Tag Archives: Mad Men

The Year End Review: TV

It’s that time of year again. And I mean, it’s really that time of year. Any more time and it’d be next year. Speaking of which, how many of you are absolutely sick of the fact that I can’t get my s**t together and update this thing more regularly? Well, too bad! I’m pretty set in my ways, and if I wouldn’t change for any of my three wives, I probably won’t change for you. Anyway, it was a pretty good year for TV, and for those of you who care, these are my top 10 picks. If I had more time on my hands, this list might look somewhat different**, but I can’t watch everything. So, in no particular order…

Lost. I’d be remiss (what does that mean?) if I didn’t mention one of the greatest TV shows in the history of TV (and shows). ‘Lost’ earns its place on the list more in recognition of the entire series than the sixth season, which most people will admit had its problems. But for all of the questions that were left unanswered and weird, glowy caves that had holes in the middle that needed to be plugged up or else the world would explode — I mean, seriously, what was that? — the show delivered a finale that was as emotionally satisfying as I could have hoped for. And before the numbers, polar bears and four-toed statues, it was the characters that made the show what it was. And that damn dog gets me every time.

Treme. For a little while, ‘Treme’ felt like the kid who was a little too cool for school. It didn’t really invite us into its world, but kept us at arm’s length, telling us that we just didn’t get it. But slowly, as if in the arms of a generous lover, it opened up to us. And once the characters started doing a little more than hang out, drink and play music it turned into appointment television. And the fact that it comes from David Simon and could probably go on for six or seven seasons without building toward any clear ending makes it one of the best character studies in recent memory.

Louie. Hands down, the best comedy of the year. FX told Louie CK that, even though they couldn’t pay him as much as other networks, they would give him complete creative control over his own show, and the opportunity was not wasted. I hate to sound trite (no I don’t), but he’s really reinvented the sitcom, with each episode taking the form of a mostly-self-contained short film. And not only is it hilarious, but introspective and thoughtful. Not to mention gorgeously shot. If you haven’t caught this one yet, you can stream it on Netflix. I really can’t recommend it enough.

Archer. ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ are all good and well, but man cannot live on live-action drama alone. Solid animated fare is important, and unfortunately ‘American Dad’ can’t carry the load all by itself. ‘Archer’ comes from the fine folks who brought us ‘Frisky Dingo,’ which for two short years carried the mantle ‘Arrested Development’ left behind after it was canceled. The show takes the world’s most self-absorbed incompetent, gives him a double-0 rating and sets him loose on the world. Hilarity ensues. And when I say hilarity ensues, I mean it. Did you read what I said about ‘Frisky Dingo’? The show comes back for another season in January, so check it out.

Breaking Bad. Suck it, ‘Supernatural’ fans. In its third season, ‘Breaking Bad’ made the jump from engrossing (and high-grossing!), to the best show on TV. And the season before was already pretty great. Watching the lengths Walter White is willing to go to, at first to provide for his family, but then to satisfy his own ego is completely devastating. Walter shooting that drug dealer in the head at the end of “Half Measures” had me screaming at my TV, and if the season finale is any indication (it is), things are only going to get darker going forward. Unfortunately, AMC’s schedule is all jacked up, so the show won’t be back until July. The curse of cable television!

Mad Men. This is another show that doesn’t really have any sort of clear end in sight. And because it’s AMC’s darling, they’re probably going to try and keep it around for as long as they can. The trick then becomes how to keep it feeling fresh and not like it’s spinning its wheels. Season 4 did that. Don has his own agency, and now that he’s divorced he’s back out on the prowl. Although I guess that was the case even when he was married. Anyway, the season featured some of the series’ best work. “The Suitcase” and the showdown between Don and Peggy being only one example. Expect that one to be showered with Emmys at next year’s ceremony. For my money, the show came in just a hair behind ‘Breaking Bad’ this year, but…it was a very fine hair.

Fringe. I don’t think anyone really gives a s**t if a show comes “from the mind of J.J. Abrams” anymore. And if you ask me that’s only worked in ‘Fringe’s’ favor. When it wasn’t the hit some expected it to be, it kind of dropped off the radar. That really gave it carte blanche to go balls to wall and make a show for the people who were watching it, the people who were carrying it into second and third season renewals. This season’s proved that like no other, and really shows what risks the showrunners were willing to take with things. Thankfully they all paid off. I’m feeling a little better about the show’s move to Friday now than I was when I first heard about it, so hopefully its audience will move with it and it’ll be back for a fourth season.

