Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, New Business (SPOILERS)

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Justina Mintz/AMC

SPOILERS BELOW!

I’m late again with this post. Can you blame me? Weren’t there a fair amount of new people running around there that we needed to decide whether to invest time into getting to know or not? I mean there are FIVE episodes left, right? FIVE?????? Maybe I’m miscounting? I’m not great at math. But this is pretty easy math, and I’m feeling confident that I can do it. I’ve got plenty of digits to get this one accomplished. So, what in the hell, Weiner? Also, I couldn’t give two shits about Sylvia and Arnold and their smug dismissal of Don. Sure, Don’s been un(?)intentionally campaigning to change the term shit spiral to Don spiral. But if I remember correctly, our friend Sylvia was a willing participant in their little let’s-introduce-Sally-into-how-truly-awful-the-real-world-actually-is. So let’s quit it with the judgment there, pot. The kettle looks horrendous, but you’re black, too.

I have to take a minute and plead with Rog to stop with the pornstache. It fits him, and this episode just made the pornstache even more on point, but I just can’t take it anymore. Marie, you DID see the pornstache, right? And you do feel Roger’s utter lack of investment, right? You’re trading one man for his exact replica. At least from the very small bit of info we were provided in this episode. At the very least, you’re unhappy with your current husband? Roger will make you equally unhappy as he is not a long-term strategy.

I’m not going to tackle the Megan and Don bit. I’m disappointed in the information we were given here. I think Megan was intentionally demonized. Perhaps justifiably, perhaps not. I have no idea. Without the backstory, there’s no way to know. I refuse to weigh in on it.

The most interesting part for me with the arrival of our most interesting new character (Hi Mimi!!) was Peggy’s and Stan’s BS meters and the effectiveness of them. Stan’s doesn’t work at all. Maybe just when it comes to women, but I think flattery will get you almost anywhere with Stan. Peggy is a far more suspicious type. And while I think a fair amount of this can be attributed to Peggy’s personality, I think this is a continuation of last week’s commentary on what women were dealing with back then. Even when dealing with other women. They were always on the alert and sussing out the adversary’s agenda. Because in those days, just about everyone was an adversary, and everyone needed to be viewed as such until proven otherwise. There was an initial flicker of surprise that Stan fell for it, followed immediately by a look of disgust at his weakness, and then there was that small and not quite satisfactory bit of smugness that she spotted what was occurring immediately. I thought that was the most interesting piece of the entire episode though it made me lose any hope for a Peggy and Stan relationship because she lost so much respect for him.

Don’s and Diana’s approaches to dealing with their tragic circumstances are very telling. Diana’s would seem to be much more cynical and Don’s more optimistic. Don’s would seem to be the try and try again approach. But Don is an ostrich. Continually sticking his head in the sand and never really learning from his mistakes. I think he’s turning the corner, but that’s not the point that I’m trying to make. Diana is hurting. And Diana knows that the only path to salvation, though she may only know this deep down, is through the wallowing in the grief and letting it fester and finally heal. It’s a great and interesting juxtaposition that appears to show her as the one whose approach is least healthy, yet, I think, is the one that will lead, in the end, to the lasting salvation. Let’s hope I’m wrong because I’m actually really hoping for a Don salvation with the end of the series. Do I think it’s realistic? Not really. But I’m hoping for it anyway.

I’ll do better next week. I promise. These last two episodes were both disjointed for me. I don’t want to say that I’m disappointed, but I’m looking for some forward movement next episode. And Sally. Please, let’s have Don and Sally together again.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, Severance (SPOILERS)

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC

SPOILERS BELOW!

I’m going to continue my Mad Men day after posts. And I’m going to try to post early the day after, but this episode had me reeling, so it’s late. Late, late, late. Blame the moosetaches!! Listen, the sheer number of moosetaches (yes, I’m taking spelling liberties so you’ll understand what I shout in my head or out loud whenever one tries to steal the scene, because I feel it’s warranted based on the ludicrous aspect of these top-lip riders I was forced to endure through the entire episode), threw me entirely out of the episode until Rachel appeared during Don’s dream sequence. And then I spent the whole time from when Rachel appeared up until we discovered that she was dead, shipping Don and Rachel. Again. Because I always thought she was his lobster. I did have to giggle when his secretary said she was going to get Don a sandwich when she saw he was upset about hearing she was dead.

