Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, Time Zones (SPOILERS)

(SPOILERS BELOW)

FREDDY! Wait, Freddy? As I was listening to him deliver that  campaign, all I could think was, “Freddy has come a long way since the pissing-the-pants days. I had no idea he was capable of anything of that caliber, and I did have a little nagging piece of a thought kernel in the back of my mind that I should have realized was worthy of inspection. I’m sure I was the only person who thought to myself, “Oh, of course, you fool,” when Freddy showed up at Don’s. But I digress. I wasn’t surprised to see it was Peggy he was pitching it to. I wasn’t even surprised to see she wasn’t the new Don instead of that dolt, Lou, but I was certainly disappointed. A word about the new Don: Dullsville. As someone who has worked in the advertising world before, albeit in the media buying piece of it, I can say that the creative arm of advertising is where the excitement is. If Lou had been sucking the life out of the creative area of the ad firm where I worked, I certainly wouldn’t have been desperately praying nightly to the gods of career advancement for any opportunity to jump to that area.

Don: Ever since Don and Sally shared that look at the end of season six while standing in front of the whorehouse where Don grew up, I have been waiting for this season to start with unbearable anticipation. Would this be, FINALLY, the season where Don would start to show some character growth? I felt that look they shared, as well as the fact that he took them to his childhood home in the first place, was a giant first step. So, I watched this episode with a hyper focus on Don, and Jon Hamm’s facial expressions as he plays Don with a tightly-controlled intensity that leaves me mystified as to the dearth of Emmy wins.

I am a little surprised to see that Megan and Don are still together. I thought the bicoastal preview was telling. They are clearly living separate lives and that is currently working for them. “You’re not here long enough for a fight.” In their first scene, I was struck how Megan just sets the scene by getting out of the car and walking over to Don. She just looks like California to me. And he looks like New York, or more simply, not California. She’s in the driver’s seat literally and figuratively out there. I am interested in seeing if there’s more from her perspective to explain Don’s lines, “She knows I’m a terrible husband.” “She doesn’t know that much, but she knows.” But this line, “I keep wondering, have I broken the vessel,” is the key to why they are still together, I think.

All of those references. Sorry, but I have to get back to work. The second time, surprisingly, is Don’s reason why he declines his attractive sleep partner’s invitation to party. “Why would I expect anything else?” “Well, blame Madison Avenue for that.” Those couple of references earlier in the episode to getting back to work are why it wasn’t a big reveal when Freddy walks into Don’s apartment. It was terrific, don’t get me wrong, but they had done their work in the episode to set up the reveal which I always appreciate. And I thought, “OK, it’s better at least. Don’s lied so many times. But when he said he’s got to get back to work he was actually getting back to work.” And in his mind, he probably thinks he’s close to legit since he’s still getting paid from SC&P for whom he’s doing the work through Freddy. Well, he’s doing work for other agencies, too, but I suspect that might be at Freddy’s urging. Of course, Freddy’s got bigger plans. He’s got the muse at his disposal, and he’s making a name for himself.

I am curious to see where the season leads, but I saw some signs of progress, with a clear signal that you should never bet on him. Watching him try to close those sliding doors had my feet sweating. I focus on the man falling in the opening credits as I’m supposed to, and I cast Don as that man again, though I’ve cast a few others over the seasons. That last scene was very effective. I wonder if Don will remain that man as the season progresses, or if they will try to have us substitute one or two others again. (A quick aside: does the clue to who will be the man falling in the opening credits lie in who remains in a suit during the entirety of the series? I’m sure that’s a stupid question as the opening credits have probably been meant to lead us astray all along. And here I am. Astray.)

Joan: My primary focus was on Don this episode, but after Joan pulled that fantastic Avon maneuver last season, she was my secondary focus. I’m thrilled to see her come into her own here. She’s always been the backbone of the agency, but it’s so good to see her do something for herself. She’s always done what she’s had to do to keep the agency going. Now, she’s obviously got the agency’s best interests in mind, but she’s making moves to further her own agenda. It’s great to see because I have no doubt she’ll succeed. “Actually I can answer that. You’re going to need another pad.” I loved watching her checkmate the shoe guy who wanted to bring the advertising in house. He was in over his head, and it was fun to watch her take him down.

Roger: I didn’t expect Roger to be embracing that lifestyle quite so fully, but it makes some sense with his ally Don gone, the agency leaning more Cutler, Chaough, rather than Cooper, Sterling, and the environment at work more productive and, therefore, even less Roger-friendly. He’s feeling lost, aimless, and alone. Clearly, the lifestyle doesn’t fit him well, though. I expect something tragic’s coming Roger’s way.

