Monday, 26 May 2014

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 7, "Waterloo"

RIP Bert Cooper. You were a giant! A giant I say!

This episode was all over the place, wasn't it? A messy end to the the Mid-Season Finale (Mid-Season Barf is more like it) that takes good news, bad news, the infinite hope and wonder of man's first steps on the moon, and a major character death and mixes it up how Mad Men does best: very well-executed, and more than a bit perplexing. And another firm merger, because of course. They have had too many of those. And you know what they haven't had enough of? Ghost musical numbers! Oh wait!
Bert got to see man walk on the moon (a WHITE man, no less! What a good day for Bert. Aaah, I kid, he's obviously not that racist, he lets his housemaid watch the picture show with him!) and then he walks (dances?) into the grave. But that Bert Cooper, he was a leader. It's his last words to Roger that will have the biggest impact on the agency he helped found after he's dead. He never had any kids himself (if there is an afterlife, I hope that Bert will be reunited his long lost testicles. I hope they greet each other at the pearly gates, share a big sloppy kiss, and both trot off, hand-in-hand, excited for the new adventures to come), so it makes sense for him to put all that unrequited parenting (i.e. disappointment) on Roger's shoulders. He tells him he has no vision, unlike Cutler (who has vision, but not Bert's vision. Vision vision vision. Sounds weird right? Venison. Vision.)
So once he's in the ground Roger faces off with his CGC doppleganger, Cutler, for the future of the agency. Is it going to be President Sterling and his best buddy Don? Or is it bug-eyed Cutler and his fancy supercomputer? There are…ya know, meetings. And agency talk. And…blah blah blah, wouldn't ya know it? Roger's side wins! They are now a subsidiary of McCaan, which is the agency everyone hates. But Don gets his old job back (which will surely mean SEE YA LATER SCOUT'S HONOR) and everyone gets more money! Hooray, Joan! It looks like you actually don't need a homosexual to take care of you!
Honestly, whatever. Sterling Cooper, PPL, SCDP, SC&P, SC&P Macaan? It's not that important. Not at the prescribes, it isn't. I don't think it was ever the most important thing that Don get back to being Creative Director, that he prove to everyone in the office that Lou is a big stupid baby head and that he's the defacto genius in advertisement. What was important was for him to deal with the issues in his life that made him blow up in the first place. He needed to be humbled, and he needed to remember why he wanted to keep this job more than go with Megan to California. He shares with Ted what really is important, and that's doing the work. Creating something. Everything can be such a big damn mess, but when you stop dealing with the bullshit, you can still recall what made you love it in the first place. We've seen both Don and Ted at their absolute lowest this season, but that doesn't stop people from wanting the team that won Chevy.
Then they win Burger Chef! Hooray! Then they vote to get bought out by McCaan! Hooray? Don will get his old job back! That's a hooray, right? But it wouldn't be a Mad Men finale (Mid-season finale, hurl) without exuberant emotional ambiguity! Don's victory over Cutler and Stupid-Baby-Head-Lou are overcast by Don's vision (or maybe a hallucination? A brain aneurism?) of the freshly dead Bert singing and dancing along to "The Best Things in Life Are Free." I gotta admit, when it first started I let out a very genuine "what the fuuuuuuuck?" But then I noticed that statement was coming out gleefully grinning lips. It was so bizarre. So polarizing. I had to sit and think on that ending hard. The song and his dance number (shoeless, because duh) were so bright and happy, but left an eerily disconcerting blanket over everything that was happening at the agency and in Don's life.
Don just beat Cutler, so all should be sunshine and blow jobs right? But Don has a knack for looking at the negative side of everything happening in his life, and maybe the biggest problems still lay in front of him. Getting tossed over to McCaan, being stuck with a five-year-contract, and more money are not what is going to bring Don Draper peace. Bert spells it out for him pretty clearly: best things in life are free (just ask your mom). And then he tells Don that the moon belongs to everyone (kind of like for mom). Everyone is feeling such hope and excitement over the moon landing (I mean hell, it literally killed Cooper). It's an event that people can bring people together in awe and celebration. I think Don tried to feel hope, but if that last shot in the episode is any sort of indication, it all got gut-socked right out of him. Cooper looks like he's taunting him as he waves goodbye, leaving Don looking straight up wrecked (just like your mom).
Personally, I've been saying since the beginning of the season I don't really care that much about where Don ends up working. He tells Ted pretty much the same thing, that he doesn't have to work for them, he just has to work. Perhaps he spent too much time this season trying to get the right job back when he should have been focusing on important things like his children, and other less important-but-still-kind-of-important-I-GUESS-sorta-things. Like his wife.
There were plenty of other important things going on in this episode, so let's just all be adults about it and give them sonsabitches some bullet points. Pow pow!
  •   I think MVP of the episode goes to Peggy. She Don Draper'd the fuck outta that Burger Chef pitch. It was one of the most successful pitches in the entire show, I think. Beautiful hopeful, and just a small hint of sadness underneath (she mentions the ten-year-old waiting for her at home, and doesn't mention it's not her son. Which prompts a suspicious look from Pete. Really good stuff.) I think this was the most honest pitch Peggy could have ever come up with, and it made more sense for her to give it than Don. It was her emotional breakdown/breakthrough that led her, Don, and Pete to the glossy restaurant at the end of last week's episode. Not only was Don looking out for her in a number of different ways when he told her to do it, she dominated it. And awww, isn't she so sweet with that little kid in her building? Well ain't she just the sweetest? I hadn't liked Peggy so much since she stabbed Abe.
  • Speaking of killing it, don’t you all wish we could have seen Bert Cooper dance and sing waaay before it happened in this episode? It could have been a finale tradition.
  •  Meredith, the world's worst secretary, is also a bit of a floozy, eh? That was the funniest kiss in the whole show. I love how slow she always talks. And it's also hysterical how clearly she sees herself as a person of great importance in Don's life. And then Don is like "haha gtfo bitch call my lawyer BUHBYE."
  •  When Pete clasps his chest to tug on his pearl necklace and squeals out “I have ten percent!” at the partners meeting. Watch it again. And again and again. It’s amazing.
  •  It bums me out a little that so much of the episode covered the agency issues when there was such a hilarious subplot about Sally Draper’s hormones (and hairstyle, good god child) going all over the place. But I can’t blame her, even Betty was checking out that shirtless hunk of man candy.
  • “What do I do now?” That’s what that kid asks after Sally kisses him. He makes Glenn seem normal.
  •  Megan, you and Don don’t belong together. Stick to it this time, kid. Go see The Wild Bunch with your annoying friend. It’s an awesome flick. So long kiddo. Focus on your acting. Stop being crazy some of the times.
  • This seems like the second finale in a row Don has given something up for Ted Chaough. Last year it was going to California, and this year he is letting Ted stick only to the creative side of the job, while Don, presumably is going to be dealing with McCaan and more bullshit. Ted sure talked about killing himself a lot this episode. It was funny. I like his sad jokes about his sad life.
  • “Marriage is a racket.” Pete Campbell with the zingers. Pew pew!
  •   They all kicked Harry out of the partners meeting, saying he didn’t sign in time. Which means they just left him out of probably around a million dollars. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH good.
           So that was the first half of season 7 of Mad Men. What did y’all think? Good? Bad? Pete’s hairline not receding enough? Overall I thought it was a very good season. I felt like it was all some of the strongest writing and directing of the show’s run, but some of the storylines (i.e. Megan, the firm mergers) did kind of backtrack on themselves quite a bit. AND MORE DANCING BERT! THE MAN WAS SO NIMBLE.