Boardwalk Empire. AMC winning all those Emmys must have really pissed HBO off, because they’re coming back in a big way. It took ‘Boardwalk Empire’ about four episodes to find its footing, but after that it was strong all the way to the finish. It’s always good to see such a big show get things right, and that was before we saw exactly how big a freak Agent Van Alden was, and met Richard Harrow (who’s thankfully been promoted to a series regular in season two). What the show lacks in ‘Sopranos’ it makes up for in ‘Deadwood,’ which sucks me in every single time. Can we lay down some cash that season two will open with a montage of all the characters getting dressed in the morning?

30 Rock. Oh ’30 Rock,’ it’s so good to have you back. After a lackluster fourth season, the show’s really amped things up this year, delivering several episodes that are as good as anything they’ve done in the past. I mean, you’ve got Matt Damon! Paul Giamatti! Liz’s Julia Roberts laugh! John Effing Slattery! I cower before the brilliance of his performance. Now, if the show could just find more excuses to bring Jon Hamm back, all would be right with the world. Really, this is the show propping up NBC’s Thursday night lineup. ‘The Office’ has turned into the grandpa with Parkinson’s disease. Every once in a while it remembers how good it was, but it mostly thinks we’re its wife and yells at us for not having supper on the table when it gets home from work. ‘Outsourced’ is garbage and ‘Community’ is too busy smelling its own private parts to do much else. When the lineup grows by a hour come January, it’s gonna be ’30 Rock’ and ‘Parks and Rec,’ so get ready for it.

Justified. FX is really trying to roll with the big dogs as of late, at thanks to shows like ‘Justified,’ it’s paying off. The show had a mix of procedural and serialized storytelling, and I think that as the season progressed, it realized how much stronger those serialized elements were, and so followed them more as the season closed out. Timothy Olyphant is a great actor, and fans of ‘Deadwood’ know that this role was almost tailor-made for him. The back and forth between him and Walt Goggins is great, but honestly, I’d watch a show of Olyphant just ramming Dewey Crow’s face into steering wheels.

And there you have it. A pretty good year, all things considered. And next year we’ve got ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Luck,’ ‘Lights Out,’ ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ and more ‘Parks and Rec’ to look forward to, so it’s going to be pretty crowded. So until then and as a always, excelsior true believers!

**’Community’ still wouldn’t be on it, because it still isn’t that good.


Mad Men, “The Suitcase”: Draper vs. Olsen

At the beginning of season 4 Faye told Don that within a year he’d be married again. Maybe, maybe not. But I think it’s safe to say that Don’s a man who needs a female anchor in his life. If not to keep him from the drinking and the philandering, then for his emotional well-being.

Don gets word from California that Anne’s passed. Well, he doesn’t get word so much as he gets a phone call. He knows what the news is and is so scared of it that he spends the rest of the day hiding from it, choosing instead to busy himself with work. He gives up his ticket to that night’s fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston and throws the creative team’s Samsonite pitch out the window (or maybe off the Eiffel Tower?). I guess you could even make the argument that Don knew what he was doing, that he was purposefully making more work for himself.

And Don did what he needed to do to keep Peggy in the office, too. If not for the entire night, then at least for a little while. When he asks Peggy for a sneak peak at what else creative’s come up with, she realizes that trying to get away from him is a losing battle and that her birthday’s been effectively canceled. And it was kind of a breaking point for her. For five years she’s been missing birthdays and dinner and long nights spent alone with back issues of Harpers Weekly. Plus she was coming off Don’s Cleo win for the Glo Coat ad, and all frustration and resentment bubbled up to the surface and came spilling out.

Once you saw that “The Suitcase” was written by Matthew Weiner, then Don’s argument with Peggy about what exactly she’s paid for seemed to take on a special significance. Weiner’s gotten a reputation for being somewhat arrogant and very controlling. And so everything Don says could be seen as directed at the show’s writing staff. The whole thing took on even more significance when you listened to his Emmy acceptance speech from that very same night, in which he awkwardly tried defending himself, swearing to everyone present that he was so grateful for all the feedback he received on the show’s scripts. I don’t know if this could really be classified as a scandal, but definitely one of those things that make you go, “Hmmmmm,” hmm?

