Monday, August 24, 2009

At the Mountains of Madness- Part Two: "Love Among the Ruins"

Looking for some entertainment this week that doesn't reek of Orson Scott Card's involvement? Why don't you start watching AMC's Mad Men? There's nary a trace of Mormonism, alternate history, or opposition to gay marriage at all! Just smoking, boozing, womanizing, and advertising here, folks!

This week's Don Draper adventure takes it's name from an 1855 poem by the British poet Robert Browning concerning the rejection of ancient splendors for modern love. With that in mind let's take a gander at the week's developments amongst the employees of Sterling Cooper.

Foremost among the plot lines developing on Mad Men this season is the interoffice politics of the British colonization of Sterling Cooper. Pete and everyone's favorite faux-beatnik Paul Kinsey are doing their damndest to land the Madison Square Garden account , and when Don helps them to dodge the bullet of Paul's left-wing self-righteousness (look for that to become more and more of problem as the season goes on) and secure the trust of the men who want to demolish Penn Station (the "Ruins" of the episode's title?), the British home office orders them to drop the account. Why? Don makes it clear that doing advertising for Madison Square Garden would lead to decades' worth of business, but Lane Pryce states it plainly that due to previously unforeseen conflicts, S-C won't be handling MSG. Frustration mounts further when Don and Betty go out for an awkward dinner with Pryce and his wife (played by, holy crap, the girl from Army of Darkness!) who turn out to be just horribly boring people. Mrs. Pryce, hailing from "foggy" London, regards New York the way most New Yorkers think about the Midwest. To top off condescension towards the City That Never Sleeps, "We live near the UN so we have lots of Africans," she says. What does that even mean? Who are you people? During the tense follow-up convo the next day, Don asks his English overlord "Why did you buy us?" due to the seemingly endless series of fumbles of the part of S-C's new bosses. "I don't know," says Pryce. Get me Duck Philips on the phone!

On the home front we have the deteriorating mental health of Betty's stroke-addled, possibly Alzheimer's-afflicted father, Gene Hofstadt. Brother William (the man who Don pretended to be in Baltimore last week) wants to either dump dad in an old folks' home or move his family into the Hofstadt estate. This would of course keep the house from ever coming into Betty's possession, which she of course, cannot abide, apparently because she really dislikes her sister-in-law, Judy. Two observations, Betty doesn't like anybody except her dead mother, and I think there are at least 3 tertiary characters named Judy on this show. Seriously, everybody's unseen wife/sister/mother is named Judy. I think William's wife might be the first Judy we the audience have met but my God, the Sixties were full of Judies. Don shows that he's a pretty stand up guy by essentially Jedi Mind Tricking William into letting Gene stay with the Drapers for the time being, thus keeping the ownership of Betty's childhood home up for grabs. God he's good! After this, we're treated to Gene suffering from a Prohibition flashback and dumping all of Don's bourbon down the drain, and an adorable Hofstadt-Draper family portrait, but not before Don takes some time to daydream about boffing Sally's teacher around the Maypole. Oh Don, you'll do the right thing to keep your wife's family from self-destructing but nothing will stop you from leering at any pretty lady who isn't your wife! Sweet sunglasses, btw.

Also on the burner this week, Sterling divorce/marriage drama! Daughter Marg
aret doesn't want Roger to bring his child-bride Jane to her upcoming nuptials because that would of course be weird considering Roger's new wife and his daughter are the same age. Eww! Mona has a date, so that's just unfair! Did anyone else notice the unfortunate date of "fall bride" Margaret's wedding? Before we leave the Sterlings, Roger earns one thousand bonus points for his line about Lane Pryce's suit of armor: “You ever get three sheets to the wind and try that thing on?” Kudos to you, Mr. Sterling. Here's hoping that the season ends with Bert Cooper throwing on his samurai suit and fighting Pryce in his knight's garb!

Finally we come to our weekly installment of Peggy Olson vs. the Glass Ceiling. Working on an account for Patio (that's what they called Diet Pepsi before it was Diet Pepsi), Peggy's woman-friendly angle is shot down by the boy's club's notion that the client's idea for an Ann-Margaret-type in their ad will sell more diet pop. "Clients don't always know what they want," counters Peggy, aping her mentor, Don. The master himself responds "You're not an artist Peggy, you solve problems," proving she has a long way to go, even in the eyes of her biggest patron. She reacts to all this by going out to a crowded Brooklyn bar and picking up the first drunk college boy she can find. Her night is soured however because her gentleman caller is lacking a "Trojan". Nice brand awareness, Peggy! If there's one character on Mad Men who knows the value of prophylactics, it's young Ms. Olson, so her rendezvous is stopped at third, so to speak. Still, good for you, Peggy! You'll be a Mad (Wo)Man yet!

So that's Mad Men this week, guys! Stop by next week for "My Old Kentucky Home" and let's see if this mysterious image is addressed. Hmmm...curiouser and curiouser...