One more for good measure.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 6, "The Strategy"

"I have authority. Don has emotion."
Luckily, this week slows down the crazy from last week quite a bit. No one self mutilates in this week's episode, "The Strategy." Don doesn't bring Stan into a threesome with Megan in an attempt to bring them closer (although that happens every week in the Mad Men in my mind). But even so, a lot happened this week, and the episode balanced itself between at least four different storylines very well. Oh, and a GM executive tried to fellate an undercover cop. So, thank god for that. Let's get into it.
Everyone's excited to see Bob Benson's glorious (read: weird as fuck) return! He's SC&P's favorite sexual deviant/saboteur/enigmatic/identity-thief (he got bumped up to the top spot after Don left). I wasn't sure if Ol' Bobby'd be back for this season. Was he coming back? How's he doing in Detroit? There were a lot of questions surrounded the weirdo.
        And after tonight's episode I am totally positive that Bob Benson is fully capable of murder. As in, he could, and would murder another person if he saw it necessary. Probably with a knife. Bob Benson will stab and murder you with a knife. His proposal to Joan is seemingly well-intentioned enough, but holy hell, that was some sociopath talk coming out of his mouth. He tries so hard to make people think he's one way (i.e. not a gay sociopath) but people can still figure it out pretty easy (the gay part, anyway). The new GM executive could smell it on him from a mile away. That's why he calls Bob to bail him out when he gets arrested for trying to suck off an undercover cop (Poor guy's just trying to have a good trip to New York, give him a break). In one of the most weirdly hilarious scenes of the season, the two share a cab back from prison, and the GM exec drunkenly pines for his home in Detroit where the temptation isn't so strong, where he has a system of blow-and-go buddies already set up, and where even his wife is okay with him going on and slurping down some man-sperm. Now doesn't that sound enticing, Mr. Benson? "Why yes, it certainly does!" So he gets it in his head that the best way to continue forward in this business is to get himself the prettiest, chestiest beard he could find. 
But Joan thinks too highly of herself for that (and damn right, sister!), and promptly refuses. Not only does she believe in the pursuit of true love (aww, kind of), but she knows it's all just a facade. "You shouldn't be with a woman," she tells him. To which he hilariously responds, "I have been before." Haaahahahahaha. Yep. Love it. I imagine they were 18, while he stiffly thrusts himself into her on the carpeted floor of his walk-in closet, eyes shut as tight as he can, stomach uneasy. It lasts for about three minutes before he goes soft and begins to cry. "This isn't going to work," she asks an 18-year-old weeping Bob Benson.
"I've totally touched all the girl parts before! I'm a real good sex person!"
Case in point, you can't always hide who you are. You can do a pretty great job of it, and maybe go at it for a long time, but sooner or later your past is going to come back into the picture. It's one of the most ubiquitous themes of the entire show: You can't escape you you are. It's all we've got, right? We're all just one big prologue. Something about…boats and...I don't know, beating against the currents. Or some fucking shit. Who cares.
I just can't help it, I love Pete Campbell. Ok, yeah, maybe I don't love him, but his stories are always some of my favorites of any episode (Pete Campbell and Sally Draper are my two MVPs this season, whodathunkit). There wasn't much out of the ordinary for a Pete storyline in this week's episode, but it's all told from a slightly different perspective. Because now he is California Pete. The one who talks about vibrations. On the plane he tells his real estate girlfriend (Brittany Snow, oof) he wants her shopping all day and screwing all night. How am I not supposed to love Pete Campbell? He has the unsexiest sexy game ever. But then it even works! Earning him a full invitation to the mile high club. ("I've always wanted to do that." *Shudders. Laughs out loud. Shudders again.*)
But once he's back it takes him about three hours to slip effortlessly back into regular 'ol New York Pete Campbell. He finds the first shitty reason to get upset and yell at Trudy (Trudy! Alison Brie! Six Seasons and a Movie! Sad Emoticon!) when he should be enjoying the very small amount of time he's getting with his daughter. Oh Pete. He's still just a petulant child who wants what he can't have. He spends the whole next day pouting, so much so that he drives his lady to extreme irritation, in only the wonderful way Pete Campbell can do. "I don't like you in New York," she tells him, which Pete  rightfully professes is his real self. He is New York Pete. He's not Hippy Dippy Pete. It doesn't work for him. He's a bit of a worm, and I can totally understand if people don't like him, but that's who he is. There ain't no changin' it. 
So what if he's an asshole? So what if he only sees his daughter once a year and tries to emotionally blackmail his ex-wife? So what if he whines and bitches like a child who didn't get to buy a new toy? So what if---eh, you get the point, he's a total dick. And that's why I love him. Never change Pete Campbell. Pssh, like ya even could, ya blue-blooded prick in the grass. 
He did do one other thing of significance this week, and that was basically pitting Don and Peggy up against each other for Burger Chef. I don't think he suggested Don make the pitch to be adversarial, quite the opposite. Pete is invested in getting Don back up in the agency, but I also think he is trying to do what's best for the account. He's even quite polite when he meets with Peggy and Lou, assuring Peggy that it's her decision because it's her account. And oh boy does that piss Peggy off. And it's not Pete's fault because deep down she knows having Don make the pitch is the best way to go. He has that perfect baritone in his voice, that sense of longing and wistful hope for a simpler tomorrow that really drives his presentations home. The ad is about mother's pleasing their husbands, and Don can be the man to drive it home. 
So Peggy starts spazzing OUT, calling Don at home and telling him he ruined everything again. It looked like the episode could be on its way to a full Peggy blow-up, most likely in front of Don. She thinks he brought up having a different idea for the pitch to purposefully screw with her. That he thinks the work is crap and that she can't trust him anymore. It wouldn't be strange for, at this part in the episode, Don to scream derogatory and belittling things to Peggy, maybe even throw some crumpled up tag lines in her face. But this episode of Mad Men goes for something very different. They put Don and Peggy into one office, and let them work together. Just the two of them. 
Don seems resigned, too beat to be anything but honest with her. He apparently does still hold Peggy in the highest of esteem, even if his new work situation has put a strain to that. And she still knows she can learn a lot from him, as much as she hates the way he does things sometimes. I think this is the closest we've ever gotten Don to describe his actual thought process. He is so honest with her in his answers, too. I wasn't expecting such clarity in his answers. He abuses the people who's help he needs. Check. Then he takes a nap. Check. Then he starts over. Check. We have seen Don do all these things countless times. It's interesting to learn that this is actually a process he knows he has to go through to get the work that needs to be done. It makes it seem as though he has had slightly more control over himself and his relationships than he's led on. 
But the same time, he has no control. He worries about everything, and so is Peggy. They're worried that they haven't done anything, that they have nobody. She's even started to lie about her age. Gosh, who else does that? These two are really two sides of the same coin. He understands the pain she feels because he still feels it every day. You like to think as you get older you understand more, but maybe things don't really change like that. I think you're always going to worry about something to some degree. Maybe Don is realizing that as he has to work his way back up the ladders at SC&P. Maybe that's what Freddy Rumsen made him realize when he told him to jsut do the work, and maybe that's why he finally shut up and started listening to Peggy. Because deep down he knows he isn't any better off than she is. They both are still "living in the unknown," as Don puts it.
Watching them work side by side again is wonderful. Peggy lets herself break down enough, start fresh enough, to put a new spin on the ad, one that feels real. And watching them get to it together was an extremely satisfying moment. It was so nice to see them being buddies again that I will even let go of the almost-too-saccharine-ending of them slow dancing to music coming from…somewhere. It almost gave me a cavity, but fuck it, it was a nicely earned moment.
And perhaps…that was the strategy all along!
Ha, nah. Pete Campbell's not that smart.