And then I ruminated on the fact that Don watched Bert perform a stockinged-foot, obvi, dance number posthumously and now was spending brief but flirty time with Rachel, also, posthumously, so what did that mean? Had Don started hitting the serious drugs, no doubt with Rog’s encouragement? Was this some strange inter-network crossover tv event where the ghost hunter crew was going to stop by for some silly hijinks and mess up my show? Was someone going to die next? Well, obviously, the deaths are portentous, and now I’m extremely worried about my boy, Ken. Also, I’m really going to need Ken to wear that eyepatch 24/7, because I’m getting weirded out for the actor by the sight of that eye. And that’s saying something because that was during his I-don’t-button-my-pj-top scene where I made sure to focus on his pecticles just in case he was equally lackadaisical about his pj pants, and we were going to have a twig and berries sighting. But back to Ken’s weird eye in that scene. It looked glued shut or something. Let’s keep the eyepatch on for everyone’s sake. Don’t go method, Aaron, and take a sharp object to it to be all super serious about your craft. Dude, there are only six eps. left. Eyepatch. All the time. So, it took two rewatches for me to figure out how to block out the moosetaches, focus and actually take in stuff. And hoo boy, I know I missed so much even still. I cannot wait to start reading what everybody else wrote, so I’ll know what actually happened during that slightly schizo episode. (I’m not complaining. There’s a lot of setting up to do, people. We only have six eps left to wrap this whole mess up. I’m not sure why Ken’s chestage got so much air time as I hardly feel it’s going to be a major player in the end game, but I’m not Matthew Weiner.) Anyway, here’s the lightning round:

Notes

  • I always thought Rachel was the only woman that was the right match for Don, but the timing when they met was completely wrong. He was far too immature to understand that he needed a fully ego-formed, independent woman who knew exactly what she wanted. She was confident and mature. And the bittersweetness of watching him realize how right the path not taken would have been cross his face as he looked over at her children was extremely impactful. I’m continually amazed at what Hamm is able to convey with facial expression alone. What I saw in Don’s expression was the realization that he has chosen the wrong path that leads to his destruction every time, and this is the first time that I’ve seen that fundamental truth really resonate with him. I’ve seen him continue to reach the realization that he keeps messing up and needs to clean that slate again, but this is the first time that it appears that he really understands that it’s his actions and his actions alone that have created each destructive path.
  • Ken. It’s not looking good for my favorite. I love Pete’s brand of crazy misanthrope, but if we need to throw someone off the building, I choose Pete over Ken. And come on. The wine spill. Yikes that made me nervous. Portent. Watch your back, Kenny. However, his last piece of business with Rog and Pete was AWESOME!! Yes, I did pump my fist in the air. Luckily, I was alone. Unfortunately, I did just confess this embarrassing fact to you.
  • OK. Time to talk about the scene with Pegs and Joan in the elevator. I’ll get this part all wrong. I can’t wait to read what others say about this, but here goes. I’m not even going to give the McCann idiots in the conference room the time of day. Pathetic. I just hope that Joan gets revenge for having to sit through that bilious bullshit. There’s not enough time in the day to unpack that little exchange between Peggy and Joan in the elevator. But I felt so much for Joan there. Even looking up there, you can tell that Joan isn’t dressed at all inappropriately. Well, I guess she could have worn a sack. That would have been quite business-like. The point is this. Joan is always dressed very office-appropriate. Is her body gorgeous? Of course it is. I’m not going to pretend it’s not. But she is dressing nothing like Peggy is insinuating that she is. And really, so what if she was dressed more “provocatively” as long as it met company dress code guidelines? Would that make it ok for the men to remark constantly and with no regard to her obvious annoyance on her body in a meeting clearly intended to be focused on business? No. But that’s not even the case here. And Peggy has no sympathy for her. What’s interesting is that Peggy throws that last bit out about all the money Joan now has after the McCann deal as a misdirection ploy. Peggy finally got how really upset Joan was and realized that she was not much better than the McCann men in the end if she was brushing off how what Joan dealt with was similar to what Peggy experienced. As rough as Peggy as had it, she has garnered a great deal of respect from her peers and her reports. And it was clear in that meeting with the McCann bozos that all of their comments were directed only at Joan. Joan will never escape that type of attention. It’s an extra cross that Joan must bear in addition to what Peggy experiences. It was a sad commentary on how women can have trouble supporting each other when we are busy dealing with our own injustices, but I think Peggy will rectify this. She has done so in the past. She’ll have a tone-deaf reaction to something, but she knows how to reflect on her mistake and at least try to make things right.
  • Stan!! I heart Stan. Still shipping Stan and Pegs even though that date was a lot of fun to watch. Peggy was so overdue.

 

Joan and Peggy vs. McCann-Erickson? #MadMen #AMC

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Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, Waterloo (SPOILERS)

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Jaimie Trueblood/AMC

SPOILERS BELOW!

