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Wednesday, 22 of September of 2021

Tag » Mad Men

Mad Men – “To Have and To Hold”

“No, please. Let him go on.”

Megan and Don confused over dinner.

Say what now?

The gluttonous are described in especially sensory language and, if not as acutely structured as Canto V, Canto VI is piled with references and word choice that sing the damnable song of the overfed and forever slurping.

It’s important to distinguish gluttony from other sins, especially avarice. Gluttony is about selfishness more than actually acquiring possessions or things. It’s just about constantly feeding yourself even when it’s too much or too painful. When you’re withholding your spoils from others, specifically not in a miserly way so much as a constantly consuming way, that’s gluttony.

The buffet before you and you constantly take from the food line without regard to anyone else involved, that’s gluttony. Again, it’s not about actually acquiring anything so much as it is about feeding.

In the third circle, a heavy rain, snow, and hailstorm constantly pelts the earth, releasing a horrid smell from the layers of sinners and creating a mud bog. They’re pigs mired in their own shit. Something to think about as Don listens through the door to the other presentation.

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Mad Men – “The Collaborators”

“You want to feel shitty right up until I take your dress off.”

Sylvia and Megan have a talk.

Oh, wait. You were? When did you stop smoking/boozing/having a settled stomach? How else was I as a TV character supposed to know?

I didn’t think about Don’s season of contrition actually following the Inferno closely, particularly since it’s the longest canticle of the Comedy, “The Doorway” didn’t really do much in the way of ferrying Don across any hellish rivers, and Dante spends several cantos in the Malebolge (Circle 8: Simple Fraud) but the show made it easy to view “The Collaborators” in light of the whirlwind second circle.

Lust is a constant on the show as Don tries to fill that hole of validation in his life and everyone else is either trying to mimic Don’s example of success or is uncontrollable when descending from an era of unabashed patriarchal dominance, especially when sick with money and power. Mad Men is almost synonymous with adultery, more so than advertising and Don’s continuous identity crisis.

And while I think the analogy falls apart if you try to compare the first couple of episodes to the first five cantos of Inferno, the depiction of lust here is different than the pedestrian brand we’re used to seeing on the show and has a feeling of intentionally connecting to the second circle. It’s particularly evident at the end of the episode, there’s a key moment that seals the inspiration from the whirlwind punishment of Paolo and Francesca. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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Mad Men – “The Doorway (Parts 1 and 2)”

“Sometimes you have to do things that aren’t your bag.”

Megan and Don toast the new year.

And cent’anni to you, you Italian slut.

Returning to the kind of pacing to this show is always a little different. After watching a year of shows paced like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Bunheads makes watching Mad Men a little interesting.

I feel like I say that every year with the first episode. It’s the slow burn of that show combined with the major plot twists masquerading as trivialities, that Downton Abbey syndrome for a show. Trying explaining Mad Men to your parents and dare to make it sound interesting. Do you talk about a man’s slow decline hidden by genius? Ad agencies in the 1960s? Or do you focus on the soapier aspects of the show, even though those are really symptoms of the show’s true premise?

This isn’t to distract from how good the show is. I wouldn’t say it’s a plodding show like The Killing felt to me in the first few episodes. It just takes some time to get back in the saddle.

But then it didn’t take long for me to get on that horse and ride when you start the season with a Dante quote. Oh, Matt Weiner, you devil. I’m going to apologize to you upfront, reader, for the inevitable focus of this review on that quote. I’ll try tell you my thoughts on this, if not all the words in my head, at least their meaning.

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Mad Men – “The Phantom”

“Not every little girl gets to do what they want. The world could not support that many ballerinas.”

Pete, Don, Joan, Bert, and Roger stand in their new office space.

The five partners audition for a part in Dark City. Later, Roger goes the extra mile.

That was a finale?

Call me jaded or spoiled but I expect more of a cliffhanger or at least something a little more shocking in my Mad Men season finales. There were no major shifts with the business (adding real estate doesn’t count). No head-scratching proposals. No dynamic changes at all.

With last week’s shocking (if not surprising) episode, it almost felt like we got a breather week but with nothing afterward. That’s not to say that this week’s episode wasn’t good-to-great. Upon further inspection, you can see that it wraps up the season-long thesis of loneliness. Everyone’s life sucks and they’re isolated and they’re alone because no one understands them in this world that’s leaving them behind. Come back for more!

We may leave this season without shocking revelations but we find them in greater misery than they were at the end of any other season. The show plumbs new lows in order to establish that this is the darkest timeline. And the end-of-episode montage tells me that this was the end of the season. It just doesn’t feel that way.

Let’s take a tour of the sad.

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Mad Men – “Commissions and Fees”

“No, I don’t want to be a partner. I’ve seen what’s involved.”

Don is unaffected by Lane's pleading.

Lane in his usual pose of World's Most Pathetic.

I didn’t expect to see it.

Everything about Lane since getting into bed with S, C, and D has been hard to watch, like watching someone voluntarily get hit in the stomach after asking for another. He’s not like the others when they make their mistakes. Pete’s humiliations, Don’s scrapes with being discovered, Roger’s conjugal buffoonery — they’re easier to watch because you know they’ll bounce back. Maybe they won’t be the same or they’ll lower their own expectations for themselves but they bounce back. Lane never seemed to have the constitution to be one of those people.