So they fight and Peggy storms out of his office, only to be called back in a short time later when Don stumbles across a recording of Roger’s memoirs. This makes me wonder if Don’s the type of guy who doesn’t see the point in grudges, or if he was just drunk enough to quickly forget about it. There were a few revelations about Bert Coopers balls and Roger’s sexual adventures with Mrs. Blankenship, and then the episode settles into that meaty character stuff it does so well. No fireworks. Just a completely honest and personal conversation between the two, and it had to be one of the most compelling the show’s ever given us. It showed that, for all the baggage these two people carry, they really do care about each other. They’ve both got skeletons in their closet, so they see each other as kindred spirits.

There were so many great beats between the two of them throughout the night, it’d be hard to rank one as the best. Don telling Peggy why he never tried sleeping with her. Peggy taking a swipe at Don over Allison. And Don’s question, “You don’t want to start giving me morality lessons, do you?”.

“The Suitcase” also saw the return of Duck Phillips. With those business cards he had made up for Peggy, you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him. But as soon as he started in with all that, “I need you baby,” stuff, he was suddenly pathetic again. I wonder if that perception has anything to do with the fact that, “I need you so bad, baby,” is kind of a stereotypical phrase.

When Don finally calls California that morning, after falling asleep in his office with his head in Peggy’s lap, he breaks down, and I don’t think he could have done that in front of anyone besides her. There’s a link between him and Peggy that he really doesn’t have with anyone else. And after seeing Anne’s spirit or whatever you want to call it the previous night, you could say that Peggy’s been christened the new Anne.

There’s an understanding between the two characters that wasn’t there before, and Don’s acknowledgment of that was nice cap to the episode. When Peggy asks if Don wants his door open or closed before leaving, Don’s, “Open,” may have been a little too on the nose. But it’s nice to think he may be heading on an upward trajectory.

Mad Men, “Waldorf Stories”: Don Draper’s greatest hits.

Not only is Don Draper a drunk, but he’s a sloppy drunk. Sloppy as in, lose-an-entire-day, wake-up-with-a-girl-you-don’t-even-remember-meeting, coughing-up-cigarette-butts-sloppy. And come on, no one wants to be around that.

Don’s up for a Cleo award. Winning will make him look good, it’ll make the agency look good, and it’ll make him look good. Also the agency. And it’ll also give him the excuse he needs to sink to levels of depravity heretofore unseen on the show.

The ceremony hasn’t started yet, but it’s understood that, win or lose, everyone’s gonna get hammered, and so Roger and Don have begun loosening up even before they leave the office. By the time they read his name, Don’s already what Joan might call lubricated. And everything just goes downhill from there. Coming back to the table, Don spots Megan the secretary, who says that the reps from Life Cereal have finally gotten into town and are waiting back at the office. Pete, his head still firmly attached to his body, thinks that now might not be the best time for a meeting and suggests rescheduling, but Don will hear none of it. “Let’s put a cherry on this thing,” he says.

At the office, he launches into his pitch, which is just a sad, sad retread of his speech from the end of the season finale, “The Wheel.” And while he wowed the Kodak execs in that other meeting, this time the clients aren’t too excited about what he’s come up with. So Don starts riffing, throwing out bad idea after bad idea, until he stumbles upon, “Life cereal. The cure for the common breakfast.” An idea ripped off from Roger’s wife’s cousin, Danny. Life loves it, and Don & co. set off for an evening of drinking and merry-making.

I’m not a drinker myself, but I imagine that if I was, and I was trying to pick up a woman, I’d at least try and set my sights high. And that’s exactly what Don does. His first target is Faye. She’s smart, attractive and single. He drags her away from another man and tells her that her hair smells good before making veiled references to knocking boots. Faye, who seems to be one of the most pragmatic characters on the show, turns him down. Don’s already pretty far gone by this point, so he simply moves on. We catch him with a woman in his apartment, and with an interesting sleight of hand LOSE AN ENTIRE DAY as we see Don wake up with completely different woman. Much like Don, we have no idea where she came from. Don has to check the name tag on her waitress uniform just to get that right, before making the usual excuses and booting her out of his place. After she’s gone, Don lies on his couch and passes out… for the entire day.