Stray Observations

  • I didn't mention Megan yet. Oh, Megan, it took her about eight seconds (upon hearing "I didn't know he was married!") for her to put on her bitch face. And as she visited she seemed...distant. Packing up more of her stuff, seeming uneasy about Don visiting in August… it all seemed very suspicious. I mean, I know the showrunners have said she's definitely not getting murdered by Charles Manson…but at this point I think it's the best storyline ending for her. She gets pregnant during the threesome, decides to keep it because she's jealous of Stephanie, and then gets murdered while at a dinner party in the canyons. Woah. That's dark, Nick. I know, other Nick! *High fives self. Stares into the mirror with steely eyes*
  • Don says 1955 was a good year. If my math is correct, that means he was just about thirty years old in 1955, which is exactly how old Peggy is now. Ooooo, Mad Men math! Hopefully things for Peggy can start picking up so that she can have a good year as well (This Will Be Our Year!)
  • Cosgrove speaking of his little son: "You really have to keep an eye on him." DEAD SILENCE. This show is funny sometimes. 
  • Peggy hasn't gone to see Ginsberg yet. I cannot blame her. I also like the way she sounds super jealous of Stan's "baby." Poor Peggy. Look at that, this episode actually made me feel empathy for her. Wow, it's been a while. 
  • "It's nice to see family happiness again!" Lou says of the Burger Chef ad pitch. If he had it his way, of course, there'd be a spazzy little monkey hocking the burgers. I've said the word "spaz" more than once in this review. I'm not upset about it, I just thought I'd mention it, because it's kinda weird. Spaz.
  • "The Jews close everything on Saturday!"
  • Harry Crane is a partner. While it was nice seeing all of the partners (spare Ted Chaough, because he's useless now) at the meeting where they voted Harry in, the fact that Harry is now a partner makes me want to vomit White Castle all over my desk and lap. I know he's on Don's side (at least he says he is), but he's such a wormy little fuck--scratch that, a wormy fat-fuck.
  • The last shot of the episode is fantastic. The soft, strangely dreamlike music, the slow pull back, all just lovely. Really drives home the idea of Peggy's new pitch. "Every table is a family table." Not bad. 
  • Of course Pete hates the word "family." Ha, I wonder why? The bit where his daughter didn't recognize him was pretty sad.
  • "And hit the tag like you just thought of it," Peggy tells Don to do. "Do I do that?" Don asks, doubtably in earnest. "Yes, you do," Peggy responds flatly. Those two...I like those two together.
This week saw a pretty big revival in one of Don's relationships. With next week the end of this little halfseason (A midseason finale, or as I like to say, a barf), what relationships with Don can still be repaired (SC&P?) and which are just too fucked to save (Megan?), who knows! 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 5 "The Runaways"

Hello, I'm Lou Avery and this is my cartoon, Scout's Honor! 
What's that? Go fist myself? Oh okay, yes sir.       
"It belongs to her and she belongs to it."