Don’s no angel. He’s about as flawed as a human can get. And yet, Weiner and co. have done such a fine job crafting this complex, complete, and sympathetic character that I find myself rooting for Don over one of my all-time favorites: Joan. I’m glad they finally explained Joan’s animosity towards Don. It makes perfect sense that money trumps friendship for her. It has to. She’s a single parent. I really can’t fathom how difficult it would be to raise a child in those times with the double standards she faced and that suffocating glass ceiling that even she can’t surmount. This was why last week’s revelation that even Joan will hold out for love instead of accepting Bob’s pragmatic “offer” for the sake of her child was heartbreaking and touching. To find out that ball-buster Joan is a romantic at heart really makes her storyline all the more tragic. And that we are getting this insight into Joan now, allowing us to look back on all that she has endured throughout the course of the series, makes the impact more forceful. What’s worse for me is that, while Don’s childhood was certainly not self-inflicted, the fact that he continues to redefine what it means to hit his own rock bottom certainly has been. That I should be rooting for Don now and angry at Joan for trying to eject him from the firm is outrageous. He has brought all of this on himself. And yet, I’m fully on team Don. Is it Jon Hamm? Is it Weiner? I’m guessing it is a combination of superior work on both of their parts. To clarify, I don’t mean to say that Christina Hendricks isn’t knocking it out of the ballpark. She’s wonderful in that role. I have always adored that character, and I feel that the character’s arc has been satisfying and realistic.

Goodbye Bert Cooper

We knew someone would probably be leaving us this year. Did you see his face as Apollo 11 launched? That was a face of satisfaction and completion. (You can see in his later reaction to the moon landing that he never doubted that the mission would be a success.) Anyone who was watching this episode with the knowledge that one of the characters was going to die would know it was Bert. Robert Morse performed a Jon Hamm facial delivery of lines in that scene. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Bert over the course of the series. It’s been love up until the past few episodes when I thought his hatred of Don was a bit outsized for the passage of time. But Bert’s loss will definitely be felt because he grounded them. It was interesting to see how quickly Roger was able to manage his grief and become galvanized. I fully expected Roger to wallow, so that was one of the better reactions to Bert’s death that we saw. Certainly Cutler’s reaction was the worst. Wholly expected but no less despicable.

The fantastic Morse musical number at the end of the episode was a real treat. I’ll admit to wearing the exact same expression that Don wore for the first few seconds because it came out of left field, and I struggled to ascertain what it meant for Don’s state of mind. Then, I just relaxed and enjoyed it. I told myself that Don’s unpickling brain is saying goodbye in the only way it can. I refuse to assume that Don will head for the bottle as a reaction to Bert’s ghostly reappearance.

Cutler Makes His Power Play

“You think you’re going to throw me out of my own company?” – Don.

Here’s the thing. Cutler should have known he didn’t have the pieces in place quite yet to make this move. He had to know that Don would make another move that would have given him two justifications to fire Don for cause. I imagine he thought he had Bert firmly in his corner. I actually thought he did, too. But Harry hadn’t signed the agreement yet. So why do this now? But I’m certainly glad Cutler made the play because I love a fired-up Don, and the scene of gathered partners was a delight to witness. Don’s face when he saw Joan vote against him was sad, but his recovery was swift. It’s great to see that he’s in game play mode.

“You’re just a bully and a drunk. A football player in a suit.” – Cutler.

Cutler, a word of advice, don’t insult the wound-up man in front of you before all the other partners have weighed in. It’s not a wise plan. But you do have a way with words. Perhaps you might try your hand with tags? If a power shift comes, you might want to have a back-up plan.

Peggy Had a Baby

I love the callback to Peggy’s baby who would be near Julio’s age. Moss kills it in these scenes. You know she is remembering that baby without any wasted dialogue to cheapen it. Someone last night tweeted that they thought Peggy would be a great mom, and I agree. She’d be dedicated to her work, of course. But I have no doubt she’d be a terrific mother.

The Moon Landing

If you didn’t tear up watching the various gatherings and reactions to the moon landing, you’re made of sterner stuff than I. And you most certainly are anyway. But it was interesting to see how different people processed the momentous success. “Bravo.” – Bert who thankfully got to see them land before he died. I’m so glad to see that the Burger Chef team had zero interest in any impact that the landing might have on their presentation. They were all fully caught up in the spirit of the event. Not that I would expect otherwise. How could you at that time be anything other than overwhelmed by the magical wonder of humans reaching a realm never before breached. Well, except for Sally’s crush who wants to posture and show off. And then Don, who can still be swept away by magic, calls Sally. I love that conversation between a typical teenager whose hormones are on overdrive and her parent. Sally can muster only minimal enthusiasm for a phone call with her dad, but you see in her actions that the conversation made an impact on her despite all appearances.

