It's been said that science fiction is never just about the future and historical fiction is never just about the past. They're also about the society that produced them—right here, right now. I remembered this maxim while watching the twelfth episode of "Mad Men," "Blowing Smoke." The current season is set in the mid-'60s, and the characters often seem far removed from twenty-first-century American norms. But the panic engulfing them is of the moment. There are no abstract principles at stake. It's all about paying the bills, keeping the lights on. This week's action-packed, penultimate episode didn't remind me of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, The Swimmer, The Graduate, or any of the other pop-culture touchstones evoked in previous episodes of Matthew Weiner's series. It reminded me of the front page of today's newspaper, the top of tonight's newscast. Or the cover of this week's New Yorker—a mother and father huddled at a kitchen counter, holding their heads in despair while surrounded by bills. On the floor near them is a little girl playing with a toy cash register and play money. It was grim stuff, and no one pretended it wasn't. "Look, we know there's a black spot on the X-ray," Roger Sterling said during a meeting, summing up the fatalistic mood. "You don't have to keep tapping your finger on it."