     Well. This week was interesting. Actually, it was dark. This week got fucking dark. There were some laughs too. Some girls kissing girls, some great Betty jabs. It wasn't all dark…but damn. This week was dark. We've got Betty spiraling out more than ever, we've got ten-year-old Bobby developing an ulcer because of it. Megan's losing all control of her marriage, finding herself creepily jealous of Don's would-be niece, who is also knocked up, alone, and broke. Don and Lou are finally starting to square off for real, and then throw in a paranoid-schizophrenic-bodily-mutilating Ginsberg, and we've got one hell of a party on Mad Men this week! Everyone raise your glass of cyanide, kill a small, defenseless animal, and let's get into it!
     So Don and Lou got into it more this week than we've seen so far. It all starts with Lou's unbelievably funny "Scout's Honor" comics, which, unfortunately for Lou, makes him an easy target of ridicule. It's not that his comics are even terrible (although they are NO Jim the Duck), but Don has it exactly right when he says he shouldn't be giving them any more ammo. He's the boss, and he's a square boss at that. Showing any sort of misbegotten personal creativity will be dashed immediately, partially out of cynicism, but possibly even jealously. But Lou only makes it ten times worse when he freaks out on them about it. Holy shit, Lou likes Bob Dylan, or at least pretends to in an effort to seem knowledgeable amongst his younger staff. That was so goddamn funny. Lou, all flustered, talking gibberish about patriotism and marketing…ugh, it was delicious. So delicious it must be fattening. You could just see Don eating it up with a spoon, with huge dollops of Cool Whip slathered on top (Just taste it).      
     "I'm gonna tuck you in tonight."
    "No, I'd let you go, Lou."
    "I'm not taking management advice from Don Draper."
    These two start getting into it this week. It feels satisfactory, though. I'd much rather see Don going up against Lou, his new agency replacement, rather than Peggy, who is too close to Don in so many ways. The show has made it abundantly clear that We. Do. Not. Like. Lou. So let's duke it out then, motherfuckers. It's frustrating, of course, because right now Lou holds all the cards over Don. He can make him miss his flight, write extra copy, turn it down, and even try to land a tobacco account in order to squeeze Don out for good. Don has to take orders from Peggy and can't even drink a Canadian Club in the office. The chips are not in Don's favor. One might even say it's impossible for Don to win at this point; to ever become a viable part of this agency again.
     But that ignorant sonofabitch hasn't met Don Draper.
     Don is smart and he can hash out plans instantly. He can even still get valuable information out of someone like Harry Crane, a man he has never once been nice to in the nine years we've seen them work together, who wasn't even allowed in his wife's party, by just be being him. Don is so charismatic, enigmatic, that even after a meltdown of telling Hershey's you were raised by whores proportion, you still want to help him. You are still on his side. Part of what makes this season feel strangely different from others is the exact fact, that everyone else on the show isn't rooting for him. Sure we're used to some upset clients, an angry wife, and maybe even the husband of a wife, but for Don to have so few allies in his time of need (Roger, Pete, and now sort of Harry) but, so many adversaries (Lou, Cutler, Roger, Joan, Peggy), is unseen ground for Mad Men. Whenever's Don gotten into some deep shit with people in the past he's crushed them: Pete, Putnam Powell & Lowe, Duck (haha, God, Duck. Who do I hate more, Duck or Lou? Let's make a new spin-off show called the "I Want To Kill Myself Hour," and have it star Duck and Lou. Betty can be the weekly musical guest).
     But I think Don can still pull off a victory against Lou and Cutler, and Lou proved it this week. He showed weakness. He let some young brats making fun of his silly cartoon get to him. He took it personal, he got upset, and lashed out, because let's face it, he's insecure (which he probably should be. It is definitely NO Jim The Duck). Don saw it happen right before his eyes, and I think he'll be able to take him down. He stays a fly in Lou's ointment with their Commander Cigarette meeting (Don's first successful meeting since probably season five!). He went in there and weaved some magnificent yarns of bullshit for them, and it left those tobacco big wigs thinking. "You think this is going to save you?" Cutler asks, and Don slams the door. Maybe it will, you bespectacled fuck. Maybe it will. 
    Oh, also, fuck Lou.