He awakened by Peggy, who’s come to tell him that his new Life cereal slogan is stolen, and Don’s going to have to find a way to fix it. So the next day, he brings Danny back into the office and tries to buy the idea from him, but Danny’s not having it and asks Don for a job. This provided a nice parallel to Roger’s place in the episode, thinking back to his first meeting with Don, and what he did to try and get his foot in the door. After selling Roger a mink coat, Don finds an excuse to take him out for a drink. A few days later, he shows up to work, telling Roger that he have him a job.

There’s a lot of speculation out there as to whether or not that job offer was real. Some say that Don knew Roger would never hire him and so took advantage of his drunkenness. To be completely honest, I’m not sure where I land. This is something that Don certainly wouldn’t be above doing, but then again, Roger does like to drink. If Don is lying, it has some interesting implications to the whole Don Draper persona he’s built for himself. That is, the entire thing is built on lies, not just his personal life.

There’s a certain amount of nostalgia in Roger’s recollection of this entire episode, and a certain amount of bitterness, too. As he tells Joan, he’ll never win an award for finding a guy like Don. There’s a line from the third season finale that I’m remembering. Roger telling Don that he doesn’t value his personal relationships. And while Don hasn’t done anything outright to make Roger angry here, I think Roger’s stewing a bit because in his head he sees Don taking all the glory and not stopping to tell him thank you for everything he’s done.

I’d like to say that Don can’t slip any further than what we saw here, but the show’s surprised me before, so who knows.

Random thoughts:

  • I loved hearing bits of Roger’s memoirs, especially the story about not being allowed to eat chocolate ice cream.
  • Also great was Peggy calling Rizzo out on his BS. And the stripping. You can see her resentment toward Don building, which will pay off later in the season.

Mad Men, “The Rejected”: Sad panda.

Allison certainly had a rough time of it in this episode, and while we saw just how apt an episode title “The Rejected” turned out to be — for all our characters — I don’t think this resonated as strongly with anyone else as it did with her.

And I say that for a few reasons. It can certainly be argued that Don’s problems, both drinking and philandering, are certainly worse than having your heart broken over a one night stand. But while we the viewers might not have firsthand experience with being a drunk or cheating on our spouses, we’ve all had our hearts broken. When can all think back to a time when we were doe-eyed and optimistic, and how the smallest gesture from the person we loved could set the tone for our day, our week, our month. Conversely, we know how devastating it can be when that love isn’t reciprocated. So when Allison tells Don she’s leaving the Agency and would appreciate a letter of recommendation, and Don tells her to write up whatever she wants and he’ll sign it, throwing collectible globes at him from across the office suddenly doesn’t seem so crazy.

Speaking of Don, life certainly does seem to be raining s**t on him, no? There are moments in the office when he almost seems upbeat. But then everybody goes home for the night, the lights turn off, and we see him slumped over on his couch looking completely and utterly defeated. I really and truly feel that this is a man who’s just about reached the end of his rope. When he finally stumbled back to his apartment and starts writing Allison that letter from his typewriter, I think it all stemmed from a sincere desire to apologize for the way he treated her, but in the end he realized that sending a letter and spilling all his feelings would be almost as pathetic as his drinking habit.

Obviously the Allison situation isn’t the only thing that’s got Don down. The focus group seemed to be a bust, as far as the response from the girls they had there went. The theme in the show of out with the old and in with the new is really starting to rear its head this season, and I think that at the fringes of Don’s consciousness he’s started to realize that maybe he’s becoming a bit irrelevant. You look at the office and we see Peggy and Pete as the up-and-comers. Bert Cooper seems to have faded into the background. Every now and then he’ll pop up in the background of this or that scene, sitting on a couch and eating a snack. I think Don’s floating in the nebulous area in between the two, and if he can’t figure out a way to change, he just might disappear.

