Thursday, August 12, 2010

At the Mountains of Madness- Part Three: "The Good News"

Apologies for being tardy, fellow Mad Mennonites! But better late than never, right? Of course right! So slap a steak on your groin like it’s a Big Texas Belt Buckle and prepare for spoilers! Yee-haw!

Boivin: Before we discuss anything else, I think we should talk about the format of this episode. It seemed like a two-for-one, a twofer if you will. By the time the Don and Anna plot was resolved, I thought an hour had already passed by, but lo and behold we were only halfway through the episode. That’s economical television, folks!

Jordan: One could almost construe it as disjointed, but both halves were so damn satisfying that I had a hard time complaining. They also weren’t wholly distinct, as the angst engendered by first fueled the whoring and boozing of the second.

Boivin: Of course; Don’s discovery of Anna’s impending death leads him to accelerate his self-destructive tendencies (which have of course been highlighted this season) and led him to reach out to Lane, his new BFF. The final shot before the first 1965 meeting of the partners at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is quite telling: Don strips the sheets off the bed and collapses onto it, giving the camera a vacant stare.

Jordan: The Anna part of the episode was just as heartwarming and heartbreaking as the character’s other appearances on the show, but this one packed a particularly hard punch. Watching Don go from being merely a sad divorcee creeping on a twenty-year-old to a man without an identity who realizes that his only real friend is about to die was almost exhausting.

Boivin: It’s not just Anna that’s dying: she’s going to take Dick Whitman to the grave with her. Anna’s the only one who knows Don’s whole life story. Sure, Betty and Pete have seen the Shoebox of Damocles and know that he wasn’t born Don Draper, but they don’t know him, he’s never been Dick Whitman with them. When Don signed “Anna and Dick ‘64” on the wall of Anna’s house, he was essentially commemorating the final nail in Dick Whitman’s coffin.

Jordan: I can’t resist trying to predict what the show might do with this. In whom will Don confide? Allison? Lane? Certainly not Roger or, uh, Bert (though seeing Robert Morse’s reaction to Don trying to open up would be hysterical). Or will he simply bottle the whole thing up (literally)? Will the show end with the iconic single light bulb illuminating Don’s swinging corpse?

Boivin: Cooper already knows, and is on the record for not giving a shit, which is why Don didn’t get fired when Pete blackmailed him at the end of Season One. Maybe this is how he inevitably gets Betty back (though she seems pretty hostile towards anything having to do with Dick Whitman)? I think this is the first episode in the series’ history to be without the former Mrs. Draper, and honestly it did pretty well.

Let’s talk about Joan, everybody’s favorite character.

Jordan: That moment where Joan’s husband stitched up her finger was so touching it almost made me forgive some of the character’s rape-ier tendencies. Almost. We’ve seen Joan before, but I think this is the first time we’ve gotten a really full-fledged Joan subplot. For better or slightly less better, Joan’s usually just exquisite eye candy.

Boivin: Gotta disagree. Joan’s had decent subplots since the beginning. Think her affair with Roger Season One, and her impending nuptials culminating in the hard-to-watch office rape at the hands of Greg in Season Two, and Three had her front-and-center spawning my new found accordion fetish.

Her sobbing as Greg stitches up her finger is so hard to read. Is she crying because this horrible man is the one she’s stuck with, surgical incompetence and all? Or is she remembering the Mr. Right she fell in love with? I thought that scene was great because it managed to create just the slightest bit of sympathy for Dr. Rape, who is by definition the worst person on a show about terrible people.

Jordan: I feel like Joan was the one being acted upon in her previous subplots, and though she’s still the victim here of Greg’s (admittedly forced) abandonment, I perceive her as being more effectual here. It’s her stress we focus on this time, and not the aftereffects of something we’ve seen her suffer.

I also feel like Mad Men has largely forgiven Greg for his transgressions, which never really made sense to me. Greg seemed like a stand-up (if a bit whiny) guy both before and after the rape, and that seemed like something Matt Weiner threw in to shock rather than to move the character forward legitimately.

Boivin: But it informs so much of their relationship from that point on. Greg’s behavior towards Joan doesn’t always seem that bad in Season Three and this current one, but when you understand that he’s the kind of guy who would rape his fiancĂ©e in her boss’ office, you see him for the bully and monster he is. One has to remember that Joan has essentially made her peace with living in a man's world, and she's going for the ladies' American Dream of settling down with a handsome doctor and having lots of kids. But she's stuck with a man who rapes her and isn't even good at his job. It’s going to be weird when Greg's eventually killed/maimed in Vietnam. Though, knowing Weiner he’s probably going to be sent to West Germany in an effort to throw off our expectations.

And Lane. Poor, poor, pitiful Lane. This segment made me so happy. For a number of reasons. Not only did we get some of the best drunken debauchery this side of Roger Sterling but we also got to see the boys go and see Gamera!

Jordan: “LOOK AT ME! I’VE GOT A BIG TEXAS BELT BUCKLE.” One of the best lines in a season full of ‘em. We’ll have to agree to disagree on Weiner’s intent with Greg. I’ve seen enough character and plot inconsistencies in Mad Men that I no longer labor under the delusion that the writing staff is infallible. But I will say that bringing Lane and Don together in their most vulnerable moment was a stroke of genius on the part of the staff. When I watched Lane walk into the harsh light of day after a night of quality hooker-lovin’, I knew Lane would be a perfect foil for Don’s compulsively watchable slide into oblivion.

Speaking of oblivion, that's all the time left for us! Come by at our regular time next Tuesday for more Mountains of Madness!