And so, this season, he sinks lower and lower. His wife goes from homesick harpie to ever-supportive which makes the unfortunate series of bad decisions by Lane so much more awful. He doesn’t have the charisma, the stamina, the wherewithal that the other partners have and season 5 for Lane Pryce is about how, while others flourish in the chaos of a fledgling enterprise, he flounders but is too prideful to admit he can’t keep up.

I just didn’t expect to actually see it.

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Mad Men – “The Other Woman”

“You’ve just seen that unattainable object speed by, just out of reach. Because they do that, don’t they? Beautiful things.”

Don kisses Peggy on the top of her hand.

These two are really into hands.

Ah, remember the halcyon days when Pete had even some tattered shreds of redeeming qualities? Did those days ever exist?

Pete’s cartoonish villainy aside (seriously, when the facial hair boom of the ’70s hits, he’s the only one that’s going to be sporting a Snidely Whiplash), the title of this episode harkens back to last season’s “The Beautiful Girls.” While we don’t have Ms. Blankenship (God rest her soul), Dr Faye (understandably), and Sally Draper (not understandably), we focus on the women at SCDP that represent the “mistress,” literally and figuratively, and catch up with some of the ladies we last saw in positions of upward mobility. And they still are. Depending on how you look at it.

And sometimes that filter has to be pretty disgusting to see it.

Did I mention that Pete is the living worst? Because he is.

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Mad Men – “Dark Shadows”

“I don’t think about you at all.”

Betty accidentally sees Megan dressing at the Draper residence.

Betty remembers when everyone thought of her as a sex symbol and not the resident fatty.

Regrets abound for not having the time to do a Mad Men review last week. So many opportunities for pop culture references and snark, from Rory Gilmore making another mistake with an old-money douchebag to Don almost getting Drake Ramorayed. I assure you, all the quips I had planned were hilarious.

This week it’s all about violating the sanctity of homes, both physical and physical (if you know what I mean). And physical because Betty could probably eat a Thanksgiving dinner if she’d hop on a treadmill. It is the invasion of privacy and shattering the safety of so many people, whether they know it or not.

Also, Betty reprises her role as being the worst.

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Mad Men – “At the Codfish Ball”

“For all we know, Jesus was trying to get the fishes and loaves account.”

Emile, Marie, Megan, Don, and Sally sit at a table at the awards ceremony.

Times are tough.

Not a hook in sight.

There’s so much disappointment in this week’s episode of Mad Men it’s hard to even collect it in one room, even when that room is a ball room. That’s not to say Mad Men doesn’t have its share of shame/disappointment themes throughout the series but this week’s makes you feel particularly sorry for just about everyone, even Don. It was, like, a contagion brought down from Montreal by Megan’s parents.

With how humbling the season has been for so many characters, you get the sense that this year is about one man, the only dude that’s been on the top the whole time. There is no humbling him because he is so humble. There is no backstabbing him because he doesn’t care. Episode after episode, there is one man that always comes out smelling like a rose. This is the year of Ken Cosgrove.

Everyone else: you’re screwed.

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Mad Men – “Far Away Places”

“Well, Dr Leary, I find your product boring.”

Megan left behind as Don drives off angry.

What a grown man hissy fit looks like in the 60s.

Knowing Don will turn your life into hot garbage.

Last week, we explored how knowing Don has ruined Pete’s life as he tries to chase an ideal that ultimately will lead to emotional ruin despite the outward appearance of success. Even Don tells him that his track is not a joyful or smart journey. But Pete isn’t the only one sucked into the Don Draper Mystique.

The same personality that gives us deeply-capitalist GIFs and helps us hit on girls is what dominates and affects the lives of everyone on the show. They’re all just orbiting Don’s cult of personality and, while he is a good example of someone chasing that Draper ideal, Pete’s not even the most obviously affected.

As the show turns to more classic format gimmicks this season (a fever dream episode?), “Far Away Places” is told in parts that chronologically overlap as we follow three different characters and how Don ruins their lives: Peggy, Roger, and Dick Whitman. I know, I know. Don’s purpose is to ruin Dick Whitman. But stick with me.

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Mad Men – “Signal 30”

“I know cooler heads should prevail but am I the only one that wants to see this?”

Cynthia, Megan, and Trudy in front of the exploding faucet.

In a different time, this would've been the best wet t-shirt contest.

Pete is a monster.

He’s always been unlikeable. He’s overly-competitive, backstabbish, conniving, rude, bitchfacey, and somehow more self-entitled than Hannah on Girls (which seems impossible). But this season has shown him making some moves and gaining some traction with those moves, particularly in respect to gaining ground on Roger. As the gray guard scrambles to keep relevant, it’s Pete that chases him all over the place, finding every way he can to erode Roger’s standing.

Becoming partner has inflated his ego to a level where he’s no longer just an annoyance or minor antagonist. He’s a full-on radioactive monster trampling through the city. He is the Game of Thrones Joffery before and after usurping the kingdom. He is the person for whom you are begging comeuppance.

He’s also the saddest guy on the show. This is an episode dedicated Pete’s treachery and to his continual emasculation. But that’s his own fault for stepping out on Alison Brie. The universe will not stand for that.

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