No one has had it worse on Mad Men than Betty Francis (played by January Jones, who has been something of a punching bag herself in real life). And that's really saying a lot when you consider the parade of sad sacks, philanderers, and booze hounds (among other depressing titles) that have made up Mad Men over the course of seven seasons. For too long Betty Francis (formerly Betty Draper) was nothing more than a casualty of Don Draper (something, it seems, Megan is now on the cusp of becoming) and portrayed as an ice queen. Or, when it came to Season 5, a sight gag that would be known 'round the Internet as Fat Betty. But Sunday night's episode of Mad Men, titled "Field Trip," gave us hope that something interesting and exciting might actually happen to Betty in this, the final season.
During the episode we were given two new facets of Betty that we hadn't yet seen: a possible interest in joining the work force (the stay-at-home mom seemed intrigued by her friend Francine's three-days-a-week job as a travel agent) and a desire to be loved by her children. Now, there have been signs over the most recent seasons that Betty isn't the monster mommy she most certainly was in the early run of Mad Men (she now seems genuinely concerned and guilty about the troubled path their daughter Sally might be going down and was having fun with Bobby before the whole trading-her-lunch-on-the-farm debacle in "Field Trip"), but it's the work aspect that's the most fascinating.
Season 1's smoking, gun-toting housewife Betty was Betty as her most fascinating (and with the most potential for being one of the show's most complicated characters), but since then she's seemed adrift. Sure, she's happier with and more supportive of her new husband Henry (who has been infinitely better to her than Don ever was) and she's had her own bouts of rebellion and earning her own sense of self (that one-night stand with Don allowed her to regain a lot of lost power in that relationship) but her story lines have often revolved around someone else. (Heck, she even had a power struggle with Creepy Glen.)
If Betty were to change with the times and join the work force, particularly at a time when Don has become all but powerless in a career he once dominated, it might make Betty not only someone to root for again, but an fascinating character she once had the potential to be. Here's to hoping the writers don't squander that potential in the remaining episodes.
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