    Let's keep this Megan discussion short. How are these two still together? She sort of ends it with him every episode she's in, and then is happy to see him a week after that. And now, like almost every episode she's been in this season, she sort of loses her shit. The scenes with Stephanie (Stephanie!!! The titular runaway, how I've missed her. She' wonderful looking. Her looks? They're wonderful. Chick looks wonderful, is what I'm trying to say) were so strange and tense.  What an oddly sapphic greeting the two share, and it only gets stranger. Megan seemed to be trying her best to be welcoming, but she couldn't keep her creeping jealousy at bay. Stephanie definitely picked up on it, to the point where Megan all but kicks her out, smiling and giving her money at the same time.
    Megan politely gets Stephanie out of there before Don gets a chance to see her. And then she has a party with her actress friends. Where she dances all up on another guy. And then throws her friend who he obviously hates on him. Was that the first threesome we've had in Mad Men? I suppose Roger is having sex with thirteen or fourteen people at a time now, but we haven't actually seen it. Joan and Marley Shelton (of massive Bubble Boy fame) both kiss that burger waiter in a cab, but that's all that goes on there. I think it was our first threesome on Mad Men! Hooray!!! It's too bad it was almost too desperate to be sexy. Don sure doesn't like parties, and he sure as fuck doesn't like actors, so by the time he heard about Commander Cigarettes he really didn't feel like dealing with his drunk wife and her stupid friend. 
      Now, don't get me wrong. He still did it. Of course he did it. If your hot wife starts starts making out with her cute friend and shoving your fingers up her snatch, you go with it. But I think Don was telling the truth when he told her he didn't want anything. Remember how pissy Don was last season about her kissing on screen and her polyamorous coworkers? That kind of scene never sits well with Don. While he's certainly a hypocrite (i.e. philanderer), he's still pretty traditional about relationships. Even if it is with another woman, I don't think Don likes to think about his wife kissing anyone but him (let me, of course, reiterate, what a fucking hypocrite he is in this regard). But in the end it doesn't matter. She can't make Don stay. He just...runs away. (See what I did there?!)
    Betty is the worst mother ever. Who would have thought she could get worse? "I'm gonna break your arm next?" Jesus H. Christ, Betty.
    She's also a horrible wife. No shocker there. The line about toast crumbs that Henry screams only gets funnier and funnier the more I think about it. How are her they even still together? He seems…smart. At least too smart to be with that horrid creature. Though, I suppose it's the politics of the situation.
    Poor Bobby, the wannabe runaway.. There's no way that kid is growing up to be normal. He's going to go to BDSM clubs for sure. Infantilism is my bet. 
    Sally Draper OWNS IT in this episode.
    This is all I want to say about Betty Francis. Just typing about her makes my keyboard feel dirty and gives me a strange, pale sickness in my stomach.
    Well I guess that's all there is to talk about this week. Definitely nothing else exciting or strange or interesting happened. Nope. Not at all. Oh yeah, GINSBERG CUT HIS NIPPLE OFF AS A THANK YOU. Damn dude, he makes Van Gogh look like a rational dude. This was the first episode we saw more of Ginsberg than just a funny one liner about jerking off or farts. And it built up to…this. Jesus. When he starts to kiss Peggy I got the sense that something was really wrong with him (HA. BURN PEGGY. Kidding). Not that there's anything wrong with her (i.e. there is), but because that is so absolutely uncharacteristic of him. Not just with Peggy, but any girl. It quickly turned a possibly comedic (the computers are turning everyone into homos!) Ginsbgerg rant into a very, very unfunny and serious story about debilitating mental illness in the face of new technology.
    This season has had a dark undertone from the get go. The office functional, but seems ill-at-ease. Business relationships have been put to the test, Don isn't working, Betty's parenting is getting worse, Peggy is one secretary away from being a total bitch…but it all seemed to culminate, or rather, amputate itself with Ginsberg this week. Let's face it, he's never been all there, his mouth never really shut. He might have been a holocaust survivor, and he's never been laid. For a long time people have said that Pete Campbell would be the one to kill himself, but in hindsight it was definitely always Michael Ginsberg who would chop off his own nipple to say thank you to Peggy for helping him deal with the evil computer that is turning all men into fags. I mean, it was so obvious from the get go.
     That was some truly scary stuff, the scene where he gives Peggy her "present." The acting totally solid. Peggy's mortified reaction was the perfect surrogate for us in the audience. And the pale, confused look of total despair as they carried Ginsberg away sealed it, making this officially one of the most fucked up episodes of Mad Men ever. 
    A very good, if not frustrating because of Don's wives, episode. Two left and there we have it for Season 7-ish Part 1 Kind Of.

