Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, The Forecast (SPOILERS)

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by AMC

SPOILERS BELOW!

Finally, one I could really sink my teeth into. I have to start at the end with that look of panic on Don’s face when the realtor looks at him after she confirms that she’s sold his place and says something about finding him a new one. Sheer panic. At a new start. How many times have we seen Don jump at the chance at a new start? Usually it’s been with a woman, though there have been some business ones as well. They’ve all been met with enthusiasm. Eagerness. I can’t recall EVER seeing panic on Don’s face at the idea of starting over. Even during his Hershey pitch performance of self-destruction that he orchestrated. He knew what he was doing during that meeting, but you didn’t see any panic. You saw severe and soul-crushing depression later, yes. As he understood that he had well and truly lost everything and realized that he actually missed it after all. But, Don’s always run towards a clean slate. Probably because he’s always been running away from something else.

But not this time. And that’s why I have yet another confirmation that the boy (man) who’s been crying wolf for so many years has actually seen the wolf. Don really wants to make himself over completely. Sure, he’s not going to take any shit from the little brat that came to him for advice and then didn’t have the sense to suss out the message because the kid’s an idiot. But Don was perfectly willing to take Megan’s blows last week because they were warranted. But Mathis is a junior wannabe with energy and no real talent to boast about. And on top of that, he’s not even savvy enough to know how to fix his own mistakes. I mean think about it. Don’s almost roasted himself by talking about a gentle suicidal stroll into the Hawaiian surf (which was lovely image-wise and artistic as hell, although completely misguided for the client), and finally did the trick by talking to the Hershey folks who stared aghast as he regaled them with tales of growing up in a whorehouse and how that made him think of how much he loves Hershey’s. Hell, Rumsfeld had to finally piss himself to get the final boot and that was almost a noble exit. This kid can’t talk his way out of an f-bomb? Seriously? Yeah, kid, you don’t so much belong in the big leagues. So, no, Don’s not going to take shit from someone so ridiculous as that. But the words that kid uttered from someone Don respected? They would have packed quite a punch because Don’s trying, and I think he’s starting to recognize that nobody has his back. He’s a losing bet. His tenuous relationship with Sally is back on the rocks. He’d probably recognize that a good piece of that is the personal navigation a teen is trying to survive and take some of it with a grain of salt. Betty certainly understands that. Her interaction with Sally was surprisingly normal and, dare I say it, charming? Roger went to Ted before he went to “carousel Don” for the golden speech. Peggy sees right through Don’s agenda and cuts him down to size. She’s sick of being everyone’s pawn. The alliance they had forged is again on shaky ground. Everyone sees Don as a ticking time bomb. Don is just finally seeing that this is how he is viewed by even the “lowliest” members of the staff. It’s a wake-up call. It’s a bit hard to believe he’s missed how badly damaged and, in fact, possibly beyond repair his reputation has become while he’s been busy working on remaking himself.

I think that final shot of Don’s face is meant to show that he’s going to really do it this time. For himself and nobody else. Whether that means he’s going to get on that bus Sally mentioned and go far away from “Don and Betty” as Sally intends and try things Sally’s way with a brand new start free of any trace of the old remnants of before; or whether he’s going to start over by taking the speedy descent from his balcony before the new owners take possession in 30 days; or whether, best of all, he tries something a little less “burn the house down” and really does figure out how to start over, miraculously leaving all traces of destructive Don behind…..well your guess is as good as mine.

