A check in with Mad/Bad/Sad Men
When I wrote my first post about Mad Men, I sort of roped in the first and second episodes of this season. I made the executive decision early on to not write a review of every episode individually because frankly there are already great reviewers at AV Club and Paste Magazine who write intricate and fantastic reviews, and I don’t think I need to add my view to the mix.
That said, I still think about each episode after it airs and have my own thoughts on the matter. Here are my stray observations of what is has transpired so far this season (and spoiler alert):
1. Prostitution theme reigns. We finally had an episode last night that didn’t hammer home Don’s ill treatment of women or include some flash back to his childhood where he basically learns the art of sex by the women who shill it for money (and take advantage of him, no less). I’m sick of this theme, and I’m ready for the show to actually DO something with it, besides just point it out. Also, my friend and I debated this: did we already know Don grew up in a whorehouse or was this element contrived and pulled out of a hat particularly for this season?
2. Bob Benson: exceptionally nice guy or brilliant mastermind? I personally believe Bob Benson is running the most cunning chess game/power grab of all time and will someday rule the world. And I’m happy Joan is along for the ride! Whether he is pure strategy or not, no one but Bob has been this kind to Joan in years. She deserves it!
3. Finally, Megan speaks up. Last week’s episode actually got me frustrated at Megan. How can this lady have not said anything to Don and his aloofness and distantness until now?! Has she not even suspected he might be having an affair? Well, she finally laid down the law to Don that something has gotta change and she doesn’t know yet what it is, but she needs him on her side. It only took, what, 8 or 9 episodes for them to get on the same page?
4. Peggy said it best: “Move Forward”. Surprisingly, no other reviewer has made a comment on Peggy’s response to Don and his childish power struggle with Ted after he got Ted stinking drunk. This is the heart of the story this season, Don’s (along with others) inability to move forward. In this week’s episode, Don becomes so unable to move forward that he goes right back to the beginning. And sleeps with Betty. I don’t know how I feel about this latest development. Again, it has an aura of “contrived-ness” surrounding it. It was so out of last field, and it was only after last week’s episode writers had Betty lose all the weight and suddenly become “hot” again. Doesn’t seem too plausible, and I still think she would be the last person Don would want to sleep with. At the very least, this latest fling did jolt Don right back into the present. As he looks on at Betty and Henry enjoying breakfast “the morning after”, sitting alone at his table on the other side of the room, Don saw a happy couple enjoying each other’s company. Betty is happy- she even told him so- and has no plans on resurrecting an affair with Don; she doesn’t need it or him. I think for the first time ever, Don realized that he already has exactly what she has (probably what he has always wanted this whole time): peace and contentedness. However, he’s chosen to ignore his wife and marriage and seek happiness elsewhere. As Don never learns, but somehow Betty has, the grass is never greener on the other side.
5. Betty has the second best line of the season (to Don): “Poor girl…she doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to know you”. Also, as a third place winner: “I like how you look at me, before and after. And then I watch it decay…I can’t hold your attention”. She hit Don spot on with both lines.
6. The “Drugged out” episode last week was quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen on this show in a while. Watching Don chase Ken Cosgrove around the office while hopped up on some sort of mystery “energy” serum, we laughed so hard we had to rewind it twice.
7. Oh, and I don’t think Sylvia’s dream was really a dream. I think it was a realization that she would never be anything more to Don than a mistress, a plaything, and nothing more. I think she let him down easy by saying all signs in her dream pointed toward home. Something in the way Sylvia was complaining to Don about her marriage and his dismissal of her complaining, told me that Sylvia secretly had hopes something more would bloom between them. But after his dominance/submission session with her, it was pretty clear where he stands. He doesn’t want another wife; he already has one (and she complains too). The fact that Sylvia was the one to end things was a huge blow to Don, but a great development in the show. As much as I loved Linda Cardellini, I very much wanted this affair to end.