Archive | April, 2015

“New Business” – Mad Men Review

12 Apr

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Last week’s episode, Severance, was a good reminder on what the human brain does to resist closure.  Ken Cosgrove, the one-eyed sunny optimist that show’s viewers grew to appreciate, had the perfect chance to live his dream life where he could live away from the city and write to his heart’s content.

Then he decided to choose revenge.

This week’s episode of Mad Men was full of twist and turns which makes for a decent contrast to the rather slow (though I did love it) season opener.  We get a Megan storyline!  We get Casting Couch Crane (Harry) in full sleaze!  Pete Campbell golfing!?!  And look Betty and Bobby (still no Sally though)!

But let’s build upon this “closure” idea.  Let’s look at the big parts of tonight’s story line.

Arguably the most telling is that between the waitress (Di) and Don.  Don finds her and offers her his number.  She calls after work and they sleep together because Don I guess.  However, Di continues to be either an interesting or rather infuriating character throughout the episode.  Like Don, she has a past she feels (very understandably for the record) about and that’s the passing of her daughter from influenza.  Don, who hates his past and is always looking for a new reason to enter the future while not changing himself, starts to fall for her.

After a back alley rendezvous and an overnight visit, suddenly they seem to be a couple.  They don’t tell each other much but there is an implication of mutual understanding between the two, even if Di is ridiculously vague about her life.  She’s hurting but with Don, she feels “a twinge in my chest”.  Don keeps coming back and its still worth mentioning that he revisits her after the death of Rachel Katz.  Little weird.

Megan Draper makes her return with her lovely family who are just the worst.  Megan is desperate to make a change and this time she looks to Harry Crane, the not-partner of SCDP, to help kickstart her career.  She doesn’t really know what she wants, but there is one thing we know she doesn’t want and that’s Harry Crane who tries to sleep with her in exchange for essentially being her agent.  For a show that routinely showcases the misogyny, sexism, racism, and business practices of the time; it still is one of the most cringeworthy and sleazy moments in the show’s history.

Jiminy Christmas is Harry the worst.

But Harry, who gets a few minutes of screen time but nothing more, is noteworthy in the sense of what he is trying to be.  Harry’s intentions are really no worse than Don’s throughout the show.  He has a pretty sweet gig at an advertising firm that needs him.  He has always shown to be a bit of a forward thinker in the sense of media and was introduced as the “nice guy/nerd” who cried during Don’s “nostalgia” pitch.

Now he is either corrupted by his position or thinks that’s what he should do.  For a guy who used to introduce himself as being married, he’s really fallen by the wayside but with none the charisma of Roger or Don.  Instead of the nice guy, he’s the odious slime of SCDP.

The other story line of the day involves Peggy, Stan and Pima, a photographer played by Mimi Rogers.  Pima is powerful and immediately Stan feels threatened by her.  Stan looks and speaks with her with such disdain that it seems inevitable that they are going to hookup and they do in the dark room.

Then Pima tries to do the same with Peggy who pauses confusedly.  Nothing happens but the implication is pretty clear that Pima knew exactly what she was doing.  Mimi Rogers killed it by the way in this role.

Back to Megan.  A moving company that she hired to take her furniture back from Don’s apartment has literally taken all the furniture from the damn apartment.  Megan’s mother gets Roger to pay the movers via sex with Roger (classic), and of course Megan walks in right after the deed is done.

Megan and Don get a small scene together as Megan just launches into a mini-tirade about how Don ruined her, and of course Don writes her a check for a million dollars to basically get the hell out of his life.  Megan takes it and gives Don his ring back before walking out of what we can imagine, is Don’s life.  The conflict Megan feels internally is worth exploring a bit more in future episodes because her hatred of Don (while partly justified, we should remember) is also part displacement of the way her family treats her and her blaming Don for such.

But Don is Don.  So he returns to Di, and I think we are expecting a proposal.  Then Di drops the boomstick that she had two children in fact and the other is with her father.  Di essentially breaks up with Don while telling him that the pain she feels from her daughter being away is gone when she’s with Don.  Di might actually be right for Don, as toxic as their relationship could be, but she knows she can’t be with him.

Then in selling it a bit too strong, Don walks home to an empty apartment.  The pain of the past, the Greek definition of nostalgia, and the twinge of reality is seen.  He’s alone.  He’s empty and while his professional life seems to be about as good as it’s ever been….he still has nothing.