Ken: Head of accounts sure doesn’t agree with poor Ken, and I am so sad to see that the eyepatch is a permanent fixture. Makes for good physical comedy, I guess. Poor Ken. I love the guy and to see that he has effectively swapped places with Pete makes me die a little inside.

Peggy: It breaks my heart to see Peggy so sad at the end. All she has is work, and she works for a douche without a soul. But worse than that for her, she works for a douche without a soul who lacks talent. He has no vision or creativity. That creative meeting was polite and lifeless: lacking any creative fire and invention. There was plenty of ass-kissing which I’m interested in seeing explored further as Lou seems to me like all bark and no bite. Clearly that’s not correct since they all seem much more intimidated by him than they ever were by Don. Thank goodness she still has Stan. “None of this seems related to coffee. Buck up, chief.” I thought there was a romantic spark there between those two, and I am still hoping for that. I think they are good for each other. 

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 Eleven

Well, that episode was kind of a big deal.

And the walls come crashing down!! I wish it hadn’t fallen to Sally to bring Don’s recently-constructed glass house to the ground. She’s been let down so many times by the adults in her life, and I had hoped that her glimpse into Roger and her step-grandmother’s sexual side might be her last inappropriate brush with the secret lives of grown-ups. I can’t imagine her healing from this enormous betrayal by her father who was already way behind on the scorecard. The one thing he had to offer was that he “supports her dreams” but that won’t be enough to soothe the pain of this horrifying discovery. And Don’s pathetic explanation that he was “comforting Sylvia” is never going to fly with Sally. Sally sees the distinction between husband “comforting” his wife and neighbor from upstairs “comforting” other man’s wife.

Watching Don and Sylvia’s conversation, it’s again clear that this relationship was one of Don’s most meaningful. He’s always been more invested in his flings and his friendships than his socially-recognized romantic relationships. Of course Don’s ability to care for anyone only goes so deep. While he has deep feelings for Sylvia, he doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of her gratitude and talks her into bed again.

That Don had to endure the gratitude from Arnold and Mitchell followed by Megan’s adoration and kiss in front of Sally was perfect and I hope he’s developing a really nice ulcer. He’s got enough of a moral compass left that he felt a healthy kick to the gut when he had to suffer through that charade with the added punch of “Sylvia sends her gratitude. She’s overwhelmed.” He deserves far, far worse than that of course for what he’s put all the women in his life through.

Poor Peggy had to endure a few bombs from Pete’s mom, although that first one was a surprising direct hit. I’m always surprised when there’s a mention of Peggy and Pete’s child, but now the child has been alluded to twice in the past few episodes which makes me wonder what’s coming in the final episodes of the season. I enjoyed the easy banter between Peggy, Pete and Ted, and it’s clear that Ted is still trying to battle his feelings for Peggy. I hope I can still root for Ted when all is resolved one way or the other. Peggy and Pete have a nice familiarity with each other that I hope desperately doesn’t end up with Peggy settling for Pete. It would be terrific for Pete to be hitched with Peggy. She’s such a shining star in so many ways, but he’d be terrible for her. That Pete was so repulsed by Bob’s advance was disappointing since I thought Pete was more open-minded and progressive. Hey Pete, a no thanks would have been all that was needed here. With his racist response to the prostitute that his father-in-law was with and his response to Bob’s advance, it’s clear that Pete’s progressive stance has been more about appearances than about seeking to change the status quo. Which is good in one way. It means that my intense dislike of Pete has been justified all along. I would find myself on the Pete Campbell love train from time to time when it seemed that he had more progressive leanings. Now I know it was all about trying to be correctly positioned to take advantage of changes in the business climate and didn’t reflect his own personal views.

I wish Peggy didn’t have to be on rat patrol because Abe talked her into buying a fixer-upper, but I thought her late night phone call to Stan was a nice payoff. I still think those two have such great chemistry: the actors and the characters. I’m rooting for that relationship to gain more focus over the next episodes because I really enjoy watching them.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Five

NOTE: Spoilers Below

Abe is a nice foil to the rest of the male characters that we spend time with in ‘Mad Men’ world, and I really love the glimpses into his character. It’s too bad there’s no real passion in his and Peggy’s relationship because there’s a nice easiness there. There seems to be something more than the professional between Peggy and Ted. In that scene between Peggy, Ted, and Ted’s wife, I got the distinct impression that Ted might be mentioning Peggy a little too much at home. I still believe Stan and Peggy have a connection as well. Of course the ‘Mad Men’ fanfic folks have that angle covered.