Stray Observations

  • "I'm not stupid. I speak Italian." Oh my god, Betty, you are the most fun person to hate on TV ever. 
  • "I guess I got what I came for." There was a definite twinge of sadness when Stephanie said that. I don't think she was only there to hit up 'ol Dick Whitman for cash. I think Megan totally strong-armed her out of there and I thought she was a total bitch about it. Sorry you think she's so beautiful that you have to run her out of your house that your husband pays for. 
  • "Where would mom be without her perfect nose? She wouldn't find a man like you. She'd be nothing." Sally Draper is probably the least full of shit person on this whole show and I love it when that precocious little firecracker drops truth all over the place. WATCH WHERE YOU STAND, BETTY, YOUR DAUGHTER DROPPED TRUTH ALL OVER THE FLOOR.
  • This week was definitely the least I hated Peggy all season. It's actually pretty cute how she lets little Julio from upstairs watch TV with her in her place. 
  • Sword fighting with golf clubs? Shit, did I mention how BALLER Sally Draper is?!
  • It was sweet when Stan went with Ginsberg. Stan's a good guy. And, fuuuuuuuck, dude. That motherfucker knows how to wear a crevat.

  • I've watched the episode twice now, and oh my god when Lou starts yelling about patriotism and calling them flag burners? It is so goddamn funny.
  • I have a stomachache all the time. :-( This was the first scene Sally and Bobby have really had since she kissed a boy and then beat Bobby up for teasing her. It was a really nice scene. But then again, I love all scenes with Sally Draper.
  • Betty and Lou! They should get hitched, and then drive off a cliff together. End season 7!
  • Don finally had a good meeting with a client. It was abrupt, and totally insubordinate, but hopefully this is the start to get him back on track at SC&P. "You're incredible," Lou says disdainfully. "Thank you," Don shoots right back in his face.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 4, "The Monolith"

Peggy's just upset she can't fart on the orange couch anymore.

      "You have a fundamental misunderstanding of what went wrong here."