Grade:  A-

Severance – Mad Men Review

5 Apr

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We have six episodes left in the truncated final Mad Men season.  Whenever a show is reaching its end we, the viewers, expect to find closure.  We want to see the characters and storylines that we attract to reach some sort of conclusion.

If “Severance” is of any indication, the cast of Mad Men is looking for completion as well.

Let’s of course start with Don.  We are led to believe in the opening moments of the show that Don has gone all Season 6 “Fifty Shades of Don” again with a woman in a chinchilla coat.  We hear the slight degrading of the “show me how smooth your skin is” after the demand of closing her eyes.  We see the lean against the wall with a cigarette in his mouth, waiting for another conquest.

Then of course we realize its just casting for a commercial and Don’s professional life finally seems to be back on track.  Yet, later on we see Don with a gorgeous woman at a diner (with newly mustachioed Roger Sterling keeping a company of two) and he later leaves.  Roger pretty much patronizes the waitress and leaves a crisp $100 bill as a tip, though I’m unsure if that was just him feeling guilt or to just prove that he could in front of his new friends.

But Don is seemingly on a path towards a breakdown, one that was heavily hinted at during his Bert Cooper hallucination last year.  He is finding that returning to his life at SC&P might be fulfilling, but it doesn’t fill everything in his life.  He has a dream of Rachel Menken, the department store heiress/mistress/Don’s counterpart of Season 1, only to find out that she has passed away due to leukemia.

Rachel was probably the best match for Don of all his mistresses as she was his professional equal (if not superior?) and there was a deeper connection than just pure lust.  Seeing the look in his eyes at her wake, in which he is essentially turned away by Rachel’s sister, makes him realize his true loss.  He ends up hooking up with the waitress in an alley outside the diner, but the motives are different of both parties.  Don probably thinks its another relationship while the waitress, Di, believes its just a simple transaction thanks to a large tip she presumed Don left.

Don realizes that its great to have a professional life but the dude doesn’t have anything in his non-work life.  Megan hasn’t officially divorced him yet it appears but she’s as of now, not in his life.  Betty (not seen this episode) is gone as are Sally, Bobby and baby Gene.

But its not just Don who is lacking completion.  Peggy and Joan are in the business too and after a couple of douchenozzles pretty much degrade Joan to her face, the pair have a contentious elevator ride.  Joan, clearly threatened by Peggy’s professional success, is cold towards Peggy.  Peggy, on the other hand threatened of Joan’s attractiveness, is almost dismissive towards Joan.

Joan is next seen splurging on some expensive clothing and is appearing to just own up to what others see of her.  Peggy seemingly falls for a blind date set up by Mathis (the dude who played Freddy in Frasier) and makes drunken plans to go to Paris with her new beau until she cannot find her passport.  She admits to him that she feels a bit more attraction to him than she anticipated and he doesn’t spend the night.  Later on, we flash to her and Don both waking up in empty beds.

Completion still isn’t there.  Both characters want something more than just professional success.

Then we go with Ken Cosgrove, the affable and kind of sole “good guy” that the show has to offer.  Ken has the personal life, a loving wife (who he seems to love just as much) and a baby.  He’s well-connected and is accomplished in something that’s not work (with writing).  The one thing that he’s missing with completion seems to be his professional life as he is a likable and loyal employee but clearly gaped by Pete and Harry in terms of importance to the company.

But our likable guy is about to be fired from SC&P as McCan/Erickson is still pissed at him leaving the company for SCDP.  His father-in-law is retiring from Dow and Roger wants him to have “some dignity” and pass on his clientele to Pete.

It seems that Ken is going to retreat into the farm he always wanted and write that Sci-Fi book, or maybe one on advertising, before he gets the last laugh.  He’s now DOW Chemical’s head of advertising and Pete is now HIS client.  Hell yeah Ken.

Episode Grade:  B+

Other notes:

  • Well,  mustaches are in folks!
  • No sign of the following characters:  Hamlin, Betty, Sally, Bobby, Dawn, Henry, Megan.  With such little time left, it seems a waste to not get a Sally Draper sigh.  Oh well!
  • Meredith is improving as Don’s secretary!
  • Characters who got little time:  Pete, Harry and Ted (with a Dale Earnhardt mustache)