Tuesday, August 31, 2010

At the Mountains of Madness- Part Six: "Waldorf Stories"

We’re both drunk already! Let’s do this! Spoilers ahead! Wait! “Here be spoilers!”, “Spoilers ahoy!”, “Watch for spoilers!”, “Spoilers: they’re after the jump!”, “Get ready to be spoiled!”...

Boivin: I don’t know if I’ve already made this joke, but I like naming all TV show episodes using the Friends system. If Mad Men were a 90’s sitcom about a bunch of twentysomethings in their thirties living and loving in a disturbingly white New York, this episode would be titled “The One Where Don Wins A Clio And Gets Really Drunk”. It could also be called “The One Where Peggy Gets Naked”, or “The One Where Roger Has A Series Of Flashbacks”.

Jordan: And I’d love to name this episode with the Seinfeld system, where every episode is called “The ______.” Except that doesn’t work with this Mad Men, really, because every episode would be called “The Tragedy” or “The Drunk.” And this episode was especially drunk, even in a season full of alcoholic hours. Don won a Clio and got super shwasty, and then, uh, stayed drunk for the rest of the episode. Earlier in this feature, I might have called this another “filler” episode. But what I’ve grown to appreciate about this fourth season is how the episodes that could be construed as filler actually contain a wealth of character development. Like the Christmas episode, this one didn’t move the plot forward much, we learned ever so much more about the characters.

Boivin: I watched this show with a group the other night and someone noted that this season, as exemplified by this particular episode especially, has been lighter on the upper-middle-class ennui and much heavier on the blunt wackiness. There’s been a marked change, and the show has been moving in this direction. Do I even need to remind everybody that an Englishman’s foot got run over by a lawnmower last year? If you ask me this is the Eisenhower/Kennedy years fading away and the 1960’s coming into full effect. Mad Men isn’t really escapist fantasy about drinking and philandering anymore: shit just got real.

Jordan: But, to be fair, Mad Men was never really an escapist fantasy as such. I mean, there were moments of escapism, but I think the characters were as immersed in the fantasy as the viewers. Perhaps the Mad Men principals got more self-conscious, but I don’t think things got more real. I mean, unless they cross over with Bad Boys. Then shit would be super real.

Boivin: Let me rephrase that. I didn’t mean to call Mad Men escapism, but the way it’s seen in the media and by a certain cross-section of its viewership is all about glamor and things that are taboo now. “Look how much they smoke!” “A pregnant woman is drinking!” “Look at Christina Hendricks’ curves!”. Basically Don is being used as a vehicle of sorts to show that this lifestyle, this identity of the 50’s/early 60’s alpha male is coming down. Fall, Babylon, fall!

Jordan: Yeah, truf. Speaking of Babylon falling, Don struck out fairly spectacularly this weekend. First he couldn’t get with Faye...again. Then the (admittedly smokin’) desperate “Cake Topping” chick accosts him. But last and certainly least was the BUSTED waitress he ended up with. I definitely laughed my ass off when I saw her uniform. Man was that sad, though.

Boivin: I truly pity the actress who took up the casting call of “Don Draper’s failure made flesh”. Don’s look at Faye after she rejected him just silently screamed “I will have you...God as my witness. You will bow down before me, Dr. Miller. I swear it! No matter that it takes an eternity, you will bow down before me! Both you, and then one day, your heirs!” But his batting average is dangerously low this season. And am I reading too much into the hand-holding/inappropriate on-the-lips kissing between him and Joan?

Jordan: Yup, I think you are. This Recording called the menage-a-handholding a Human Centipede, by the way, which is horrific. I think it, more than anything, just signifies Don’s drinking problem and his newfound desperation. Joan’s gorgeous, but it’s definitely a defeat for Don to be looking for love “in the family.” But he still won’t touch Peggy, even if new asshole creative guy suspects as much.

Boivin: Don and Peggy’s Special Relationship, after five years you think that would have died down. Could you imagine tonight’s naked Peggy antics circa Season One? She’s grown more than any other character (fat joke) on the show, I’d say, which is sort of her purpose I suppose. She’s clearly the future of the agency and the business, and while Rizzo may be the counterculture flavor of the month, he’s just another generation of Draper-style he-man woman haters.

Speaking of which, we got some 50’s flashbacks showing how Roger hired (or did he?) Don in the first place. He was certainly a lot chipper back then, wouldn’t you say?

Jordan: Re: Peggy, for a hot second. During this episode, I had this vivid image of Peggy in her 70s, retired after forming her own agency, brilliant and legendary but bitter and unmarried. I seriously would love to see maybe just one episode with all of these characters as old fogies.

Anyway, back to the flashbacks. Ugh, it almost hurt to see how happy Don seemed back then, especially with his sorta-terrifying drunken pitch-freestyle as a counterpoint (as well as, of course, the rest of his abominable behavior). I do love the idea that Don was once just a schmuck like everybody else, even if all the other schmucks don’t have secret identities and aren’t good at everything.