The second part of Mad Men's final season has proven to be a fascinating exploration of women's evolving roles and shifting identities during the 1970s. This has mostly played out in the form of a Joan-versus-Peggy dichotomy. In the first episode, they faced off about the different treatment they receive in the workplace because of their appearances. "I want to burn this place down," Joan said after a particularly misogynistic meeting. At the time, Peggy told her to brush it off. After her impromptu performance review with Don on last night's episode, however, she's probably more in Joan's camp. Don is already in a terrible mood when Peggy storms into his office and demands that he review her job performance. Roger pawned off a massive project on him (write a "Gettysburg Address-type speech" on the firm's future), and his real estate agent keeps telling him how hard it would be to sell his apartment, given that it reeks of lonely desperation. Despite his best efforts, Don has never been one to excel at compartmentalizing when his work and life problems start to pile on. Therefore, Peggy strides into a hungry lion's den when she decides she's fed up with the firm's self-evaluation process. "I'm tired of this," she tells Don about the review system. "I want to have my performance reviewed. I've had quite a year." He takes her folder as she sits down, appearing to take Peggy's request seriously. That is, until, his first question. "What do you see for the future?" Don asks. "Is that on there?" Peggy replies. "No, just curious," he says. "I'd like to be the first woman creative director of this agency," she says. Don smiles. "That's funny to you?" Peggy asks. "No, I'm impressed that you know exactly," he responds. "Well, what else is there?" Peggy wonders. "That's what I'm asking. Say you get that. What's next?" Don inquires. Peggy looks stymied. "Land something huge," she says, to which Don fires back, "And, then?"
"Have a big idea. Create a catchphrase," she continues. "So, you want fame," Don points out. "Yes," she admits. "What else?" he prompts. "I don't know," Peggy says. "Yes, you do," Don replies. "Create something of lasting value," she continues. "In advertising?" he laughs. "This is supposed to be about my job, not the meaning of life," she fires back. "So you think those things are unrelated?" Don asks. "I didn't know you'd be in a mood," Peggy says, standing up to leave. "Why don't you just write down all of your dreams so I can shit on them." With that, she walks out of the room. Now, granted Don and Peggy have a long history of blunt candor along with mutual respect, and he was already in a mood when she walked in (which she correctly calls him out on). Still, that performance review could easily have unfolded in almost any decade, including the current one. Numerous studies have found that women are more hesitant to ask for performance reviews, and when they do have them, they're less likely to negotiate for what they want. There's also a noted gender bias in many reviews, where assertive women are perceived as abrasive and aggressive in a negative connotation. When men are noted as being aggressive, it's a positive attribute. Peggy walked in ready to talk about her job performance, and — whether it was intentional or not — Don belittled her success and future aspirations. In this scene, Mad Men is again demonstrating a hard truth about leaning in. Many women have been doing it all along, only to have their managers completely trivialize their dreams. The amazing thing about Peggy Olson is that she'll dish it right back. It wasn't the most professional response, but damn, did Don deserve it in that moment.