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The ballad of Betty and Glen Bishop: A tribute to one of the strangest "Mad Men" love stories

Last night, we said farewell to one of the show's most bizarre romances


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Anna Silman
April 20, 2015 8:50PM (UTC)

Last night’s "Mad Men" said goodbye to our beloved Sally Draper, seemingly for good (break some lightbulbs on your Teen Tour for us, Sally!) and it also bid adieu to Sally’s longtime cohort Glen Bishop, who stopped by the house to let the Francis-Draper women know he’ll be shipping off to Vietnam -- and to put the moves on his long-time crush, Betty, for perhaps the last time.

As always with Glen (played by Matthew Weiner’s son Marten Weiner), the scene was deeply disorienting and uncomfortable, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect anytime Glen shows up. At the start of his inappropriate relationship with Betty Draper (slash Hofstadt slash Francis), the young neighbor initially serves a prism reflecting Betty’s deep loneliness, suburban isolation and perpetual state of arrested development. Then later, as Glen enters his teen years, his presence serves to increasingly exacerbate the schism between Betty and her daughter Sally — a rift which comes to a head in last night’s episode, as Sally berates her father for his and Betty's crippling boundary issues. As she puts it, "It doesn’t stop you and it doesn’t stop mom… you just ooze everywhere.”

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Here’s a little look back at five key moments from of the show's weirdest little love stories.

1. The lock of hair (season 1, episode 1)

I know he was only nine years old, but from his earliest appearances, Glen always made everything super awkward -- remember the Creepy Glen meme? — like when he walked in on Betty in the bathroom while she was babysitting. Later, Betty proved her maturity level to be about the same as his by capitulating and giving him a lock of her hair (during a later confrontation with Glen's mother in the supermarket, she slaps her in the face, like a petulant schoolyard bully). The whole sequence is almost funny in its cringe-worthiness, but it's also deeply upsetting, as we see — not for the last time — how lost Betty is, and her fundamental inability to relate to anybody on a real level.

2.  The parking lot (season 1, episode 13)

This marks one of Betty's emotional low-points -- when Betty cries to Glen in the parking lot about how lonely and sad she is, and how she doesn’t have anyone to talk to. In response Glen lovingly takes her hand in his little mitten and says “I wish I was older." This might be one of Betty's most sympathetic moments, as we see that that all she wants is a steady hand to clasp on to -- even if it's the hand of a creepy ten-year-old whose mother banned him from speaking with her. Oh, Betty.

3. Running away (season 2, episode 10)

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The pair's relationship comes to its apex at the end of season two, when Betty finds a disheveled Glen hiding out in her playhouse, bottle of milk and bag full of comic books in tow. After sharing how lonely he is at home, Glen clasps Betty’s hands -- and Betty, poor, childish Betty, lets him, illustrating once again how desperately she craves intimacy. The two then have a bizarro little date watching cartoons on the couch together -- Betty sipping coke from a straw like a sullen teenager -- culminating in Glen's proclamation that "I came to rescue you… We can go anywhere, I have money." As usual, the whole interaction is sweet, sad and totally icky all at once. (Shortly after, Betty betrays Glen's trust by calling his mother, because even when Betty finally does the right thing she's usually doing the wrong thing).

5. The blowout (season 4, episode 13)

Season four is when Glen and Sally become close, and when an increasingly grown-up Sally starts to distance herself from her selfish, damaged mother. Glen serves as an emblem of this wedge, particularly when he runs into Betty in the front hallway of her house and Betty freaks out at him (partly, it seems, because she's jealous that he's moved his attentions toward Sally and away from her). Glen responds with one of the blunter assessments of Betty's character thus far -- “Just 'cause you’re sad doesn’t mean everybody has to be" -- and Betty responds by firing Carla for letting Glen in the house, showing the recently-remarried Mrs. Francis at her cruel, vindictive low.

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5. Shipping out (season 7, episode 10)

In last night’s episode, Betty and Glen's weird relationship concludes when an all-grown-up Glen, complete with bell-bottoms and an epic pair of sideburns, shows up to announce he’s shipping off to Vietnam — and to make a last pass at Betty: “I know something could happen to me, but I feel safe—because I know you’re mine.” Despite the fact that Betty is obviously pleased at the attention, she does the right thing, for once, and doesn't go full Mrs. Robinson on 18-year-old Glen. "You're going to make it," she says, trying to instill some hope and confidence in the lost young man who once snuck in the bathroom to watch her pee. In this interaction, we see inklings that Betty might finally have grown up a little -- ironically, she's enrolling in college just as Glen has flunked out -- and yet, as we see from the look in Glen's frightened eyes, it’s probably too late to undo years of damage that Betty’s reckless selfishness hath wrought.


Anna Silman

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