A few thoughts about the Peggy situation. Mad Men has always been a show with layers, and while the same is true of this season I think that it’s dispensed with a lot of its subtlety. I mean, I was really kind of surprised to see Joyce going around with that “I am a lesbian” sign around her neck. I don’t know if the character herself only served as a device to get Peggy to the party, or if she just isn’t meant to have the depth of a character like Sal. Or maybe I’m wrong on both counts and Joyce’s openness about her sexuality is just another sign of the changing times. Yeah. It’s probably that one. While Peggy’s kiss with Joyce’s friend definitely opens possibilities for her, I really don’t see it going anywhere. If we see Peggy as a sort of protege of Don, then she’s a lot more conservative than she probably wants to admit, and while the occasional fling may be fun for her, longer, sustained relationships are harder. This just isn’t a well I see her going back to.

Surprisingly, the one who seems to have come out on top in the middle of all of this is Pete. He’s got a smokin’ wife, a kid on the way, and he just brought in a six million dollar account. While the feeling that something’s been lost is strong with several of the other characters, I don’t really get that from him. In that scene at the end of the episode, where he and Peggy catch each other through the glass doors, you can tell that Peggy’s imagining how things could have turned out between the two of them. With Pete, it seems more like he’s happy with the life he has and the decisions he’s made. I’m sure the fact that he has a son somewhere out there causes him a certain amount of mental anguish, but I feel like he’s made his peace with it. It feels like, more than anything, he wants his relationship with Peggy to be more casual, rather than the formal back and forth thing they’ve kind of got going right now.

Another name for this episode might have been, “Don’t Get Left Behind.” It’s a theme in the show that really jumped to the forefront in this episode, which I think Don, Peggy and Pete could all attest to.

Mad Men, “The Good News”: The C-word.

What I especially liked about last year’s season finale was how upbeat it all felt. Despite the fact that Don’s marriage was falling apart, the genesis of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce brought the show a new kind of energy that hadn’t been there before. Jump ahead a year, and that energy is still there, but you’d be hard-pressed to call it upbeat.

By no means is that a knock against the show. Mad Men has always been moody. It’s part of its charm, and if that were to simply go away it wouldn’t be the same show. However, it is nice to see our characters end up on top every now and then, but after this week’s episode I have my doubts as to whether or not we’ll be seeing any of that this year.

It’s been a tough year, so we can hardly fault Don for a taking a little time out on his way to Acapulco to visit Anna. After all, it seems like she’s the sole person Don can truly be himself around. But while we saw Don’s time in California in season 2 as a sort of rebirth, this time felt like just the opposite. Don’s becoming more pathetic by the week. In the premiere we see him getting slapped around by a hooker. Last week he’s making the moves on Allison. And this week he’s hitting on Anna’s niece, Stephanie. I’m not sure, but were men having sex with girls 20 years their junior frowned upon in the 60s? I’ll look into it.

Stephanie had more sense than Allison and shut him down pretty quick, and to add insult to injury, told him that the person he may care about most in the world has terminal cancer — and is completely unaware of it. Don’s transformation from the mild-mannered Dick Whitman when he confronted Anna’s sister over that decision was a thing of beauty. He tried beating her over the head with, when you think about it, all he really has in the world: money. Anna’s sister completely turned things back around on him by saying that he had no right to meddle in the family’s business. He was just an empty shirt with a checkbook. It obviously had some resonance with him and shut him up right quick and in a hurry.

I think Don knows that without Anna he’ll be truly alone in the world. In true Don fashion, he comes back to Manhattan and buries himself in his work, only to find Lane in much the same predicament. Having had her fill with the States, his wife has gone back to England and isn’t planning on coming back. Don tells him that he’s learned the hard way not to give advice in these situations (we all remember the Roger/Jane debacle), but the least he could do is take the guy out, show him a good time.

I guess you could call this part of the episode upbeat, even if it was essentially two guys drowning their sorrows in booze, Godzilla movies and cheap women (seriously, $25 dollars?!). It was hilarious if nothing else, and further cements Lane in his place as my favorite character on the show. I especially liked the words — or non-words — the two shared the morning after. Lane thanks Don for the welcome distraction, and Don gives Lane a slight wink and a nod. He’s a frat boy, giving the nerdy kid a small glimpse of the world he lives in. I can’t say with any surety if this will change their relationship in any fundamental way, but you never know. It would be nice to see Lane as more than just the disapproving parent who complains about the kids spending too much money. As with most things, time will tell.

