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Wednesday, 3 of March of 2021

Tag » Mad Men

Mad Men – “Mystery Date”

“I don’t want you to get rickets in that haunted mansion.”

Dawn and Peggy have a late-night talk.

"Do you think I act more like a man when I have a well-placed beer bottle?"

Mad Men will let things play out, no matter what the cost to the character, partially because they can incorporate it into a later storyline but usually because they can smooth it over by the next episode like it never happened. Think Joan’s in-office rape and Don’s entire existence.

With that in mind, we can be conditioned to believe almost anything can occur. Almost anything. They can resolve Don having his personal files reviewed by a security agency without much trouble outside of a couple panic attacks but this isn’t Being Human or Buffy or even House. There’s a limit to what can be done by a single character where the repercussions are scuttle-able.

So when a character does something beyond the realm of fixing, it throws you out of the episode. At least it threw me out so I have to decide whether the show thinks I’m an idiot or if this is supposed to mean something because they assume I’m smart enough to know what’s going on.

With that premise in mind, let’s talk about what Don didn’t do.

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Mad Men – “Tea Leaves”

“When is everything going to get back to normal?”

A doctor feels Betty's neck for lumps.

"Don't worry. I know there's no pulse. It's on account of how I'm dead inside."

If there’s anything you can take from Mad Men, from life within the lower parts of the office to the world at large, it’s that the younger generation is a collection of jackasses.

But in this episode, it’s not just a reckless generation shattering the comfortable, widespread social repression but we also see that the olds are getting older and, occasionally, are threatened by the new class or just by age/experience itself. Heck, Bert Cooper isn’t even in this episode. But you don’t have to be Roger Sterling to feel that pinch. Peggy’s right there with them.

Obviously, this is one of the reasons for setting the series in the 1960s, to showcase this time of tumult when youth became praised above all others and elders were brought behind the proverbial shed, all from the perspective of the industry that handed society the shotgun shells. This isn’t the first time the topic has come up, and it isn’t the last, but who it affects has expanded.

Oh, and Betty’s faaaaaaaat.

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Mad Men – “A Little Kiss”

“Well, well, well. There’s my baby. Move that brat out of the way so I can see her.”

Megan and Don share a smile after she performs "Zou Bisou Bisou"

"You're going to get it later."

Maybe it was the artifact of this show that I created in its absence. Maybe it’s the pacing of my other favorite shows going full seasons in the vacuum of this one. Maybe I should’ve watched the fourth season leading up to the fifth season premiere.

But something felt — off.

Mad Men returned with a two hour premiere and I hoped that by the end of the episode I could say, “Yeah! Mad Men. Is. Back!” About half-way through, though, I wasn’t sure if this was what left me a year and a half ago. I felt slightly lost in time, characters weren’t acting like I expected them to, and the episode overall felt slower than usual. And slower for Mad Men is like going from a passeggiata with your grandparents to being a pallbearer. With a limp. Following other grandparents. Who have rickets.

But it was nice to see the band back together again. Don is still withholding. Roger is still snarky. Pete still has a bitchface. And Lane is still toeing that line between gentleman and pervert. So let’s get into this. Finally: season five is here.

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Podcast 002: Basic Cable is Just Like Everyone Else

Well, well, well. It’s an All-Monster Podcast. It’s like Rampage but better because we have four monsters tearing up your town instead of just three. These week, Karen, Matt, Nick and Noel discuss a range of topics across the television landscape including The Walking Dead, the Mad Men finale (yeah, we know it’s old news — but it’s our show), how cable has disappointed us by having the nerve to cancel shows (Rubicon, Caprica), the USA brand (popcorn/beach-reading), how Life Unexpected is gross probably because they need to keep up with the rest of the CW, and Conan’s pedestrian return, among other things. It’s an interesting hour of witness. Listen to the podcast at the bottom of this post or subscribe to the podcast feed.

