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 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 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 Ten

I watched The Killing before I watched Mad Men and it totally threw me off my game. And this episode of Mad Men was packed with things I wanted to address, but I don’t have time to watch the episode again to catch them all.

So here’s what I have for this week:

  • Don tries his hand at what I’m calling a suicide attempt regardless of the fact that he was on a bad trip (no, I’m not trying to make a pun there though I think this LA trip ranked far below his other trips to the west coast) and I’m thinking with the many balcony shots and sirens in Don’s scenes this season, the opening credits shot of the man falling feels awfully close at hand.

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  • I’m trying to be neutral about Ted after his treatment of Peggy last week. At best he was guilty of a miscue there in that last scene and that’s really giving him the benefit of the doubt. I know he’s guilty of some misconduct where Peggy is concerned. But I enjoy every scene that Ted’s in. It could be that Kevin Rahm is really effortless with his portrayal and I’m enjoying that aspect. Or it could be the character’s just likable and believable. I haven’t been able to suss it out yet. I think it’s clear that Ted and Bert are the peacekeepers in this crazy mess of a new agency. I thought the new name was a strange compromise, and I really wish we had been privy to Crazy Cutler and Ted discussing that.
  • As much as Don and Roger have been clinging to the old while trying to remain relevant as times change so rapidly around them, that scene when they arrived in LA was the most obvious visual evidence of how out of touch they still remain in many ways. Just looking at them in their suits standing next to silly Harry Crane who is far more comfortable in the current environment in every way was glaringly obvious. It was odd to think Harry might best these two in the end mainly because I find him to be so ridiculous and though he did anticipate the tv revolution, I’ve always felt that he backed into that. But he should get credit. His ideas are sound. I am becoming more and more annoyed with Roger’s inability to take anything seriously, and I really enjoyed the smackdown that he received via Jack and George at Carnation that directly challenged his New York condescension.
  • Watching how the haves and the have nots react to the political upheaval and upcoming election is interesting. Megan is the outlier because she is a member of the haves but is very affected by the rioting and the war and is frustrated by Don’s ability to distance himself from it. It was interesting to watch Ginsberg’s righteous anger be pierced and then fueled by Crazy Cutler’s technically correct but escalating comment that Ginsberg’s just a hypocritical hippy who cashes the paychecks funded by his enemy.

There’s so much I wanted to discuss about Joan and Peggy’s pursuit of Avon, but that deserves more than a brief mention in this post. “I thought it was a date, but it turned out to be better!” I hope Joan can land that account. That Pete will be the loser if Joan lands this is a nice payoff.

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.