I like television with episode titles. Titles give support to the themes of specific shows within larger story arcs. They can be very straightforward, like “Evan” of Miami Vice, or more editorial, like “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run” from its season 2. They can be playful, like the Remington Steele titles that all used his name, e.g., “In the Steele of the Night,” and the all-time classics— “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Once More, With Feeling,” “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” “Better Living Through TV”—are the shorthand of television greatness.
Mad Men, following in The Sopranos tradition, has writerly episode titles that do not appear onscreen. Tonight’s episode title “Babylon” comes packed with a ton of associations, lots of them Biblical.
Psalm 137 sums up one thread: it expresses the emotional agony of the Jews in exile following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 587 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar. Attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, the psalm explains the sadness of being asked to “”sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land,” and says that the Israelites refused, hanging their harps on the trees. It ends with a revenge fantasy, repaying ye “Daughter of Babylon” for what she has done to us, by smashing the heads of her infants against rocks.
It’s a mournful expression of living in a world that is not your natural home. Paging Don Draper.
Then there’s always the whore thereof. Babylon that is. Lots of juicy stuff for Weiner and team to work with. Come back at 10:00 p.m. ET to join our silk pajama Greek chorus.