Mad Men 5.01 – A Little Kiss

I’m hoping enough time has gone by that people have gotten their NO SPOILERS knee-jerks out of the way, and read all the standard recaps, and watched Zhou Bisou Bisou eleventy times and are ready to talk details!

Obvi there was a lot going on in the double episode premiere. Some folks were disappointed it didn’t have any earthshattering reveals, but that’s not really Weiner’s style for a premiere. The pace of this one took me back to season 1, where you kind of disliked everyone on a low level, and things happened glacially so they had time to be really earned.

Here are the bullet points of Stuff I Noticed:

  • From the early moment when Ken puts his cigarette out in Pete’s office (Pete doesn’t smoke) to the later moment when Pete not only tells the four other partners not to smoke in his office but demands Roger’s office…. Little Pete is growing up, off in Greenwich with Trudie. Last season…and every season before that..my default whenever he spoke was “Shut up, Pete” but that honor has shifted to Harry (seriously, shut up Harry), so I watch his advancement with great interest.
  • People wearing the same clothes we’ve seen them in before – Joan’s awesome frumpy PJs, Peggy’s black dress with the white stripe. As much as I love the 60s accuracy, I love seeing the characters re-wear outfits because obvi they can’t possibly all have those wardrobe-eating closets that infest TV shows across the nation.
  • Joan and her mom! I loved the complexity and toxicity and sympathy of these exchanges between clearly tired new-mom Joan and her maybe-wellmeaning but clearly issues-having mother. The snapping, the appreciation, the lack of sleep. Whatever was going on with the handyman named Apollo. Joan’s mom instilling fear that her job might not be waiting for her was actually the central catalyst for the episode, and led to Joan parading into SCDP, almost killing a secretary with her eyes, and prompting Lane Pryce to do a dance reenactment that defied explanation.
  • Megan. Meganmeganmegan. When the two of them are introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Draper and she sweeps in with her mod hair…I died a little. Don’s clearly totally turned on to have a work thing that works for him, and I like that Megan stands up to him..well, for a few minutes at a time. It’s more than most of us would manage, I feel like. I liked that Peggy and Megan got along AND that there were moments of uncertain tension where we weren’t sure whether they would.

I for one am pro-party-catchup format. It lets us check in on everyone without spending a ton of time with them — we know Freddy’s still sober, Duck’s still persona non-grata, Stan and Abe are friends, the Sterlings hate eachother, everyone’s still married if they were married before, and we get to see Megan’s social scene. Always handy to have a litmus test for which SCDP employees are homophobic, racist disasters and which ones are either legitimately tolerant or at least appearing so for business reasons.

I would like to focus in on the singing! We’ve had three singing scenes in Mad Men —

  1. Roger singing Swanee in blackface to Jane at their garden party — horrifying, backwards, oblivious, embarrassing for everyone not actually involved.
  2. Joan singing “C’est Magnifique” (also in FrencH) to Greg’s boss in an act of spousal support/desparation. She was in a gorgeous dress, in her element as hostess, but was playing an accordion. It wasn’t sexy, it was humiliating and it definitely wasn’t her idea.
  3. Megan, long legs in a short dress, singing a sexy song to Don in front of his entire office. Don who loves his privacy, hates his birthday, and once yelled at Betty for buying a two-piece bathing suit because it might send the wrong idea to lifeguards (aka threaten Don’s sense of possession of his lovely wife). This was all Megan, and it backfires on her both because Don hates surprise parties and because it’s an invitation to creeps like Harry to objectify her back in the office. I don’t think she anticipated that one of her parties, the goal of which is to make people go home and have sex, pours kerosene in the office water cooler and lights a gossip match.

I loved that Megan walks into their bedroom where Don is doing his “sleeping spread out like a skydiver” thing and just tells him to move. She doesn’t pity him, she teases him, stands up for herself, and then when he eventually tells her to go do what she wants, leaves him to his sulking. When she goes out on the dark balcony, it reminds us of their hooking up in L.A., set against a backdrop of what sounded to me like Zhou Bisou only slow, and minor. And that was the end of episode 1!

Episode 2(ish?) was most notable for Pete’s fighting back against Roger’s sabotage, Joan and Roger and lil Kevin’s self portrait (that she loves Roger is written all over her face),  Lane’s serious boundary issues around returning wallets to people sans shenanigans…

And the floor scene. (All this and a floor show?!) Yes. To me what binds Megan and Don together is that they think they really know eachother in a way nobody else does. I’m not saying that’s true, I’m just saying we hear from both of them – Megan’s “Nobody loves Dick Whitman, but I love you” and Don’s “You don’t know her at all,” (to Peggy) – and when he goes after her after she leaves the office, he is trying to swagger into Don Draper mode and Take Care of Business. The cleaning in her underwear and “You don’t get to have this, you don’t like nice things,” that was all Megan reacting to Harry being awful, the office taking away the nice thing that Megan tried to give Don, and Megan demanding to be appreciated. Don’s wrestling her to the floor? That’s about Don and his sado/maso issues.

I love when these characters get into their “I” statements.

“I thought you wanted it”

“I wanted you to have what you wanted.”

These are very different things–I wonder if Matt Weiner is going to spend more time sussing out just how different this season….

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2 Responses to Mad Men 5.01 – A Little Kiss

  1. meopta says:

    I think the office didn’t take it away from Megan so much as Don did – here is something Megan feels confident in, parties are her home run skill – and Don completely disdains it. As though she had disdained his ad abilities. Working in advertising is something she isn’t sure she wants, something she is exploring. Putting together a great social event, making people around her happy is something more vital to her and Don doesn’t want it.

    • mkpheartsnyc says:

      I like that interpretation too–and the replacement of “I want this” with “At least you want /me/” is maybe one of the ways Betty Draper was created in the first place.

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