Running time: 75 minutes

Topics: Place in the Podcast

  • The Walking Dead: 0:00:58
  • Rubicon: 0:10:23
  • Mad Men: 0:16:21
  • Cable as a Haven: 0:21:42
  • The USA Brand: 0:25:53
  • House: 0:29:52
  • TV Actors: 0:35:59
  • Chuck: 0:37:41
  • Nikita (and other spy dramas): 0:44:51
  • The CW/Life Unexpected: 0:51:41
  • Parenthood defense: 1:04:25
  • Conan: 1:06:21

Brief note from Nick: I know that Chuck didn’t air this week because of the Lauer/Bush thing. I meant last week.

Podcast 001, pt 4: “We Miss Mad Men, Chuck Has No Stakes (wah)”

“Dude, do the right thing.”

Somebody call the wahmbulance! Matt and Nick harken back to two weeks ago to briefly discuss the Mad Men finale before using the deftness of its narrative craft to chastise Chuck for being a bunch of wusses when it comes to pulling the trigger on plot points. Is it fair to compare Mad Men and Chuck? Not really. Do we unfairly use it against Chuck anyway? Of course. We never said we were fair people.

Also: Dexter Season 4 spoiler at 3:41. You’ve been alerted!

Mad Men – “Tomorrowland”

“Who the hell is that?”

Bobby, Sally, Gene, and Megan all wait for Don to arrive at the restaurant.

“In the future, we’ll all be happy despite our rampant alcoholism, self-destructive natures, and our short-sighted family planning. Yay!”

Tomorrowland the Ride is ultimately flawed. The idea of the thing is theoretically interesting and, if you really believe the crafted displays of the future really are visionary, then I can see how you might enjoy the ride. But, of course, as the ride aged and the people starting to live in the years to which the ride makers predicted the change to occur, it became a relic of a bygone era. Instead of being a vision of the future, it was really just a reminder of how silly we were in the past.

And that’s because futurism by amateurs is also horribly flawed: it doesn’t account for cultural development. Usually, these things assume we’ll think the same and we’ll be the same in the future, just more advanced. But that’s not the way evolution works: every part adapts and, while there are threads of constance, the way we consider things will change over the course of years, decades, centuries. While flying vehicles in the past were thought to be the way of the future, the first thing that comes to mind for us when considering the same thing are the various media properties that have since used it to sell us on the future. It’s isn’t science fact; it’s the Jetsons.

Don Draper has his own little Tomorrowland going. The moment he walks into the restaurant and sees his family in the booth, he looks at it almost like a model of his future. This is the paradise, the peace, the comfort he seeks. And while there are differences from what he knows, ultimately, this is just a relic from the past he sells to himself as the utopian future. So while you think about how Don’s actions in this episode are sudden and without motivation, consider his discussion with Anna when they first started discussing Betty in the Christmas flashback sequences. Seem relatively familiar?

When Betty handed him the key to his house, she might as well have said, “Congratulations. Here is the key to the detritus of your past. You can match it to the building blocks of your future.”

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Mad Men – “Blowing Smoke”

“We’ve created a monster.”

The women shake hands as Faye says goodbye to Peggy.

Don Draper Confidantes Unite!

How many times are they going to beat into us that Betty has the mind of a child? Short of giving her a rattle and a diaper, I’m not sure how much more obvious they make it. It seems almost like the only development we get on her anymore is just how childish she can be. Even though she’s graduated to bitchy high school cheerleader in this episode, we usually get no breakthroughs, no progress, no plot points with her except at the end of this episode but it’s only to get back at her daughter in some sick competition for a creep show.

You’re totally picturing January Jones in a diaper, aren’t you?

While Betty showed off more of her juvenile side, Don showed what makes him special but it’s so far out that not even his own partners can see what he did. To be fair, though, radical moves don’t look great to partners when the walls are caving in. You know who gets it though, 100%? Of course Peggy does! It was partly her idea!

