The guy with the perfect skin. The guy with the perfect haircut. The guy with two cups of coffee, neither of which he actually drinks.
So what’s up with Bob?
Clearly, he’s someone who will be of consequence to us this season. Mad Men is a lot of things: a visionary show, deliberate, patient and non-traditional, but it would seem strange to plant Bob into the show and do nothing with him beyond always having him lurk in the background in an inconsequential way. So what could be the purpose?
If you’ve listened to our podcast recap series, we’ve been pondering this very question. But let’s actually throw some theories out there.
1. He exists to hook-up with a major female character.
Peggy seems pretty occupied with Ted Chaough. Betty has Henry and no conceivable way of ever meeting Bob, so let’s posit three possibilities.
Doesn’t it seem insane that a bombshell like Joan could be perpetually alone?
Seemingly, she’s on a path towards singledom. What would enrage Pete more than a new relationship with the optimistic, dashing, full-hairlined Bob?
Sure, Don is tramping it up all over the place, but couldn’t Megan be capable of the same? Or what if Don’s dreaded Sylvia secret comes to bear?
2. He exists as someone important to be sacrificed
We’ve all heard about the concept of Chekov’s Gun with the notion being that if you reveal a gun in the first act, it should probably get used in the third act, right? Similarly, if you introduce a superfluous but congenial character in the first episode with no clear path to staying on the show, wouldn’t it stand to reason that he’s someone who exists to be eliminated towards the end of the season? That way, we’re eliminating someone we know, but that isn’t pivotal to the show. It’s what many TV shows do in the form of Big Bad characters who are native to one season, but are usually knocked off within that season and never seen again.
Granted, Bob Benson isn’t a big bad, but isn’t there something slightly concerning about him and his two coffees? Which leads me to my next point…
3. He exists with an ominous purpose
Often times, stories are told with parts of them being setups, right? You elevate a character so that the smack downward is that much greater. It’s why Pete’s anger at Don made sense last week in lieu of Don effectively firing Jaguar. We’d been shown that SCDP was going to go public with a share evaluation of $11 which would have made Pete instantly super wealthy. That righteous fury wouldn’t have been as vivid had we not been setup by Pete’s all but assured financial windfall.
Thinking in those terms, Bob Benson is a super nice, classy guy who offers everyone coffee, wants to help where he can, doesn’t mind snagging Pete some TP when he needs it and also is Pete’s wingman at the midtown whorehouse. Seemingly, Bob is just a super good dude.
This would make it all the more stunning when we find out that Bob has malevolent purposes.
Think of it like this: what other TV character do we know that comes bearing gifts to his workplace every morning?
Whoa. Am I saying that Bob is a vigilante serial killer? Nope. I’m merely saying that the presence of gift-giving usually creates an idea of congeniality. In the case of Dexter, this works to subvert his true nature. Is it the same for Bob?
But criminality aside, is it possible that Bob is on the other side of the coin? Like say on the law side? He did tell us that he gave up a high-paying job to come to SCDP, right, which is strange by itself because SCDP isn’t exactly a company focused on ideals and principles. Also, he’s trying to get chummy with the heavy hitters (i.e. Don, Burt, Roger, Pete, Harry). While it could be construed as just smart networking, couldn’t it also be seen as someone who is undercover that is trying to get in the good graces of the people at the top?
Furthermore, wouldn’t it be just a classic Pete Campbell move to be the one to get busted in some kind of white collar crime? I can see his face getting punched all over the place in prison.
4. He exists as someone who will become important.
The flip side to theory #2 is that we could be seeing Bob’s origin story instead of being slowly introduced to him so that we can feel connection when he’s cast off. For me, it doesn’t really feel like that, but anything is possible.
The merger Don forged with Ted Chaough certainly does seem to throw things up in the air. How will Bob factor into this? How will Harry’s continued greed play out know that there are even more partners at a firm that he’s convinced he built but gets no credit for? Will Bob replace him?
Who knows, but the actualization of Bob Benson is certainly a storyline that will be interesting to watch.
Which theory do you like OR do you have a different theory?