Last week I was off my game, so this week you get double summary/analysis/repeated instructions for Pete to Shut. Up. My Big Picture interpretation of the series so far is that season 1-3 were Don Draper’s Ascension, and Seasons 4-6 would be his descent to god knows where….so I kind of hope seven will turn out to be a post apocalyptic Thunderdome. But let’s burn that bridge when we come to it!
Episode 1-2! The Doorway
This did not need to be a two-hour premiere. I think Matt Weiner resented the amount of commercials and so pushed for 1:25 of content instead of the usual 54 minutes. There were a lot of commercials and most of them would never have made it off Peggy Olsen’s desk. I only got to watch it one and a half time so my observations are in the form of a list.
Don Draper’s Silence: Anybody else notice he didn’t say a word to Megan in Hawaii? The first time we saw them get intimate, it was like he was mad at her; and clearly Megan still hardly knows Don at all if she thinks she’s introducing him to sex things he hasn’t tried before.
The Drunk Soldier: ….I have no idea. This was practically the first guy who Don actually spoke to, there was supposed to be some profound war symbolism intrusion something? Maybe it was all to set us up for Megan’s slideshow to be projected on The Carousel. Maybe the drunk soldier guy has Don’s lighter so he’ll steal Don Draper’s identity all over again to get out of Vietnam. Sidenote: Is Joan’s RapistExHusband dead somewhere, please?
Dante’s Inferno: The season with Grandpa Gene was The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, so for this one we should all keep an eye out for Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. . .just like every other season of Mad Men. Here’s hoping Violence is the one where Pete finally falls out a window.
Somebody is definitely falling out a window: ALL THE FORESHADOWING! From the first moments of the opening credits lo these many years ago, to all the season promos with people standing looking out windows, to all the references to how high the building is and how flimsy the glass is…. Somebody is definitely falling out a window. I really hope it’s Pete. It might also be Roger.
Don’s New Advertising Strategy: You know, how you go to the beach and take off all your clothes and drown in the ocean? You know? Totally well-adjusted and normal and everything?
Sally Draper. Sally Draper, you are my everything. Mostly because Kiernan Shipka is amazing. I think the whole plot with Sally’s new BFF, Sandy the Violin Prodigy, was a stand-in for the rebellion Weiner really wanted to give Sally, but couldn’t because it would boil over into Don’s life too much if his daughter went missing. I also think he just wanted us to get a good look at These Kids Today and the contrast between Timeless Suburb Life and Big Time Corporate life, which is these grimy gross kids squatting on the Bowery.
Oh, and HOLY EFFING GOD, the Betty-in-bed-with-Henry-being-ghoulish moment! I have always liked Betty, liked her twistedness and her childishness and her sadness, but I think Weiner wanted to push her somewhere else and I don’t think it’s a successful or wisely chosen place. But maybe the whole “do you want to rape my daughter’s 15-year-old friend” gesture to “spice things up” followed by a real encounter with people rejecting the status quo helped Betty see that a level of subversion she’s more comfortable with is being a brunette instead of a blonde. Now she’s truly a Jackie and not a Marilyn as befits a political trophy, instead of a corporate one.
Stan and Peggy are conference-call-pen-pals: This might have been my favorite moment – it was absolutely precious and satisfying to see that not only did Peggy win Stan’s respect by being a badass lo these many episodes ago, but they’re still keeping in touch. I also like how hard she is on her staff, and it’s both pleasing and sad to see how much of Don’s MO she internalized. I have no use for Abe or his beard.
Don’s Neighbor Bromance: Maybe somehow this guy will wind up falling out a window. The moment of him skiing off on a crosstown voyage was so…. *shakes head* you know, man?
Linda Cardellini: I know I should be analyzing her role as Don’s in-building mistress and not just fixating on her hair and how she looks like the human version of Betty Rubble. Don’t you think I know that? I know that. Confidential to Matt Weiner: pleasepleaseplease do not have James Franco on your show. Please. If you want to catch up to Freaks and Geeks and have a crossover where Lindsey Weir is the illegitimate daughter of Don Draper and Silvia DoctorNeighbor, fine.
The Director of Photography: One of the things I love about Weiner and his entire creative team is how much they’re in love with the visuals of their world. The lush shot that followed Megan walking onto the balcony in Hawaii, the stark shot that pulled back through the door as Don walked into the snow….all gorgeous.
Circle of Hell: Limbo
Episode 3! The Collaborators
This episode is all about chickens coming home to roost. I’ll try and avoid spoilers in case you’re still getting caught up, but I have to firmly reject my Gentleman Associate’s assertion that this was not a good episode. I think Weiner is deliberately evoking the soap opera tropes that Megan’s channeling into their lives, so we’re seeing adultery get more brazen, we’re seeing career/client drama, we’re seeing seeds planted episodes and seasons ago finally in bloom, and I think we’re about to see some implausible ridiculousness bust into life (Pete is becoming exactly who Don said he would become in the pilot, plus there’s NewPete dogging at his heels, Joan was right about Megan, and now we know why Don’s so into prostitutes).
Whorechild: I know people have mixed feelings, but I love the Dick Whitman flashbacks; without this week’s scene, Don’s nausea at Roger’s mother’s funeral makes much less sense.
TRUDY. Trudy has always known what’s up, and this episode proves it. Pete has never been so callous and oily and crude as he is now–he used to at least be excited by the way his power got women to respond to him. Now I think he’s bored. I want to think he still has some deep existential pain left, or that Rory Gilmore’s electroshock therapy had a real effect on him, but I’m just not convinced. Every time he speaks I tell him to shut up.
Insider Baseball: I loved Don’s deliberate sabotage of the Jaguar scumbag’s misguided marketing idea, and the chaos of the Heinz client visit, but not the way Peggy told Ted Chaoueough the straight scoop. C’mon Peggy. You hid a baby from people. You can deflect an inquiry into a private phone call. I believe in you.
Criticism: Not enough Joan, though what we did get was so angry and sharp I was happy about it. Not enough Peggy when she’s not at her desk. Not enough clarity during the Sylvia-Megan discussion; everything was so oblique it barely felt like women having a discussion. Here at the MKP & E House of TV Judging we always have heated discussions where he doesn’t think anything happened and I’m awash in the beautiful sea of slow-paced nuance and don’t mind the shape it takes, but I will agree with E that the character-juggling is less deft than it used to be. I will also, however, argue that the “units” of Weiner’s storytelling are not always an episode. Sometimes it’s an episode and a half, or less than an episode, or several episodes to accomplish a story goal.
Circle of Hell: Lust