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

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by AMC

SPOILERS BELOW!

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 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 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.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Eight

Another episode filled with flashbacks to Don’s childhood. What’s interesting about Don and his obsession with his less than Norman Rockwell childhood is that he’s so ashamed of it and yet it’s something he had no control over. However, he’s not the slightest bit ashamed of his adultery, his failure as a parent, or the way he manipulates and even bullies those around him to get his way (poor Sylvia) all of which he has complete control over.

That opening scene with Kenny and seeing the way everyone treats him when he comes in the office made me sad because Kenny has always been a favorite. Listen fellas, did you really think Chevy was going to be an easy ride? Give Kenny some love before justifiably freaking out over the timetable.

Crazy Cutler and his crazy drug pusher, I mean doctor….. That certainly gave us some much-needed levity. We don’t get much of that on this show, so you enjoy it when you get it. And of course, you always pay a price for levity, so you’re always on edge waiting for a repeat of something like this.

http://www.gifday.com/mad-men-lawnmower/

And when Stan lined up for his William Tell moment, I thought, here we go again. Fortunately it was nothing like the lawnmower scene but instead led to my favorite scene of this episode. I finally got the beginning of what I hope might eventually lead to a Peggy and Stan relationship. That scene was so touching, and the two of them were so sweet and tender. Two adjectives that I wouldn’t associate with either of those characters. After I thought that, I had to laugh because this is ‘Mad Men’ and there are so few characters that I can imagine attributing those adjectives to that I had to go back multiple seasons to find one: Carla.

Fun moments the drugs gave us:

  • Stan and Cutler racing.
  • Stan rapid-firing ideas for Chevy and Ginsberg interrupts him with his and when rejected says, “What, I’ve got nothing interesting to say because I’m not on drugs?” and Stan says, “No, you just flushed a toilet in my head.” Because it is like that when you are on a roll and you are interrupted. You lose your train of thought and you know you’ll never quite get that magic back.
  • Kenny’s amazing tap dance routine. I must have watched that 5 times it was so cool.
http://www.vulture.com/2013/05/mad-men-gif-ken-cosgrove-does-a-jig-dance.html
http://www.vulture.com/2013/05/mad-men-gif-ken-cosgrove-does-a-jig-dance.html
  • Crazy, out of control Don who is so earnest but so intense he’s pitiable. And Peggy watching crazy, out of control Don and trying to determine how best to manage him while suspecting that she’s watching him fall apart before her very eyes. It was funny to watch the creative suck-up say to Don with awe that he is as good as they say as he falls for Don’s inspirational speech of no substance, but it certainly drove the point home that Don was making to Kenny about his presence and the “timbre of [his] voice” being as important as the content which made it all the more important for him to be present for the Chevy pitches.

That cough that has been cropping up over the course of the show appears again and again I wonder if this foreshadows a serious sickness for Don?

Speaking of the price paid for levity, it wasn’t an over-the-top gory lawnmower scene this time. This time we got to watch Sally at home trying desperately to control a very scary situation where she understands how vulnerable she is and how ultimately she really has only herself to depend upon. And she has to be responsible not only for herself but her two brothers as well. No .gif for that. And certainly that is far more frightening than that lawnmower scene was. And after that, I respectfully request that there be no more levity because the bill due this time was a little steep. Those scenes were very tough to watch.

As a final word, I must enthusiastically applaud the last line of the episode. “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.” Perfection!

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.