Notes

  • Ted’s going to die. I’ve got nothing more to say about it except this. I’m very sad to see this character reduced to what we are seeing now. Particularly with that ridiculous lip-rider. As GOB would say, “Oh, come ON!” Listen, Ted’s better than this, and I’m not going to be happy if this is all we are given for his exit. Plus, I’m going to hate Don for dragging him into this deal and killing him slowly day by day. Ted was never meant to be Roger, and his morphing into Rog is incredibly depressing because we know Ted’s character. And this is why I circle back to my first statement. Ted can’t exist in this state. He’s going to die and it will be an incredibly emotional situation like Lane Pryce. You heard it here first. I hope I’m wrong.
  • The fact that Robert has that initial and very intense reaction to the fact that Joan has a very young son doesn’t bode well as far as I can see. I’d very much like to see things work out for Joan, but such an intense reaction is hard to overcome. I’d have a lot of trouble believing he’d soften and accept a young family after that.
  • I was charmed by Sally and Glenn’s relationship. I’d prefer not to delve into Glenn and Betty’s only because they have something that bonds them and I have yet to determine what that is. Maybe it’s as simple as parents that never really saw them for who they are? But it seems deeper than that. But Sally and Glenn clearly care about each other very much, and that response that Sally had to Glenn’s announcement was so genuine. I continue to think Sally may be one of the most mature characters on the show despite the ups and downs emotionally that she is experiencing in the teen years. She is clearly very perceptive and is able to read most people almost as well as she is able to read her parents. That is a lot of information for someone of her age to process. Thankfully, she is reasonably mature, so she handles herself pretty well in a world too adult for her to be navigating at her age.

I’m done for now, but I think I’ll have more to add to this later. This episode was my favorite so far. So much to chew on. So many avenues to explore. So many trails to potentially follow to the finale.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, Field Trip (SPOILERS)

Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC

My favorite quote of the episode

“You have stiff competition, but I believe you to be the most dishonest man I have ever worked with.” – Cutler. With surprise and, I’m certain, a great deal of respect.

Don’s Return

Aside from the creative team members and, of course, Don, nobody else is overjoyed about the return of Don to SC&P (except maybe Ken) because there’s been no drama since he left. It’s been calm and quiet. None of the creative team members respects his authority. You can hear in the way they say his name that they feel disdain for him. (Ed note. Every time a variation of the “say [pronoun] name” phrase comes up, I think of Walt in Breaking Bad. I miss that show!) But you can see their eyes light up with more enthusiasm than we’ve seen since Don left. And, you notice that most of the creative team, with the obvious exception of Peggy, wants Don’s perspective on current campaigns. They have no time for the niceties. They immediately drag him along behind them as they start rushing around looking for the current work-in-progress. They need him back. Because this is advertising. Calm and quiet is not the way to create winning ad campaigns. Just look at what they have to show for the year at the CLIOs as your guide. It’s the most alive that creative area has felt in a long time. Those few meetings we’ve seen have been deader than Elvis, and I think most of us can agree that “the King” is definitely not alive and well.

But seriously, Lane's old office? Like I haven't seen the credit sequence?
But seriously, Lane’s old office? Like I haven’t seen the credit sequence?
  • The Partners

We know Roger’s motives are purely self-serving. He’s not out to help his buddy. And he’s still not happy with him for screwing everything up. It’s bound to be the largest reason that he allowed Don to sit in the office exposed to scrutiny and ire before coming in. I’d like to believe that he had a dual purpose in letting Don marinate in embarrassment and humiliation all day. Maybe soften him up for the inevitable rules Don would have to consent to if the other partners agreed to let him come back? Does Roger have that type of strategy left in him? I believe he might. This was a critical move for Roger. He desperately needs Don back because he has lost all power at the firm. He’s closer than ever to becoming nothing more than a name on the letterhead at this point. It seems to me that Bert has gained some of Roger’s lost power. I have found it so interesting, though not entirely surprising, to watch Bert throw in with Cutler. I’m not sure that Don’s return as Lou’s whipping boy helps Roger, but I also believe Don spent valuable time strategizing during those excruciating hours, too. I think his quick acquiescence to the terms doesn’t mean he’s entirely on board with them. More on that below. It was interesting to see that only Roger had the ability to put emotions aside and look at the situation logically. He had the weekend to reflect on it of course. But it was interesting that everyone in the room, especially Cutler, reacted emotionally to the possibility of Don’s return, instead of focusing on the impact to the firm if they fired him – financially with the necessity of having to buyout his partnership, as well as facing off against him in the creative arena. What is the most interesting of all is that we, the viewers, know that Don is much improved thanks to their forced hiatus. He’s back on his game. They would have done well to have treated him a touch more kindly. Just a touch. He certainly deserves their distrust. But their letting him back in with the belief that to do so is facing certain doom is currently not the case.