There was a lot of Joan stuff going on in this week’s episode as well. But after Lane came in and sort of hijacked things, it all seemed a little inconsequential. If she does get pregnant and her husband goes off to Vietnam and is killed, Joan as the single mother could be a really interesting storyline, although it’s way too far into the future to really think about. But the show has made big jumps in time before, so maybe by the end of season 7 it’ll be 1985 and we’ll see Don wearing a denim jacket and driving a Delorean. You make fun but if Matt Weiner did it it’d be edgy and bold.

Other stuff:

  • “Gentlemen, shall we begin 1965?” The look on Don’s face spoke volumes. I think now more than ever before, he realizes he’s going into the future alone.
  • “Joan, please forgive me. Lane.” Priceless.

Mad Men, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”: Could you bring me my keys? *wink*

Just like the sexy market research lady said, it’s all about what I want versus what’s expected of me. And we saw some of this play out not only with Don but with the entire staff of SCDP. So let’s take everything apart and see what it looks like once we’ve put it back together, hmm?

When the market researcher — Dr. Miller, for those keeping score — handed her tests out to the senior staff, asking them all very personal questions, Don didn’t waste any time coming up with an excuse and hightailing it out of there. Because the episode made it clear that this was a big deal to him, I felt it would resonate more later in the episode. I think we did see Don in a very different place than we’ve ever seen him before, but I found the payoff (if you can call it that) from what was set up earlier to be a little disappointing. In the end, it pretty much came down to Don telling Miller that he didn’t like people prying into his past. Okay. Point taken.

I think the much more important moment came later, when Allison brings Don’s keys to his apartment. What looked like a quick in and out turned into a quick in and out (see what I did there?) when Don comes on to her with those squinty, drunk eyes and his whiskey breath. For three seasons, we’ve seen Don’s philandering, and while we could all admit that it was wrong, I question how many people actually had a problem with it. After all, he’s Don. I know Tony Soprano went around killing people, but he’s in the Mob. What the hell else is he supposed to do? Tonight however, everything felt different. Maybe it’s the fact that Don no longer has a Betty to go home to, just an empty, sad apartment. I think it’s a safe assumption that Don never really expected Betty to leave him. But she has, and the kids are gone, and Don’s finding it harder to cope than he thought he would. Whatever the reason, the entire thing just felt dirty and made Don look pathetic.

There may have been a piece of him that realized as much, and that’s why he chose to go on the next morning as if nothing had happened. Although his attitude made Allison’s Christmas bonus feel that much dirtier. At least he didn’t tell her to get it off his nightstand. So while I felt Don’s story revealed a side to him we hadn’t yet seen, I didn’t think it came together the way the setup would have had us believe.

From beginning to end, I thought Peggy’s story felt much more cohesive. She’s making her bones in a man’s world and I think that in all her future romantic relationships, she’s going to be the dominating personality. Or at least too smart not to let the men she’s with walk all over her. Now, her boyfriend wants to sleep with her and she’s worried that sex could be as debilitating for her as it is for people like Don and Roger. Of course, this isn’t something she can say, so she’s told him that she would rather wait until they get married. It takes some talking with Fred Rumsen, of all people, to change her mind. But still, at the very end, when she and her boy toy are curled up under the sheets, you see the look on her face and know she’s wondering if the dynamics of their relationship have been irreversibly altered in some way.

While it’s always nice to analyze these character pieces, Mad Men has always offered its share of scenes that are just fun, and really bring you into the episode. In this week’s episode, that was the office Christmas party, which was dramatically upscaled once Roger found out that Lee Jr. was in town and was forced to invite him. You could almost hear the gasp of a million fanboys as we saw Joan leading that conga line. You have to wonder how much Lee Jr. knows about the inner workings of SCDP, but  he certainly got his mileage out of them, forcing Roger to play Santa and then standing back and taking pictures of everyone sitting on his knee with the shiny, new Polaroid camera they were nice enough to buy him. He’s obviously still playing the little kid who gets what he wants, although I’m not sure if getting it makes him happy. After looking back on his scuff up with Sal last year, I’m guessing not.

