Archive for the ‘Mad Men’ Category

Mad Men – 4.09: The Beautiful Girls

September 20, 2010

“Dammit, I don’t want to die in this office.  I almost have twice.” – Roger

Mad Men is a very methodical and deliberate show that builds storylines and character arcs subtly and somewhat discreetly, but every now and then, it likes to throw us a WTF moment, almost as if it’s asking us “You’re still paying attention, right?”  And in an episode that’s already jam-packed with many many interweaving threads (Don and Faye’s blossoming relationship, the trials and tribulations of Sally Draper, Peggy’s romantic life, the further adventures of Joan and Roger), the show delivers another WTF moment at us: the very abrupt death of Don’s latest secretary, Miss Blankenship, who dies sitting at her desk.  No cause of death is given in the episode, but everything surrounding the death, from discovery (Peggy is unsuccessful at flagging down someone to help, and finds, of all people, Don Draper’s daughter sitting at Don’s desk) to trying to clear the scene (the body is carefully sneaked past an open-window room where a very important meeting is taking place), plays out like a very dark and hilarious comedy.  Reactions run the gamut: some are surprised but relatively unfazed, some take it pretty hard, but the consent seems to be that business must continue uninterrupted in the workplace, even in the wake of a death.  There is certainly some commentary on the cold and callous nature of the office (jokes about the death are already being made by the end of the episode), but honestly, I was too busy cracking up at the entire scene and aftermath to think about it any more than that.  For such a classy and intelligent show, it sometimes pulls some really base and morbid moves.  What’s impressive though is that it manages to get away with it almost every time.

There’s a lot going on in this episode, but I’ll focus this post on one more aspect: Sally Draper, who is quickly becoming one of the most complicated characters on the show; an impressive feat for a 10 year old girl.  This season she’s already cut her own hair, been caught touching herself down there at a friend’s house, and is seeing a psychologist, so why not add running away after a psychologist appointment on her own to her dad’s office?  What’s equally surprising (and somewhat disturbing) is her divorced (and current custody owning) mother’s relative lack of interest in her well-being, essentially telling Don “whatever, I don’t have time for this, you take of this until I have time to come pick her up.”  Sally claims to hate it at her mother’s place and wants to be with her father, and it’s not hard to see why.  Even when picking her up again, Betty’s “I was worried about you” sounds robotic and forced (although that may be due to January Jones’ terrible acting).  The domestic situation here deserves the label “cluster-fuck”.  It’s essentially Don’s fault they’re all in this mess, yet he’s the one that Sally wants to be with.  It’s certainly unfair and I want to sympathize with Betty, given the circumstances, and yet, I can’t shake the feeling that she’s not the lesser parent in this situation (it doesn’t help that the show has done almost all it can to make Betty very very unlikeable).  Meanwhile, Sally is really learning how to manipulate Don into getting what she wants.  Getting away with a half-hearted apology and promise not to do it again and a trip to the zoo?  This kid could murder someone and she’d probably find a way to get Don to look the other way.  In the end, though, she doesn’t get her way and is returned to her legal custodian.  I very much look forward to what becomes of this; who knew divorce could be so much fun?

The topic of women’s rights and attitudes toward women in society has been brought up a lot in recent episodes.  I’d talk about it, but I feel like this is going to be brought up again and in a much bigger context, so I’ll save my thoughts until then.

One last superficial fashion note: Peggy had a couple of really cute outfits this episode, and I squealed at Joan’s pajamas, thick-framed-hipster glasses with a ponytail look.  So adorable!  The Beautiful Girls indeed!

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Mad Men – 4.08: “The Summer Man”

September 13, 2010


“We’re flawed because we want so much more.  We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.” – Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

I once commented while watching the first season DVDs of Mad Men that I found it to be a very fascinating show, but not one that I could ever imagine myself tuning into on a weekly basis and getting excited to find out what happens.  6 months and 2 DVD sets later, I now find myself eagerly anticipating each new installment of the show.  I still stand by the critique that Mad Men started off very slowly.; it painted interestingly flawed characters, but nothing ever seemed to happen to them.  That problem doesn’t exist anymore, as the very nature of moving the characters away from their old employer to start a fledgling company pretty much requires the plot to move forward at a rapid pace.  Throw in the ever-changing dynamics between the characters (divorces, hook-ups, break-ups, etc.) and some really fun new characters, and the notion of Mad Men not being watched every week is now unthinkable to me.

Part of Mad Men’s appeal is observing the differences in culture between the 60s and today.  I’m not much of a historian, so some of the subtleties of this aspect of the show are lost on me, but the sexist attitude is an always-prevalent theme of the show, and it came out in full force in this episode, with Joey drawing a sexist cartoon of Joan.  In this day and age, that shit would get you fired, but of course, the men of the 60s wave it off as simply a joke and the women who get offended as not having a sense of humor.  I was excited to see another step in the character growth of Peggy Olson when she fired Joey, and then equally surprised and amused to watch Joan expertly shove it in her face.  In these two characters, we see ambition and drive in a hostile environment, but one is trying to rewrite the rules, while the other is trying to get as high up as she can while playing entirely within the established rules.  And Joan is so good at what she does that when she chastises Peggy for coming off as a humorless bitch, my first inclination is to believe her.  I mean, look at how cold and calculating she is when she says that!  She’s gotta be right, right?  Ultimately, I’m not sure who was right, and it’s moments like that where we’re forced to question what we hear (and maybe even take sides) that makes the show brilliant.

In other news, Betty is back, and that makes me sad.  Last we saw her, I actually didn’t mind her so much.  January Jones is a distractingly bad actress in the show most of the time (admittedly, she’s gotten better since the first season), but she can pull off being indignant really well (and she’s pretty good at playing emotionally upset too).  Too bad this week sees her trying to pull off a wider range, and outside of the previously mentioned two emotions, it’s not great.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this season has felt very brisk and well-paced and that Betty has a reduced role; her character, despite probably having the most to be upset about, was just so boring and her plotlines felt tedious.  Her character’s been through so much and been slighted countless times, and yet I still dislike her so much.  There’s so many more interesting characters in the show; hell, even her new husband would be more fun to follow around (which we just might get to do in the near future).

One last thing: God, there were so many good lines!  I’m trying to pick only one quote for each blog entry I do, but there were a lot of great ones and it was really difficult to pick.  I’m going to try not to do this too often in the future, but here are some other good ones that I struggled with passing over:

“They say as soon as you have to cut down on your drinking, you have a drinking problem” – Don

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be” – Don

“I can’t wait until next year when all of you are in Vietnam.  You will be pining for the day when someone was trying to make your life easier.  And when you’re over there, and you’re in the jungle, and they’re shooting at you, remember you’re not dying for me, because I never liked you” – Joan

“He’s a handsome, two-bit gangster like you” -Faye Miller