  • Don

Fortunately for them, Don doesn’t fully believe that he will be able to turn things around himself which makes him more humble in that end-of-the-day partner’s meeting and able to, at least on the surface, accept terms that would make an earlier Don give them a sneer and a sermon. He knows that a backslide, while maybe not inevitable, certainly is predictable. Hamm, again with the face. I love his ability to say so much with his expressions. And still no award to show for it. Of course, there are other actors on this show who have been overlooked during awards season, too. Vincent Kartheiser, anyone? But I digress. Don’s face as Bert says that they have decided to allow him to return shows the immense relief he feels at those words. And then Bert says the word “stipulations” and Don’s face shows that he is not entirely surprised, but entirely disappointed. Those stipulations are quite harsh in the manner in which Bert delivers them. I don’t think they are unreasonable in light of what happened in the Hershey meeting, but as a viewer, I find myself reeling a bit along with Don. Actually, I’m not sure Don is reeling at all. Which makes me think, more than anything else so far, that Don may be fully back on his game. Roger’s quick note about Don’s new office location should make viewers reflect on the falling man in the credits, but I refuse to do so. OK, I clearly did. But the fixed balcony door tells me not to attach too much significance to Roger’s line. Is someone going to die this season? Almost certainly. Will it be Don? I no longer think so.

He’s taken such great steps again this episode. The old Don never would have flown out directly to see Megan. To do so on a work day meant that he would have to tell her the truth. He evaded it when she asked if he had been fired, but he knew the truth would come out. And he was pretty direct about it. For Don. The old Don would never have purposely put himself in the position were he would have to tell the truth. This Don actively did so. The old Don wouldn’t have cared enough to have put himself in that position. This Don does. It’s great seeing the character FINALLY show some growth. I’d really like to see Don continue on this trajectory in a believable progression. Best sign that we might be heading that way? The fixed door to the balcony. And there are plenty of significant roadblocks in his way that will be dramatic enough for us viewers without having to go down the tired path of drinking and women again. That office is rife with possibilities with Lou and Peggy alone. And that’s barely scratching the surface. Obviously, those stipulations are going to blow up in some exciting way.

  • Lou

I cast Lou as the villain, and that’s not exactly wrong. But a closer word would just be that he is the antagonist. He’s here to act as the roadblock for Peggy and Don. But we’re starting to see a more fleshed-out character this week. There were signs earlier. I said in the first recap of this season that I thought his bark was worse than his bite, and I think I was right. Lou is mediocrity personified. And Lou knows it. His reaction to Don’s appearance inspired sympathy in me which took me by surprise. And his warning to Cutler to call security “just in case” after the most serene of interactions with Don shows he’s very threatened by Don, and rightly so. I bet Roger’s comment that Lou didn’t submit anything to the CLIOs he couldn’t put his name on was accurate. I initially thought Lou was a jerk because he thought he was above it all. But now I see that Lou is a jerk because he knows he’s outclassed, and he’s pissed and blames everyone. I think this is how Lou has lived the majority of his life. Lou will still be fun to hate, but it was good to get a better insight into his character because now I feel flashes of pity for him from time to time. Very tiny flashes. It’s going to be delicious to watch how the Don and Lou pairing plays out. But to add Peggy as Don’s expected adversary into the mix? I cannot wait to see who lands on top and what happens to Lou in the process.

  • Peggy

“Well I can’t say that we miss you.” Look, I get that Peggy would blame Don initially for Ted’s leaving. Initially. But shouldn’t she have gained perspective by now? I don’t think she should be feeling any love for Don right now. But the hate for him? I don’t understand it. I’m not sure I’m feeling her trajectory at the moment. I am trying to see the justification for her rapid descent into bitterness. I can see her maybe being at this stage in a few years of dealing with Lou coupled with a personal life as unfulfilling and empty as what we’ve been shown. It just seems that they have lost their way with this character which pains me terribly as Peggy has always been my favorite. Having said that (typed that), I have high hopes for a shake up that may push her buttons enough to either have the character earn the bitterness and coldness that she now embraces or have her return to a more well-rounded character with the relatability I’m used to from Peggy.