      My deepest apologies about last weeks missing Mad Men blog. Me and my special lady friend, who I don't pay for (!!!), were on a little vacation (which is ironic because I am not working currently) to one of the islands in the south of Thailand. Ever see that movie the Beach? With Leonardo DiCaprio? That kind of sucks? It's near there. But the internet there was scarce at best, and this author was half hammered at best the entire time. So. I hope you guys aren't mad at me. I hope we can move past this and be in a better stronger place. With stronger, more open and honest Mad Men reviews. It means so much to me that you trust me. Are we past that? Good, now get off your ass and go get me another beer. I SAID GO GET ME ANOTHER BEER. 
Last week's episode answered the question of "Is Don coming back to the agency" much faster than I thought it would, but then this week added a big 'BUT' to that (in the spirit of journalistic integrity, I will not make a joke about big butts. I will, however, have you take a look at the nearest picture of your mom). Last week also showed Betty being a horrible mother (no surprise there), Megan being a crazy actress (no surprise there), Roger being Don's main proponent to come back (no surprise there), but also all the other agency members totally hating on Don, Peggy included (some surprise there, I must say). I know Don went to the looney bin last season, but goddamn, it is still his agency. It was his idea for Lane to fire them and break off before they all became slaves to McCaan (I'm pretty sure that is/was a real agency, and I don't know much about it because I haven't ever cared to look, but do they just rape and torture their employees there? It seems they have every account imaginable, but every single person on this shower would rather mutilate their genitals than work there). 
So let us begin on the Monolith (that's a big rock, in case you didn't know. Ever see that movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? With Leonardo DiCaprio? That kinda sucks? It's like that.) The monolith in question could be a few different things. The first, of course, is their new computer. Hooray for Harry Crane. Harry's become even worse. Perhaps the agency does need this huge slab of technology, but the fact that it came from his request makes me have to hate it. And it is straight up depressing that at this point in Don's career at SC&P even Harry Crane can talk shit to him. 
So what does the computer mean for the agency? I'm not too clear on what exactly the specifics of its help to advertising will be, but it clearly has a great effect on Creative. Using a machine to try and calculate strategy and what people think they want does not sound like Don's prerogative. The computer symbolizes the ever changing landscape of the agency. Of everything in Don's world. Nothing is staying the same, and it seems it's getting more and more difficult for Don to keep up. It's not all his fault, as the other partners and Lou keep getting in Don's way. I thought Don was on the right track when he came to Burt with the idea of advertising the computer company…but since it was Don's idea it was shot right down. They just want him to sit in his office, quietly, not doing any work. That is definitely not Don's prerogative. 
And then there's Lou, who instead of being a man about it and talking to Don (god I hate Lou. I'm thinking about starting a whole new blog called because my hatred for him is so all-consuming, I don't want it to be the only thing I write about in these reviews), he dumps him in Peggy's lap. Low move. I don't know if Lou knew just the effect it would have on him, but he knocked that piece of manipulation right out of the park. Yes, Don reacts much like a child (literally throwing a tantrum after finding out and throwing what appears to be a lovely, functional typewriter against a window), but it's Peggy. He made her. She would not be where she was today if it wasn't for Don. She still steals his words in pitch meetings. If there was anyone to throw Don under to rile him up, it's her. 
But let's be at least a little happy that it led to some of the funniest scenes and reaction shots from John Hamm in the entire series. The absolutely revolted dead-eyed look he lays into Peggy while she's assigning him 25 tags is pure gold. Not showing up to the meeting and playing solitaire at his desk instead of walking the one office over? Classic. Also, how adorable is Mathis, trying to politely bridge the gap between Don's complete negligence and Peggy's total bitch-ness. He's a cute little eagle scout. Mad Men has become quite efficient at honing into hilarious moments that are not really played out for laughs, but are natural products of their wonderfully developed characters. The more you hang out with someone you like, the funnier they become on a daily basis, and this show nails that. And if you happened to hang out with someone like Harry Crane with any regularity, you would hate his fucking guts, even when he doesn't do anything seemingly wrong at all. Hey, they nailed that too! I hate that guy!
But at the end of the day Don's biggest opponent isn't Lou, or Harry Crane, or Burt, or even the computer. It's him. It's always been him. The monolith in question is Don. (Ooooooh, you weren't expecting that were ya? Were ya? That's what, in the blogosphere business, we call a GAME CHANGER.) He is a big, unchanging slab of granite, who has great difficulty moving anywhere. His lack of power in the office is definitely enough to get upset by, but he decides to implode all over himself, with a bottle of vodka, no less. VODKA. Straight. You're better than that Don. He comes dangerously close to blowing his whole deal worked out with the partners, and he gets very creepily up in the computer guy's face about it as well. Don is scared of the computer. He's scared of what he doesn't understand, of the power that it brings over him. He's scared of it all, and instead of moving forward he just sucks down clear alcohol from an empty coke can, screaming and rambling like he did when he got put on leave. 
It's ridiculous we only have three episodes left of this "season." The closer we get to it the more ill-at-ease I find myself about it's duration (and I was already skeptical about i when it started). What kind of climax are we headed towards in three more episodes that can feel satisfactory but not rushed? He's writing copy for Peggy. For Peggy, man. And, yes, at the end of the episode he has pulled his head out of his ass just enough to get that small task done, but where is he going from here? It's like they've neutered him at that office, and I like where the season's been going, but I just don't know what else they can try to show us and accomplish before we are put on hold for a whole year.
The Monolith is a good episode, with some classic Don-meltdown-come-back-and-try-again moments, but with so little screen time left, this season seems to be playing fast and loose with the back and forth and back and forth. Are they trying to move Don forward, or at least in a new direction, or is he just continually a big, stone monument...of some sort.