Also: I want to be able to say “get me my shoes” and have people worried that I’m leaving the company.

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Mad Men – “Chinese Wall”

“I’m not the solution to your problems. I’m another problem.”

Don tries to reassure the office that everything will be okay.

Dude’s preaching.

I feel like every week I talk about how we’re one step closer to the inevitable downfall of Don Draper, that we are on the brink of black-hole levels of disaster, the entirety of his social and professional network sucked into the abyss left behind by his mighty supernova. I’m chasing beams of light I think I see from the not-too-distant explosion, forecasting to you, the reader, what has to be around the corner. It just has to be.

Noel covered Mad Men the week “Waldorf Stories” aired and pointed out that things that happen to Don are typically covered in plaster, the monumental errors of his ways typically forgotten, almost sit-com style, until they boil over later if they emerge at all. Last week’s episode featured a panic the level of which we’ve never seen Don suffer in the series. He was irrational and impulsive to a destructive level. But, in the end, it was all okay, his behind covered with the loss of (what turns out to be) a precious account. Though this is an obvious part of the series, I’m starting to become jaded to the fact that we might always be on the brink of Don’s collapse. He is constantly a dying star that finds new ways to slowly burn out while finding new fuels to burn off. The loss of Lucky Strike is a new catalyst for disaster, a new reason for him to make some bad decisions, to forget why he’s trying to rise from the wreckage, and to surrender to his overwhelming self-destruction.

What a weird thing to keep us watching, waiting for the catastrophic and wondrous implosion our protagonist. With the season coming to a close, you have to feel like those beams of light can’t be travelling from too far away now, that we have to see the bang soon. And God help us if it starts from Megan.

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Mad Men – “Hands and Knees”

“You will not live in between.”

[portfolio_slideshow size=medium]

I don’t think I even know where to really start. There’s just so much.

While my favorite episode of the season is still “The Suitcase” (with “The Rejected” being a close second) a ton happened in this episode. Myles McNutt said he tried to keep his review as concise as possible by only focusing on Pete and Joan in this episode. Honestly, I don’t think I have he strength to be so restrained. I mean, I feel like this episode is just as much about the people who are in it as the one person who is noticeably, painfully, perplexingly absent.

But I’m going to try to not effuse too much.

From the title you can guess that there is a lot of begging in this episode: begging for life, begging for mercy, begging for discretion. This week is a scare for what Don has coming and he is not ready. The collapse of Don’s life is foreshadowed here, if for anything because he’s become more careless about his secret identity.

Yeah, I just linked to opening to the old Jerry O’Connell series My Secret Identity. If I have it stuck in my head, you should, too.

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Mad Men – “The Beautiful Girls”

“It’s a business of sadists and masochists. And you know which on you are.”

Joan lets in the mobile spa, Roger's gift to her.

Christina Hendricks in thick-frame glasses and pajamas? It’s like they know what I think about before I go to sleep at night.

I feel like I’m biologically and socially unprepared to fully address the issues brought up in this week’s Mad Men but I’m going to try my hand at it anyway. Feel free to correct my misguided views in the comments.

The title of the episode would lead you to believe that it’s just another day at the office for SCDP which is filled with the extraordinarily beautiful every day (except for Ms Blankenship, who was chosen specifically for who she is). It is, instead, much like the movie Beautiful Girls, an inspection of women in their position but, unlike that movie, this episode focuses more on the position of our leading ladies in the light of their time, particularly during the civil rights movement that continued without them.

So we look deeper into the lives of Joan, Peggy, and Faye as well as, and maybe most importantly, Sally Draper as well as Ms Blankenship (in a way). It is their success and the assumptions made about their success that this episode wants us to scrutinize and, even if some of their actions are irrational or seem unmotivated and inorganic (namely the scene with Joan and Roger in the bad neighborhood), it all has direction, precedent, and, at the very least, a little bit of simple symbolism.

And it all starts with another clash between Peggy and the anti-establishment.

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