Monday, September 13, 2010

At the Mountains of Madness- Parts Seven and Eight: "BONUS DOUBLE ISSUE"

Hail and welcome, Mad Mendicants! A lot has happened since we last spoke, and in the tradition of Charge Shot!!! contributors taking a week off to go and sample some great Americana, we're giving you folks a double header! Don't you hate it when we abandon you? Well, I suppose "hate" is a strong word. We hate Nazis!

Get ready for two weeks' worth of spoilers!

"The Suitcase"

Jordan: We certainly picked a terrible, terrible week to skip. The buzz around last week’s episode was fairly deafening; some critics called it the best episode of the series so far, and I don’t think that’s far off. And it was probably the simplest, too. Peggy and Don spend the evening together - not that way - trying to figure out a campaign for Samsonite. Don gets wasted, vomits, and gets in a fight with Duck, who makes a repeat appearance to try to take a shit on Roger Sterling’s chair. Then Don cries, and then I cried.

Boivin: For those of you playing the Mad Men Drinking Game at home: Don cries- finish your drink. This one was all about Don and Anna and Don and Peggy. Anna’s dead, and seemingly Dick Whitman with her. But Don’s finally opening up, and while he hasn’t told her about his identity theft, he’s told Peggy more about his past then any other character. Between her and Betty I think they have Don’s entire backstory. It would be way too easy to write this one off as the culmination of the “Don doesn’t respect Peggy” plot that’s been central to the show since the pilot; it’s more than just a simple resolution, it’s a gigantic step forward for both characters as well as the direction of the show itself. Peggy is developing into the confident career woman she’s meant to be, and Don is owning up to his failures personal and professional.

Jordan: Mad Men Drinking Game? A bit on-the-nose, isn’t it? We should make one Lebowksi-style, where you drink whenever he drinks. And vomit when he vomits!

"The Summer Man"

Jordan: This episode might not have been the last one’s equal, but it was pretty close. I wasn’t so sure about the voiceover narration at first, but it’s such a joy to hear Don actually talk about himself that I couldn’t really complain. What’d you think about the slow-motion montage set to “Satisfaction”? Or the Hitchcock zoom in Don’s office? This was a more overtly arty episode than any I’ve ever seen, but I think they pulled it off.

Boivin: I was curious about the voiceover that pervaded this week’s episode. Being a lifelong Blade Runner fan, I have been taught since an early age that voiceovers ruin good movies and therefore also ruin good TV shows. Of course, rules like this are made to be broken and I think this was an example of that. The voiceover, representing Don’s new found habit of keeping a journal, showed the new introspective Mr. Draper. After last week with Peggy, and his lost weekend of boozing and sleeping with women traditionally available to us mere mortals, Don’s realized he’s hit rock bottom. He’s taken up swimming and he isn’t drinking as much; notice when he asks the Queen of Perversions for coffee instead of more booze.

Jordan: Joan’s life just gets progressively sadder. All praise to Weiner for flipping the “Marilyn's a Joan” line from Season Two into an insult. Joey’s behavior this episode really was appalling, and it actually makes me appreciate why modern sexual harassment laws are so strict. “You look like you’re trying to get raped”? I was wishing for a 24 crossover so Jack Bauer could cut that guy’s head off.

Boivin: Off topic: the 24 Drinking Game has the same rules about crying.

We’re seeing a big rift developing between Joan and Peggy about how to approach Living In A Man’s World. Joan is the prototypical 50's woman, she’s content to master the system as it is, and advance through her professionalism in secretarial duties, her discretion, and her raw sex appeal. Peggy wants to make a change, she’s all 60’s. She’ll call out the dudes on their sexist bullshit, even if it means looking like a “bitch” in Joan’s words.

Jordan: I think Peggy’s something of a hybrid, actually. Her interactions with the Life Magazine staff show that she’s not nearly as progressive as she could be. But she’s certainly dipped a toe into 60's culture that her boss would certainly keep in his shoes.

Boivin: The show is definitely into something resembling the 1960’s we know and love, the aforementioned Rolling Stones are a good example. And the decor of the office isn’t even recognizable compared to the old Sterling Cooper. The young guys who were having so much fun at poor Joan’s expense don’t dress anything like the older characters. And Harry’s lack of bowties!

Jordan: I miss the bowties. The bowtie’s basically extinct, what with Tucker Carlson having returned home to Hell.

But guys like Joey and Stan are the worst kind of “poseurs,” for lack of a less douchey word. They look like young turks, but they’re really just a bunch of cackling old chauvinists in kid clothes. I find those fake Mad Men ads - for Breyer’s, BMW, etc. - particularly galling (and oblivious) because these guys seem to exist primarily to paint modern advertising as a smug, vapid, traditionalist racket.

Boivin: I think about fifty percent of Mad Men’s audience “gets it” and appreciates the show as a tale of a civilization (upper-middle class white male privilege) on its way out. Mad Men’s a story about dinosaurs learning they’re extinct. The other half just like the idea that there used to be a time when men could drink, smoke, screw, and generally bro out with no consequences (except you know, breaking your secretary’s heart when you treat her like one of your whores). I loved seeing Don take Dr. Faye out to a nice dinner and then decline to do anything more than walk her to her door. He’s becoming a good person!

Then on the other hand, I also liked seeing Bethany blow him in the car.

Jordan: I give a lot of credit to Anna Camp for making Bethany van Nuys both intensely irritating but strangely charming. Or maybe she’s just hot.

She did piss off Betty quite a bit, though. Seeing her get her Don Draper on and drown a bottle at the restaurant was actually pretty heartbreaking. And even more credit to January Jones for actually making Betty sympathetic again. Her temper tantrum in the car (“Go back to living your mansion!”) was really pathetic and showed her for the child she is. But she did let Don have Gene for a minute. Which made me cry. Again.