When Did Pete Campbell Become My Favorite?


Don’t get me wrong, I still truly believe him to be the most punchable manchild on television, but there’s just something about Pete this season. Also keep in mind that when I say “favorite” I don’t mean the character with whom I most sympathize. That would be probably be one Mr. Ken Cosgrove, an all-around pretty good person who busts his hump in a New York City office every day and whiles away his leisure hours producing nerdy writings.

Pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty relatable.

As Paul pointed out last week, the latest season of Mad Men is pulling no punches when it comes to underlining its characters’ sociopathic tendencies. The last episode had Don acting like such a petulant child I could hardly stand it. We get it, Don, your mother was an actual prostitute and now your madonna-whore complex rules every one of your relationships, sexual or platonic, with an iron fist. We’ve learned all about it for the past five years. We don’t need to watch you illustrate society’s oldest double standard by freaking out (FREAKING OUT) when your actress wife performs a screen kiss somewhere in between you shtupping the downstairs neighbor and having existential crises outside your apartment door.

One can barely pretend to care:

Then you’ve got Roger, unable to grieve his own mother’s passing without rambling boring nonsense from a therapist’s couch and making a pass at his ex-wife at a funeral. Right after Don pukes in a corner, no less. Though his line, “he was just saying whatever everyone else was thinking,” was gold. Sterling’s gold.

But Christ, these men and their mommies!

To be totally fair, I would watch a million scenes with Roger and Mona (his ex), and I always secretly hope they just give in and do it. Did you know they’re married in real life? I assume that’s why their chemistry is, in a word, ridiculous. Also, Roger breaking down when he received the shoeshine kit legitimately moved me. I totally understood him in that moment. The mundane can often open the floodgates. Don is annoying the crap out of me, but Roger still has it going on, in my book.

Back to Pete. Pete’s been nothing by a slimy little toad since the very beginning—Peggy letting him into her apartment at the end of the first episode was one of the few times I’ve actually shouted “what are you doing?!” at the screen. He’s callous, smarmy, his ambition outweighs his intelligence, and he’s no good in a fight.


Another time I shouted at the screen. I miss Lane.

But, to paraphrase Henry Higgins, I’ve grown accustomed to his bitchface. He’s a horrible creep, but he’s our horrible creep. This season has him being a better Don Draper than Don Draper, what with his extramarital gallivanting and his newfound propensity to dress Don down before a client meeting when the latter is too hungover to function. The way Pete walks away before Don has a chance to answer is just greasy icing on the cake.

Sidenote: who was the last one to toss his cookies right before an important client meeting? Is Don the new Roger? Does that make Roger the new Bert? Is Pete the new Don? Is Harry the new Pete? Will Dick Whitman just throw himself out of the SCDP office window in disgrace already?

Pete has never made any bones about who he is, and has also never wasted our time pretending like he could somehow redefine himself as a good person. He’s the worst, but he’s his own man. Somehow, that makes me sort of…like him. Which brings me straight into the next horrible phase of any of my fangirl pursuits: once I decide I dig a character, I start crushing on them. It’s always just a shameful little bit at first, but eventually grows to epic proportions (then quickly burns out, as the brightest flames always do).

If I’m being entirely honest, I found Pete a little bit sexy way back in the first season. His behavior towards Peggy in “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was reprehensible, but when they had their second romp on his office couch some months later? I mean, I don’t even think they like each other. They just have compatible pheromones or something else equally sexy and weirdly unidentifiable. Also, when Ken Cosgrove called Peggy a lobster (“all her meat’s in her tail,” a fairly rare example of St. Cosgrove being piggish), Pete straight-up punched him in the face. I don’t condone violence, and once again, he’s the worst, but yowsa.


Tell me there isn’t something Johnny Depp-ish happening here.

So as much as it pains me to admit it, I think Pete is my new favorite Mad Men character. He’s reliable in his awfulness, at least, and in this world of mewling babies dressing up in stylish suits and pretending to be men, that may be all we can hope for.

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  1. Great article! I look forward to every scene with Pete in it whereas I used to groan every time he showed up in a scene in the earlier seasons. Vincent is a great physical actor (ala John Ritter) but one of the best when it comes to his face and facial expressions (ala Gillian Jacobs.) At the beginning of the article, I keep glancing up at Pete’s picture, half expecting him to raise an eyebrow or curl his lip Harry Potter style.

    As a recent fanboy of Alison Brie, these last few episodes have been a treat. I hope we haven’t seen the last of her!

  2. Eh pete has tried to be Don though. In the first season he pawned one of his crappy idea’s to a client and it backfired. He did a bunch of things to try to get to the top including blackmailing Don into a promotion. Then theres the whole thing with Peggy. Pete is the biggest sociopath of the show, not only does he rationalize what he does and how , but he feels sorry for himself all the time. All the other characters of course do this but at lest from time to time admit to themselves how shitty they are.To put it simply Don’s pimp hand is strong both inside the board room and outside, while Pete’s is not. I do agree with the rest of the article. The boy’s do have some mommy issues this season. I think Don will end Don Draper and go back to being Dick at the end. The world is changing and Don does not fit into it any more. Also Alison Brie might end Pete Campbell so meh.

  3. In the last episode when Harry made the comment about Joan earning her partnership at night and Pete’s reaction, “what does that mean!?” was amazing. He’s an awful human being who’s obviously to his own terribleness, which makes his character bizarrely interesting.
    There’s no low he won’t sink to, immediately dust himself off, and keep going on. He doesn’t even seek out doing horrendous things, which is the insane thing. The German nanny just in his hallway in tears needing help, then he gets drunk and wants to be thanked; he had no intention of ever whoring out a co-worker until Herb shows up then he’s all about it. Usually he’s just a guy going out his business until there’s some problem or something he wants then all of sudden morality is out the door and Pete is finding an angle.
    I really really hope Trudy follows through with his threat to destroy him.

  4. Totally. And you guys raise a good point about Trudy. Pete’s married to one of the most interesting women on the show, so he’s got that going for him as a character. More Pete and Trudy and all that entails, and less Don Draper cryface, I say!

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