Betty’s Her Mother

Oh, Betty. I was actually briefly on your side. Very briefly. When Bobby traded your sandwich for the candy and you were annoyed, I thought, “Yeah, that would have annoyed me, too, because I’d be hungry for the rest of the day.” So, I thought a quick little, “Yo, how about we don’t do that again, kay?” was appropriate. And then move right on. But then I listen to his “I didn’t know you were going to eat,” and I see him eat the candy he obviously doesn’t want to eat because you tell him to, and I know there’s a lot more going on here. Then, you sulk about it all day and tell Henry it RUINED YOUR DAY????? WTH, Betty? And then you’re confused about why the kids grow apart from you as they get older and discover how cold you are? Bobby wishes it was yesterday, and he could talk his mother out of going on his field trip.

 

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Twelve

So, I’m watching the scene with my precious Kenny and my mouth drops. I was actually hoping for a dream sequence to close that scene though I abhor those machinations generally. I’ll take it if it means that Kenny’s spared that injury and indignity. Anyway, Kenny’s line, “Chevy’s killing me,” doesn’t feel quite that hyperbolic after that scene. Poor Ken. Pete is perfect for that account and will finally get a chance to use that .22 of his. Speaking of which, am I wrong or do we have two plot devices in this season? It looks like Pete’s .22 is back for another cameo, and Bob is feeling a little less like a character and a little more like a plot device. Both are loaded and ready to go off, and both are potentially pointed at Pete. I can’t wait to see which one actually fires.

I’m rooting for Ted and Peggy less and less as the pairing becomes more and more inevitable. I always wanted Stan to be the one to win her heart anyway. Hey, Peggy, he’s actually available! Though their mutual admiration (Ted’s and Peggy’s) is charming to me because there is something pure at its core, I’d loathe being a colleague of theirs. Don and Megan catching Ted and Peggy at the movie launches Don’s petty side and subsequent setup of Ted. His self-righteous reaction to the Ted and Peggy relationship is the definition of hypocrisy because while Ted and Peggy crossed the decency line with the kiss, they haven’t remotely approached a transgression that could be categorized in the same ballpark as Don’s many crimes. He’s made so many nasty plays and betrayed so many people that he has purported to care about that I keep thinking that he’s out of moves that can disgust me further, but he surprised me this week. Watching Don remove the Clio (if they do get this ad made and it wins an award) from Peggy’s hands by saying it was Gleason’s last idea is bound to mean that he’s lost her forever. I just can’t see her forgiving him for that. And I certainly won’t. I gasped when he did that. As uncomfortable as I was with the pregnant silence that descended when he pushed Ted in front of the firing squad, I literally gasped when he said that the ad concept was Gleason’s last idea.

I think this line: “We’ve all been there – I mean, not with Peggy,” that Don delivers to Ted after he’s effectively thrown a wet blanket over their blossoming love affair is pretty telling. I think that the jealousy Don is feeling when he sees the closeness between Peggy and Ted is more complex upon second viewing than I thought initially as the episode played out. As Peggy’s come into her own, I’ve watched as Don has developed an attraction to Peggy that would never be acted upon but was no less real. I think he respects and admires Peggy (as much as he is capable) and that translated into an attraction to her. I never thought their relationship was strictly mentor/mentee; I always thought there was something more. But I thought that door closed when Peggy left. I think that line shows that Don hasn’t fully gotten Peggy out of his system though she is so far removed from his type of woman which explains his sneer as he delivers the second half of the line. And that just makes him all the more disgusted with the current state of affairs. Yep, pun intended.

As far as the other gun (named Sally) that was loaded in the last episode and pointed squarely at Don, my mother hit the nail on the head in my opinion. Sally will most likely use this secret she knows as leverage to get everything she wants from her father. I think that might explain that smile on her face when she was watching the smackdown Glen delivered to Rollo. She’s enjoying this experiment that she conducted with Glen, and he reacted perfectly according to her script. She’s ready to begin manipulating her father. Is this how she feels Betty operates as well? I don’t know if the discovery of her father’s adultery was the catalyst or the entire driving event.

