The Creepy Loves of Mad Men’s Glen Bishop


I don’t think I’ve talked about Mad Men on the blog before, primarily due to my unspoken agreement with Logan to deny the existence of any television show that doesn’t feature Chevy Chase.  I’m breaking that streak today to discuss the most surprisingly compelling character of this season: Glen Bishop.

I enjoy Mad Men, but it’s frustratingly disorganized in its storytelling.  It doesn’t really have story arcs, so much as vague themes.  Characters may get tons of screen time for several episodes, only to disappear completely without warning.  Whatever happened to Joan’s closeted lesbian roommate?  Are we ever going to see Sal again?  And where the hell has Betty Draper been this season?  Until recently, I thought Glen Bishop had evaporated as well.  But before we discuss the present, let’s take a look back to when we first met the little scamp:

Glen is the young son of Helen Bishop, a divorced single mother who lives in the Draper’s neighborhood.  When Helen’s babysitter falls through, she guilts Betty into watching Glen for the evening.  While Betty is using the bathroom, Glen walks in on her (quite on purpose) and proceeds to stare at her until she’s able to get the door closed.  Betty confronts him about it.  He cries and apologizes.  So far, Glen’s kinda weird.  But, hey, he’s a lonely, sexually curious nine-year-old.  Give him a break.

Then he asks for a lock of Betty’s hair.  So, ya know…we’re getting into creepy town now.  He tells her that he wants it because she’s like a princess.  Of course, because Betty Draper is pretty unhinged herself, she ends up giving it to him.  It’s a neat scene because not only do you get to watch this really messed up little kid, you also realize how lonely Betty herself must be to oblige him.

Glen disappears for a bit after that, then shows up again when his mother finds the lock of hair and tells Betty to keep away from her son.  Later, the two meet by chance in a parking lot where Betty breaks down and admits how isolated she is, causing Glen to tenderly (and SUPER creepily) comfort her by saying that he wishes he were older.

Eventually, he runs away from home and hides in the Draper’s doghouse, explaining to Betty that he’s come to rescue her, and that the two can run away together.  It’s clear now, even to Betty, that this kid is damaged.  She calls his mom.  He views it as the ultimate betrayal, and tells Betty he hates her.  So ends their affair.  Glen fades into the ether, never to be seen or mentioned again.

Until now!  Oh yes, friends.  This season opened with the Draper kids (now the Francis kids after Betty’s divorce) bumping into Glen while Christmas tree shopping.  But this time he’s only got stalker-eyes for young Sally.  In a way this is a step up, since she’s actually his age.  In another way, it’s kind of like a psycho ex-lover showing up to menace the family of the one who spurned him.

And we’re in luck, Glen fans.  Our boy has discovered exciting new ways to be unnerving.  Every scene he’s in explodes with awkwardness!  He shows Sally his menacing pocket knife, chats about divorce in a detached monotone,  calls her up in the middle of the night, and–in his Glenniest move yet–breaks into the Francis home and wrecks the shit out of it,  leaving only Sally’s room intact.

And then…nothing again.  He’s been absent for the last three episodes.  C’mon, Mad Men, what’s up with this kid?  Is he using Sally as a creepy surrogate for her mom?  Is he a serial killer in the making?  Is he going to have a seen with Don where the two hash things out over scotch?  What is Glen’s deal!

To make matters weirder, Glen is played by Marten Weiner, son of the show’s creator, who presumably looked at his son one day and said “This kid is so quietly shudder-inducing, America will be helpless to look away!”  Maybe that at least means he won’t be forgotten like all those other great side characters.

Either way, you guys can count on me to keep you updated on the creepy exploits of Glen Bishop from here on out.  Unless those exploits involve him appearing outside my bedroom window with his father’s hunting rifle.  By the time I learn of that exploit, it will be far too late for me.

Thanks to the Mad Men Wiki for jogging my memory.  Also check AMC’s blog for an interview with the surprisingly well-adjusted Marten Weiner.

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