7 Times 'Mad Men's Pete Campbell Was A Good Guy, Because Don Draper Isn't The Only Antihero
I never thought I would say it: Pete Campbell actually impressed me on last week's episode of Mad Men. Of all the male leads on AMC's hit drama, Pete is one of several who serves as a reminder of the transgressions women experienced in the workforce during the 1960s. Throughout the years, we have seen Pete treat women as if they are disposable, as he repeatedly cheated on his wife, Trudy, without remorse until she finally kicked him to the proverbial curb in Season 6 with the ominous words, "I will destroy you." Pete was also instrumental in coercing Joan to sleep with client (i.e., terrible person) Herb Ritt in order to secure an account in exchange for Joan becoming a partner at SC&P. The aforementioned are all ingredients for a person I, and several others, are likely to despise as much as a person can despise a fictional character.
That being said, Pete showed various signs he is evolving during last week's "Time & Life." After such seething exchanges with Trudy, Pete's defense of her was instantaneous when a school principle was unabashedly rude, calling Trudy "arrogant" for failing to apply to other educational facilities for her daughter. Peggy and Pete also shared a tender moment on the couch of Pete's office, where they bonded over mutual anxieties and impending resignation that SC&P would soon be absorbed by McCann. The episode's conclusion showed Pete offering some words of comfort and motivation to Joan, who was understandably dreading the takeover of McCann ushering in a new regime of men who will fail to take her seriously.
"Time & Life" hasn't been the only episode that has hinted at the fact that Pete — as cold and callous as he may appear— has a heart beating somewhere beneath his assortment of perfectly dimpled neckties. It wasn't easy — believe me, it wasn't — but I found a selection of moments from the series where Pete was actually one of the "good guys" — or at least edging toward basic human decency.
That Time He Seemed Honestly In Love With Peggy
As salacious as their relationship was in Season 1, Pete betrayed an honest affection and love for Peggy at times during their affair. Beneath his cool demeanor, he also seemed honestly tormented by his feelings at times. Moreover, we all know that Peggy is one of the most awesome, fierce female leads of all time, so if she saw something in Pete he can't be all bad.
That Time He Showed Actual Remorse
It wasn't until Season 2 that Peggy revealed to Pete that she had given up the baby she conceived with Pete for adoption. Although in a state of shock, we saw Pete's normally impenetrable coolness became enveloped by remorse as he sat alone in his office.
That Time He Voiced His Support On The Civil Rights Movement
Despite his faults, Pete spoke up for those experiencing strife during the civil rights movement on more than one occasion. During an episode where Bert seemed perplexed by the idea that people of all walks of life wanted to be treated equally (what a conundrum! [Insert my sarcasm here]), Pete offered this rejoinder: "Because Lassie can stay at the Waldorf and they [African Americans] can't." Well played, Pete. Well played.
That Time He Put On His Dancing Shoes
It's hard for someone to look villainous while they're dancing so jubilantly. Maybe if Pete spent more time dancing and less time engaging in extramarital affairs, he would be able to gain certifiable antihero status.
Those Times He Actually Smiled
I definitely prefer smiling-and-snacking Pete over "I'm going to destroy anyone who gets in my way" Pete.
That Time He Defended Trudy
As mentioned before, Pete was quick to defend Trudy's honor when she was being offended by a school principle. Although I don't condone violence ever (Pete punched the guy in the face, in case you missed it), it was nice to see his fervor and protection over his ex, despite their differences. When Trudy later lamented to Pete that she felt she wasn't going to be appealing to other men in a few years, he responded with a smile that her appeal was "ageless." Squee!
That Time He Supported Women in the Workforce
For all his transgressions and disparagement towards women over the years, Pete offered sincere comfort and support to Joan during a cab ride at the end of "Time & Life." As Joan divulged that she felt she would no longer be taken seriously and subjected to a sexist work environment once the honchos of McCann took over, Pete smiled and assured her, "They don't know who they're dealing with."
I'm certainly not giving you a pass on your previous offenses, Pete, but it looks like you may not be such a bad guy after all. Hopefully the final episodes of Mad Men bestow us with more advancements in Pete's maturity. Only time will tell...
Images: AMC; Giphy (8)