Monday, August 2, 2010

Mad Men -- Lots And Lots To Discuss

Thoughts on what was one of the better episodes of Mad Men, to say the least:
  • No, seriously, how did they fit all of that into just one episode? It was a total roller coaster. I watched the first half with a big smile and then, mid-way through, it turned extraordinarily dark.
  • I love Freddy Rumsen being back. It allowed them to work AA into the script slyly, especially as we see that maybe the drinking is getting to Roger and Don a bit. There was also some good stuff as his absence from the office meant that he is not up to speed with Peggy's role.
  • Which will take us to Peggy and her own Dick Whitman-ish demons. Flashback to the, er, flashback in season two when Peggy remembers that Don visited her after she had the baby and tells her to forget that anything ever happened. "It will shock you how much it never happened." She's now erased that and last season's female sexual empowerment phase out of her life and is pretending that she's a virgin. She doesn't seem to be as good as Don at lying to herself, which isn't a bad thing.
  • Remembering her baby brings us to Pete and his weasel-y (and egged on by Trudy) offer to be Santa if that's what the all-powerful Lee Garner, Jr., wants.
  • In the end, the episode ended up being a lot about power. Garner's power forced Roger to overspend for the party and then made a fool out of him in forcing him to be Santa. And Garner knew it, too. It was a show of power that was mirrored later in the episode, if more overtly and despicably, by Don. We'll get there. Roger was also involved in one of the best-shot scenes of the episode, when he was talking to Joan -- who, as always, kicked ass in running the office -- and, as he sat down, the camera stayed with him so the only things in the frame as Roger toyed with his feelings for her were him and her curves.
  • Sterling leads us to Cooper and his discussion about civil rights and how the country will fall apart if Medicare passes. You'd never expect Mad Men to include a dig at the Tea Party, huh?
  • Two quick detours, first to Glenn. His mother was the original neighborhood divorcée, so while I'm surprised to have seen his character come back, I can't be too surprised. We knew that Sally would be rebelling against Betty, I just never guessed that it would come so soon. It certainly makes Betty's story a lot more interesting.
  • The second detour is to Don's apartment building and his neighbor, the nurse. I was a bit taken aback when she first showed up; the last time we saw the actress, Nora Zehetner, her character had just been shot between the eyes in a storage room at Seattle Grace at the very beginning of last season's shocking Grey's Anatomy finale. They don't pick a recognizable actress and put her in Mad Men if her character isn't going to show up again. She seems reminiscent of the teacher from last season, or maybe I'm just seeing a young, single potential girlfriend for Don and mixing the two up.
  • Which brings us back to Don. I was going to say that this episode was a continuation of his descent that started at the end of the season premiere, but it's not like he's ever been a great human being, right? He's just becoming more obvious about his dark side. His facade is only an inch deep, as seen by his refusal to take the personal quiz and risk having to deal with any of his own feelings. He plays the company man briefly for Lee Garner, Jr., but then escapes to his apartment. His extreme drinking is finally taking a toll on him as he all but passed out, unkempt and unshaven, in the hallway and then went after his secretary. I can't say that it's a surprise that Don was so wrong, but it was still painful to watch him go down that road and her reluctantly give in. It was not a surprise that he wanted nothing to do with her in the morning and handled her so badly, giving her a $100 bonus that all but turned her into a common prostitute. Mad Men is often compared to The Sopranos and Don's last scene was a Tony Soprano moment if I've ever seen one.

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