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

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by AMC

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I wanted to get this done yesterday. Really, I did. But that episode needed two views because it was a beautiful thing. I saw one reviewer who noted that he felt handled throughout the episode, and I felt similarly. And like that reviewer –I can’t remember who it was or I’d link– I found it perfectly fine, too. The episode was vintage Mad Men, and just because I could see behind the curtain a little bit didn’t diminish my enjoyment in the slightest. Everyone was killing it, and there probably has to be some viewer-steering here in the last few hours if we are to make it through to the end with so many pieces left in the puzzle to place. Even Weiner can’t trust us quite that much, and he’s been pretty trusting up until now. It’s one of my favorite things about him. He’s placed a lot of critical character development in the “hands” of Jon Hamm’s facial expressions sparing the dialog that could diminish the effect (or affect, for that matter). Hamm’s face has delivered, and here we are with a really good understanding of a very flawed, very nuanced character who isn’t easily categorized as either good or bad — just human, and real, and deeply damaged. Also, toxic to any woman with whom he becomes romantically involved.


 

So, there’s no mistaking the obvious. This is the alternate ending version of “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.” As it should be, since it’s impossible to believe they could deliver yet another magical maneuver to free themselves from the clutches of the devil. I saw it coming, although I never stopped rooting for the happy ending. Right up until Don’s fur salesman desperation showed up instead of his usual ad-man swagger, and Jim told him to sit down before he even managed to make the full play. That shot of their faces as Jim Hobart listed the big names, and told them they are dying and going to advertising heaven was like a kick in the gut.

Only Ted smiles during the portion of the meeting when it becomes clear that Sterling Cooper West is not to be. It was ominous that Hobart used the word dying, and certainly devastating and telling that he didn’t even bother to list Avon for Joan despite the fact that it’s her client, which leaves her completely empty-handed. They sold their soul to the devil, and after trying to outrun him, he finally caught up to collect. (This whole meeting made me very suspicious that Cutler’s stealing that fifth spot from Joan which will not be ok.)


 

I’ve loved the idea of Stan and Peggy for a long time. They genuinely like and respect each other. There’s a chemistry there, and they balance each other out really well. I loved that Peggy talked about her son with Stan. That scene was such a well-acted scene in an episode loaded with them. I thought Stan’s dawning realization of what Peggy was revealing was particularly well-done. It was just such a quiet and effective exchange.

They may not give the relationship a try before the series ends, but make no mistake. Stan and Peggy will become a couple. I’m perfectly satisfied with it even if we don’t get a peek into what that might look like in these final episodes because I think this scene did the remaining bit of pre-work so well that I can fill in the blanks.


 

Roger’s going to be ok. At least for a while. Because he hasn’t really figured out how not ok he is yet. And I love that character so much, that I’m rooting for continued unenlightenment for him. But Don’s figured it out. He’s always known really. He’s just always thought there was something or someone that or who would ease his pain if only he keeps searching. That he would find the answer someday. But I think Don’s figured out that he’ll never be ok. So for me, the key moment in this entire episode was when Roger’s kissed Don on the cheek and said reassuringly, “You are ok.” Because there are so many ways to read that moment. On the second watch, Don’s face as he watches Roger leave makes me think that he realizes that having a man like Roger, equally against the prospect of working for McCann and in a romantic relationship with its obvious negatives, reassure you that you’re ok is not a good turn of events. It means that you are on “suicide watch” so to speak. So, of course, I’m keeping Don on suicide watch because I’ve already had him on the watch since the past couple of episodes have had a troubling comment or facial expression to make me concerned.

I really did enjoy that hint of the old Roger and Don magic at the bar, despite the underlying current of impending disaster, because I’ve always loved watching those two banter and play off each other. I know there were a lot of ways that people read the comment from Don, “What’s in a name?” but I think Don means that in an all-encompassing way, not in a way to exclude any other meaning. For him, it’s just a fundamental point. Names mean exactly nothing. He may not know about Kevin, but he probably suspects. I’d actually be surprised if he doesn’t. But the comment isn’t just about Kevin not getting the legitimacy of the Sterling name. It’s not just that they lost the agency name to McCann. It’s not just about Don not being Don Draper, although it’s certainly that at the foundation. But it’s about so much more than that. Because to Don, it’s not about the name. It’s about the meaning. The substance. It’s why he’s breaking down. His entire life has been built on a lie. But even as he wants to erase the lies, he’s still working in advertising. And he’s still Don Draper. He’s existentially bereft. And he’s no longer in denial about it, which makes me worry very much about his surviving the series finale, although I can’t deny it would make perfect sense for the character’s arc.


 

I absolutely hate that Lou left feeling that he had the upper hand over Don. It’s a disgustingly unearned “victory” for Lou and entirely unsatisfactory for me. I realize that the viewers and Don are in on the joke that his comic is unlikely to be successful, but it still feels pretty great to Lou especially since he got an advance. It’s clearly not an unwarranted smugness that he’s feeling as he snots to Don about his “miserable life,” and it’s certainly not the exit I had planned for Lou. I wanted to see Don dance on his funeral pyre. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

It’s almost over. And I’m still in denial.

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

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by AMC

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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, New Business (SPOILERS)

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Justina Mintz/AMC

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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

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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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