I say, and I’m not sure that others will agree, that Sally went after star child because of Don’s reaction to the moon landing. And I’m really gratified to see the relationship between Don and Sally on such solid footing. It’s my second favorite relationship of the series: second only to Don and Peggy’s. I also say, and everyone else says the same thing I’m sure, that Sally standing outside smoking is a mirror image of Betty. I don’t think that bodes well for Sally’s character arc.

The Burger Chef Presentation

“We have no liquor.” – Peggy

I love the Peggy and Don scene. Don insists that Peggy give the presentation, not only because he knows she needs it to retain the business for herself in the event he’s fired, but because he knows she can win the business. It’s nice forward movement on their relationship that was healed so nicely in the last episode, and it’s more evidence of Don’s respect for her that Peggy has earned and needs to hear. It’s a great effect to have us experience the beginning of the BC presentation from Peggy’s perspective. It’s a real men’s club, and I felt just as nervous as I was supposed to feel. When she coughed, my throat responded by feeling less tight. Don’s opener was short and simple, yet set her up having to hit a home run. And I’ll admit I watched Don’s face in the background as she began, and I thought his face showed a lot of tension. I thought that was troublesome as you wouldn’t want to appear anything other than confident and supportive when someone on your team is presenting. But I realized that Don hasn’t played this role before and doesn’t know how to let go of the reins. He has no idea how to truly trust someone else in this situation. I believe he fully trusted Peggy to deliver, but he couldn’t control his expressions because he’s had no practice. But Don’s inability to fully control his reactions didn’t matter because Peggy nailed it! And the look that Peggy and Don share as she begins to deliver the details of the ad is intimate and earned and made the hostility that she showed to Don upon his return to the agency more bearable in the end.

Roger Makes His Power Play

I didn’t know Roger had a power play of this magnitude left in him until Bert died. The seeds were sowed in “The Strategy,” of course. I know Roger could have put this together with Don’s help, but I enjoyed watching Roger make the magic happen on his own. I just wish it was a different play. I realized watching it all play out, that I was, and still am, hoping for a Don, Pete, and Peggy agency. I’m happy with this as a stopgap, however.

Notes

  • The way Don’s secretary gives him the news about his firing was particularly funny. And then, particularly weird when you think back to all the times when Don took “liberties” when he shouldn’t have. And then, funny again.

  • Pete was funnier than ever this episode.

During the “private” call between Cutler and Chaough, Pete makes clear he’s been listening in the entire time because he can’t contain himself any longer.

“That is a very sensitive piece of horseflesh. He shouldn’t be rattled!”

“Marriage is a racket!”

“I’ve got 10 percent!” Pete says with glee upon hearing about the McCann deal.

  • I’m going to need a bigger Lou funeral pyre, metaphorically speaking. I certainly hope that we witness a spectacular Lou/Don showdown when the series returns to wrap everything up next year. I need more of Lou’s wonky underbite coupled with powerless indignation!
  • The Burger Chef presentation prep was fun to watch if only to see the genesis for Harry’s failure to sign off on his partnership in time; to see how much faith Don has in Peggy as he tells Pete not to worry about the specifics about what Peggy will say; and to see Don’s face as he registers that Pete’s so utterly certain that Don will be perfect that he doesn’t even need to see him present even the generalities, let alone the specifics. It’s the moon landing that holds them all hostage.
  • Did you see the smile on Ken’s face when Joan says to Harry, “You’re not a partner, yet.” He can deliver a smug grin with a patch just fine. Huzzah, Aaron Staton!
  • I thought Megan could have timed her revealing to Don that they had finally officially broken up a little better. Maybe give it another day or two for him to digest what just happened. After all, he wasn’t going to relocate to California in the next day. He’s reeling from this move by Cutler. But they both knew it was over when she moved her things over her last visit, even though Don refused to acknowledge it. If I let the timing go, I can acknowledge that that final call was quietly dignified and appropriate for the relationship that they shared. As far as Don’s horribly dysfunctional relationships go, his with Megan was heartwarming at times.
  • I loved seeing that Roger and Mona watched the moon landing together.
  • When Roger’s voice breaks as he tells Don that he’s going to lose him too, I almost teared up. FINE! I did tear up!
  • I watched Don’s and Pete’s faces when Peggy mentioned the 10yo boy in her apartment, but I only detected the slightest of reactions on Pete’s face and virtually none on Don’s. I’m not entirely surprised by Don’s non-reaction, but I was actually expecting a little more reaction from Pete. However, this is Pete. He’s probably not thought about that child in years, so the reaction was probably spot on.

See You Next Year

And now I can go read the other reviews to see how much I got wrong about this season finale. It was wonderful and impressive, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it a year until the remaining 7 episodes air.