This week’s episode also saw the return of Glen, who’s set his sights on Sally now that he’s realized Betty is forever out of his reach. Seeing this kid on screen keeps me on the edge of my seat every time, because I’m just waiting to see what crazy crap he’ll pull next. When he breaks into the house with his buddy, and the two start throwing food around the kitchen, it took me a moment to realize that he was doing it to help Sally, rather than just acting out in some crazy way. Although, if it had turned out that Betty found half of her underwear stolen after getting home that night, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

Other things:

  • In the two episodes we’ve seen this season, Lane seems to have taken a back seat to things, playing the stern father who has to tell his kids that they don’t have the money to eat at Papa John’s, but if they want to go to CiCi’s, that’s okay. Still, in a lot of ways, he’s my favorite character on the show.
  • I half-expected Roger to tell Lee Jr. where to stick his Santa costume.
  • Speaking of Freddy Rumsen, his return this week was an even bigger surprise than Glen’s.

Mad Men, “Public Relations”: I’m Donald Draper, b**ch.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Dickens wrote, and it seems the same is applicable at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the scrappy upstart that may be wondering if it’s bit off more than it can chew.

It’s a rare thing to see a show genuinely reinvent itself, especially a show as popular as Mad Men. But if “Public Relations” is any indication, it looks like that’s exactly what the show’s done. But while the stakes in Don’s world have definitely been raised and all of our characters seem to be in uncharted waters as far as their relationships with each other go, it still feels like our Mad Men, albeit a little brighter and snazzy in that this-is-how-bases-on-the-moon-will-look-one-day sort of way.

While things look like business as usual in the beginning of the episode,we can already see how different things have become. Don has always been a prize pony, as Connie Hilton might say, but now that the new agency is struggling to find its place in the world, he’s become more valuable than ever. And as his worth has gone up, so it seems that potential clients’ excitement over dealing with him has, too. The bottom line is that, if Don can’t deliver, everyone hurts.

Things are no less hectic back at the shiny new offices of SCDP, which look like they were taken straight out of the show’s title sequence. Things are a little more cramped, although we don’t see all of the hustle and bustle we saw at Sterling Cooper. From the people who have carried over to the new agency, I think we see the biggest change in Peggy, who’s really come out of her shell.

Not only do we see how different things are for Don, but also for his better half (although some might argue that point). I guess you can’t even call Betty Don’s better half anyway, as she’s now remarried to Henry Francis. It wasn’t any big secret before, but now that Betty doesn’t have her crappy marriage to Don to hide behind, I think it’s going to become that much more apparent what a bad mother she is. Henry already walks around with a look on his face that says he got more than he expected by marrying her.

But divorce or no divorce, Betty’s still under Don’s thumb to a certain extent. She has yet to move out of the house, which Don owns. And I doubt that’s something he’s just going to ignore for too long. When he asked Betty how long it would be until they were out, and Betty threw her hissy fit about not having found the right place for the kids, Henry stepped in, telling Don that their staying there was only temporary. This prompted one of the best lines of the entire episode: “Believe me, Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary.” Zing! I’m glad to see that things are about as cordial as they were when they were still married.

Now that Don’s officially on the market again, he’s free to pursue his philandering. Jane sets him up on a date with a friend who looks like she’s actually going to make Don work if he wants a chance with her. Of course, when Don’s feeling lazy, he can always call exotic-looking prostitutes to come over and slap him around for a while. That dominatrix stuff may have been the episode’s biggest surprise, and I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Oh! Don feels guilty over the way he treats the women in his life, so he’s punishing himself!” I likely culprit, I’ll admit, but I don’t want to believe that the show would be so overt in its thematics.

Mad Men is a show that, unlike so many others, really hasn’t dipped in quality in the three + years its been on the air. Still, it still seems to have found a new energy that wasn’t there before. It’s flashier, it’s cooler and it’s meaner. Don’s got the world by the tail, but does he really? He copes, but you have to think that that can only go so far. There’s only so much the world can heap upon him. And when he breaks, as Fox Mulder might say, it’s going to be the biggest s**tstorm of all time. Don’t let the flashy lights fool you, things may not be as pretty as they seem.

Stuff I liked:

  • “John!” “Marsha!”
  • “It’s the Daily News. It’s one, big section.”
  • I like the character fine, but Joey sort of reminded me of Roy from that episode of The Simpsons. I half expected him to say things like, “Heeey, Mr. D!”
  • The picture of Kennedy hanging up in Peggy’s apartment.