Tuesday, August 3, 2010

At the Mountains of Madness- Part Two: "Christmas Comes But Once a Year"

mtsomadness2 Season Four of Mad Men is underway! We’re getting our Christmas episode in August! Lucky us! Jump ahead for our esteemed experts’ views on America’s favorite advertising-based historical drama. Spoilers aplenty!

Jordan: To me, this episode felt like a bit of a placeholder: not much character development, few gripping moments (though Don’s drunk ass slumped outside his apartment door was pretty tragic). But I’d have to put it near the top of the pack for the sheer multitude of unforgettable lines and killer scenes. The conga line? Harry Crane sitting on Roger’s lap? “Look where we are”?

Boivin: I think what you’re mentioning as a favorite moment is in fact the character development you claim to so sorely miss. Don’s drinking is starting to get out of control. We probably saw him two sheets to the wind more times in this episode then we did in most of the previous seasons. Clearly he’s not taking his new bachelor life well. And while we’re on the subject, poor Allison.

Jordan: At least she shows up in the “scenes from next week.” Yes, I did think the Don moments were fairly significant, though the general levity of the proceedings didn’t let me emo out with Don for too long. Or rather, I felt the emotional impact of Don’s struggle was blunted by all the silly (but hilarious) crap going on. I enjoyed it, but I’m hoping the show will be able to balance drama and comedy with a bit less clumsily than it did this week. By the way, what did happen this week?

Boivin: Well, Don met a neighbor and made some bad decisions around the office by insulting the psy-ops division and refusing to take a simple survey about his childhood (though of course he’s going to hook up with Dr. Faye) as well sleeping with his long-time secretary Allison and then sort-of-accidentally treating her like one of his whores by giving her her Christmas bonus the morning after. Peggy worked through some issues with her new boyfriend, who really wanted to make the Beast With Two Backs and is working under the impression that he’s her “first” (somewhere out in the infinite cosmos Duck Phillips laughs maniacally). Roger had to deal with Lee Garner Jr. (of getting Sal fired fame) ruining the office Christmas party, and Freddy Rumsen returned! Also, future right-wing pundit Glen B. made some creepy overtures to Sally Draper’s affections, which included vandalizing the Draper-Francis house. I have amazing memory retention; I was in a “gifted” class in lower school.

Jordan: Yeah, I definitely squealed like a girl when Freddy Rumsen came through Roger’s door. And that’s kinda interesting considering I didn’t really care about Freddy when he was a series regular. Based on the way the show swept him aside, I don’t think Matt Weiner did either. But he’s returned with a purpose; Mad Men’s fourth season is all about the winds of change finally beginning to buffet Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (whew). And who better to illustrate the extinction of the dinosaurs than old, (formerly) drunk, urine-soaked Freddy Rumsen. You can practically smell the formaldehyde.

Boivin: It was great having Freddy back, he of the playing-Mozart-with-your-fly, I think there’s a big fan following for him because he was our first experience with a series regular getting dismissed, and he was also just damn funny (he’s Bill Murray’s brother, of course). His relationship with Peggy was great to see again because he more than anyone is responsible for her rise to power. His advice to Peggy regarding male-female relationships and his opinions on what women want are the first time I can remember in the series of an “old-fashioned” guy being told off by a woman for his views. Speaking of which, how about Peggy and her beau? Second most-loathed male character behind (distantly) Joan’s husband Dr. McRapey?

Jordan: I thought Peggy’s boyfriend was hysterical (“Think about THAT!”). His 12-year old with a boner shtick reminded me frighteningly of this, uh, guy I know. Let’s call him J. Pedersen. No, that’s too obvious; Jordan P. Anyway, back to the blood-sucking marketing team. I really enjoyed watching Don squirm as the new, focus-grouped version of his business was rolled out in front of him. It actually made me respect Don’s brand of product hawking. It’s manipulative, sure, but it’s not halfway as craven as the crap we have today.

Boivin: Don’s had to deal with focus groups since the pilot (remember the German lady?) but I think he’s always been able to work around them. It’s just this one was getting into deep stuff like “Were you raised on a farm in Illinois and have you stolen the identity of a man who died in the Korean War to make yourself into the paragon of the American Dream and are you a terrible person for doing it or just a SURVIVOR?” that rubs him the wrong way. I think we’ll be seeing more of sexy psychologist lady down the line. It’s between her and Phoebe the nurse for this season’s Draper Girl.

What about poor Roger and Cigarette dauphin Lee Garner Jr.?

Jordan: I guess it’s clear who Garner’s new Sal(ly) is.

Boivin: As much as that Christmas party looked like fun (I’ll take a place behind Christina Hendricks in a conga line any day of the week), seeing Roger humiliated and bullied into a Santa costume was infuriating and a big moment of poetic justice/epiphany for the character. He’s been eternally in the “the client is always, always right” school of accounts work and here we see it taken to it’s most extreme (well, maybe a little less extreme than “have sex with him in the editing room”). Could this be the tunraround that makes the SCDP gang lose the Lucky Strike account?

Also, someone on a Mad Men talkback I frequent said regarding Lee Garner Jr. and his Polaroid: “Hey, here’s a great idea: let’s give a bullying, sadistic, closeted homosexual with daddy issues a camera! That’ll never backfire!”

That’s all for this episode, gang! Tune in next week: same Mad time, same Mad channel!