that the hard working Dawns of the world should be the front desk receptionist because of the color of their skin. (Kudos to Joan, yet again, for standing up to that nonsense.) There's also the Lous (ugh, Lou) of the world who think they can just boss the Dawns around because they feel like it, even if the Lous are in the wrong. While Bert was more upfront with his racism (in fact, disturbingly so), Lou wasn't all that subtle about his contempt for Dawn either. But the last laugh was on them, and will continue to be for them and men just like them for the next couple of decades, because by the end of the episode Dawn was moved to Joan's old office, smiled a knowing smile, and it all felt awfully reminiscent of when Peggy got her first office. (Plus, her loyalty to Don should play a pretty prominent role in her becoming a force to be reckoned with in that office.) Look out world, here comes Dawn.
Poor Shirley may not have as bright a future as Dawn at SC&P (she got bumped off of Peggy's desk, after her whole tailspin from the flowers-aren't-actually-from-Ted-mix-up) but I hope it's not the last we see of her. Characters of color like Dawn and Shirley have far too often been used in the background, or an afterthought, on Mad Men. And yes, this is the seventh and final season, but it's better late than never for the series to turn that around.