I have to give some kudos to ol’ Roge for his continuous bon mots referencing Kenny’s eye patch in that scene where Pete’s given the Chevy account officially. That was an enjoyable scene.

What did you guys think? This is quite a setup for the final episode, isn’t it?

 

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Nine

Happy Memorial Day!!

A few brief thoughts since today is a holiday and I’m ready to get outside and enjoy the beautiful day:

Unless I misheard, Peggy had the line of the episode talking about Ted vs. Don and the navigating she and the rest of the agency are doing to accommodate the two giant egos. “The difference is that he’s interested in the idea, and you’re interested in your idea.” That is the truth nougat right there. And it’s the reason I’m far more interested in watching Ted in action than Don these days.

Don’s not a sociopath, right? His biggest issue with the Jaguar account (aside from Herb’s general asshattery) was the nastiness with Herb and Joan which suggests a moral code. But for some reason when I watched that scene with Don, Betty and Bobby at lunch, what kept running through my mind was, Is he a sociopath? I’m not shocked that Don and Betty slept together. I think it did Betty no harm provided Henry remains in the dark, so, for once, Betty got the better end of the deal. I really enjoyed watching her out-Don Don.

Bob Benson. Bob, Bob, Bob. I’m intrigued to see what happens when he shows his true colors. I don’t think that story arc is going to have a happy ending.

Peggy and Ted. Peggy and Stan. Well, we knew it wasn’t going to be Peggy and Abe for the long haul. Awkward break-up there. Peggy couldn’t really let him have it while he’s sitting there all stab-wounded by her. I don’t know whether to root for a Peggy and Ted or a Peggy and Stan result. I think I’m leaning towards Peggy and Stan. Poor Ted. I’m gratified to see that he’s fighting his feelings. It makes me think I had him pegged correctly when I said he was a good guy. UPDATE: Except that I just watched the episode I recorded and realized that I missed a lot in the final scene. Looks like Ted had me fooled after all since it appears he’s only interested in an unobtainable Peggy. Well, I’ve been rooting for Stan for multiple seasons now. Treat her right, Stan. She deserves it.

Finally, the ‘Mad Men’ premiere I’ve been anticipating for so long

NOTE: Spoilers below

So, you’d think if a person was desperate for the return of one of their favorite shows ever that person might have had the sense to check the time that show was premiering, right? Well, no. But my DVR had me covered, and I was able to skip the commercials which made viewing more enjoyable anyway. I have to start with the “Oooh look, shiny things!” part. ‘Breaking Bad’ is coming soon as well as ‘The Killing’ which the promos sprinkled helpfully through the ‘Mad Men’ premiere kept promising. As ‘Breaking Bad’ shares favorite drama ever status with ‘Mad Men,’ I’m obviously impatient for the final episodes to start airing.

As far as the ‘Mad Men’ premiere goes, my favorite exchange of the night occurred when Mona was comforting Roger after his mother’s funeral. He’s saying he feels nothing and he needs a drink. Mona says, “She lived a long time. She knew that you loved her. So maybe there’s nothing to drink about.” Of course Roger says that he feels he didn’t spend enough time with her, but Mona’s point is taken. No guilt. No regrets. About that relationship. But he has family that he needs to be more mindful about, and he could use his relationship with his mother as a reference point.

My least favorite exchange of the night goes to Betty and Henry discussing raping Sandy. WTH was up with that? Wouldn’t any girl be lucky to have a benefactor like Betty? The scene with just Sandy and Betty had me twitchy waiting for Betty to do something irrevocable. I have trouble feeling sympathetic for Betty’s character though I certainly did when she was hitched to ol’ cheatin’ Don, and I think that rapey talk with Henry might have been the last straw coupled with her continuing neglect of Sally while, as usual, showing more interest in other people’s children.

There was so much else to appreciate about the episode, but every scene with Peggy was a pure delight. I’m glad that she’s still in touch with Stan. I love how she has become such a force. She always had it in her so it’s true to that character. But it’s just so much fun to see her hit her stride and being appreciated for her value. It was long overdue. I’m starting to love you, Chaough!

I’m so surprised that Don is cheating again. /sarcasm