I’m sure the fact that the announcement that Martin Luther King was killed was met with immediate acceptance instead of that initial moment of disbelief was deliberate and very representative of the uncertainty of the times. It was fascinating to see how everyone reacted. That Harry reacted the way he did wasn’t surprising at all, but the fact that Pete was the counterpoint reaction was. But this reaction of Pete’s (and Don’s scene with Megan at the end of the episode) underscores again what I love about ‘Mad Men.’ Every time I’m tempted to paint a character with broad strokes and dismiss him/her outright based on some vile behavior, we get further insight that makes us rethink things. There are always nuances to explore in each of the characters and none of them, thankfully, fit into an easy stereotype.

Megan’s award sitting on the sofa forgotten is an interesting reminder to Don of how everything comes so easy to Megan in Don’s eyes. She effortlessly cares for the kids that he has no idea how to raise. She wins an award for an ad campaign that she dabbled in for about a minute. Her acting career is going well — she’s certainly on an upward trend. She is at the beginning of what looks to be a successful career and he is struggling to maintain credibility and relevance. I doubt Megan would agree with the assessment that everything comes easy to her, but, certainly from Don’s perspective, she leads a charmed life.

This episode was significant, and it’s time to bring in the pros. Take it away Orange Couch.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Four

As Megan tells Don about her upcoming onscreen love affair, Don says, “Honey, I can tolerate this, but I can’t encourage it,” without a trace of irony. And poor, naive Megan says, “You’re perfect.” Ah yes, this is one of many examples of what I love about ‘Mad Men.’ Dear Don, you are a giant hypocrite. Strangely, I have considered you redeemable until this episode. Now, you are dead to me. Don, meet Walt. Aside to Vince Gilligan, please don’t do this to Jesse’s character.

So my thoughts in random order:

  • Harry is a knob. He comes up with something finally and thinks he’s now on par with Joan who has almost single-handedly been keeping that place running for years? Yeah, Harry, no. You’re a tool. Take your check from Bert and Roger, and consider yourself very lucky they didn’t laugh out loud when you again insisted you should be a partner. 
  • That was a pretty forceful swing proposal. And to have it come from your boss is awkward. Don didn’t bother to hide his disgust at their proclivity, but, um dude, glass houses.
  • Aw, Pegs. You earned the bird from Stan. Sorry ’bout that. I love ya, but I am surprised to say that I love Stan, too. But, congrats. That is one sweet campaign.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Three

NOTE: Spoilers Below

So things are status quo at the Campbell household? Pete is still a gross, leering, married man, and Trudy is adorable but a touch clueless to some of the underlying baseness around her. Or is she? I am so glad that she is such a ball-buster when pushed to her limit. Loved that scene where she finally told Pete off. Also, do the sideburns just totally transform Vincent’s face, or is it just me?

Interesting that we seem to have a continuing cigarette excuse that Don uses to go and shag the doctor’s wife. I hope that comes back to bite him later with the play on the husband continuing to tell him to quit each time he mentions the smokes. It’s so odd that I find Don to be more redeemable than Pete. They are both really detestable, so it’s strange that I see any redeemable qualities in Don. Maybe it’s because Don’s affairs are always relationships whereas Pete’s are brief flings — but no less dangerous, huh Pete? I have no idea why that seems to make a difference in acceptability subconsciously because as I typed it out they both sound equally contemptible to me.

Loved Peggy’s team getting a little laugh at her expense. Maybe this will start dislodging that stick of hers. But probably not. I do think it’s interesting that it took Chaough to push Peggy to pursue Heinz Ketchup. I knew she had a soft spot for the old crew, but I thought she was ambitious enough to go after Heinz on her own without needing Chaough to push her. And, of course, she may have gotten there. It will be interesting to see if she can overcome the remnants of her loyalty to Stan and Don to land the account.

I hope the whole Megan miscarriage bit is era-relevant instead of an agenda Weiner is trying to push because he’s got the vehicle to do so. It’s interesting to watch Megan and Don talk around the subject of kids without putting their cards fully on the table because my suspicion is that Don feels exactly as she does about a pregnancy because he doesn’t want more kids.

Of course, Don orders an old-fashioned at dinner. We get it already. He’s behind the times and out of touch. You don’t have to hit us over the head with it.