Stray Observations

  • I didn't get to the Roger's daughter in a hippy commune thing in the main bulk of the review (Although I TOTALLY called that her daughter was into some weird shit in the first episode review, didn't I? DIDN'T I?!), but that's because it didn't seem all that important. I love me some Mona scenes, and Roger is definitely one of my favorite characters in the whole show, but this storyline didn't really do much for me. Yes, her new life here parallels Roger's. And yes, her abandonment of her son does also parallel Roger's, but we already knew the Sterlings were a selfish, selfish lot. Roger seems to almost like the idea of his daughter's new life until he sees her getting down with the free love, and he blows up because he doesn't want that for his little girl, pretty much because he's a hypocrite. Yep. Also, let's face it. Hippies are dumb. 
  • "You want me to be a janitor? Whistle while I work?" I would pay to watch John Hamm sweep and jovially whistle an old whorehouse tune. I bet it's janky.
  • "A computer is a magic machine that makes Harry Crane seem important." Classic.
  • Burt has a hell of a zinger in this one. "Yes, started with a dead man whose office you now inhabit." He just compared Don to a dude who killed himself. Burt's showing all new shades of dick this season.
  • I never thought Peggy would become "the enemy" to me, but she is. I have to keep reminding myself that he did totally fuck up her and Ted last season, but I just can't abide by in a world where Peggy is telling Don what to do. Maybe I'm a dick.
  • I love that they even give Don the bad secretary. They're laying it in thick. She's pretty hilariously retarded, though.
  • Did I mention I hate Lou? I HAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE HIM!
  • But as much as I hate Lou, I love Freddy Rumsen. Who'da thought he'd be the one to snap Don straight (until he blows up next week again, anyway)? If Don should listen to anyone it is definitely Freddy. He's been there. He had way more pee in his pants, but Don can still learn a lot from him. 
  • "This couch is full of farts!" Ginsberg job this season has pretty much to show up, say one funny line, and then disappear for the rest of the episode. At least he does it well. 

Cheers fellows! Till net week!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 2, "A Day's Work"

"Just tell the truth." Sally Draper

When I decided to start writing these reviews, the hope was that I'd be able to write thoughtful, engaging, and possibly even humorous interpretations of the show's characters and themes on a weekly basis. What is Don going through now that he's on forced leave? Are he and Megan going to make it? What about his already strained relationship with his daughter? These are all important questions…uh…you see…but…ummmm…SCREW IT. THEY PLAYED MY FAVORITE ZOMBIES SONG AT THE END OF THE EPISODE AND THAT'S ALL I CARE ABOUT RIGHT NOW! IT'S THE ZOMBIES! AND THEY PLAYED THEM! AND THEY PLAYED 'THIS IS OUR YEAR,' EASILY MY FAVORITE SONG BY THEM EVER. IT'S EVEN BETTER THAN 'TIME OF THE SEASON!' I DON'T EVEN CARE ABOUT DON RIGHT NOW BECAUSE AAAAAHGHGHGUGHGHGHG I LOVE THE ZOMBIES SO MUCH I AM GOING TO BLAST 'ODYSSEY AND ORACLE' AS LOUD AS I CAN! BEST CREDITS SONG EVERRRRRRRRRR!
Phew. Okay. Glad I got that out. tThere was no way I was going to be able to wait till the end of the review to express how happy that made me. After an episode I thought was already hugely solid, they closed it perfectly (for me, anyway, because I guess subjectivity is still a thing. Ugh, when will people learn I'm always right?) And this was a great episode. One I enjoyed very much. Last week I mentioned how the first episode of the season for Mad Men (or most shows for that matter) has a bit of catch they always have to play, a sense of duty to show us what the characters have been up to (except Betty. Never Betty), so it was nice to see this episode slow down the pace. While plenty of things still happened story wise, the episode was able to move through them more slowly, giving appropriate emotional beats where they were needed (one of my favorite of which was the great scene of Sally walking through SC&P's empty hallways to find another man working in her father's office). 
"A Day's Work" takes place on Valentine's Day, 1969. For some characters it's a big deal (Shirley, Peggy's engaged secretary and true flower-receiver), for some it's only in the background (Don, who already had Dawn send Megan something), and for some it's something they wish they could forget entirely (holy shit Peggy was a hot mess this episode). Some of them had a great day, and some of them terrible. Some of them started out great and ended sour, and some vice versa. Valentine's Day is quite possibly the most divisive holiday of the year, and I liked that they used it as a loose framework for the day in question. 
The person who is most affected by it (though really it's her own doing) is Peggy. Not much happens in her storyline, except of course for her completely ridiculous , nearly unbelievable behavior. When she first gets to work, she doesn't even remember that it is Valentine's Day. And why should she? She stabbed her last boyfriend (usually a deal-breaker) and the last man she loved squarely took a dump on her chest (Ted's freaky). She seems to be doing about as emotionally well as Don at this point. They act out in very different ways, but if she had just been sucking back more Canadian Club, I swear they would have been twins. Peggy's storyline is largely told for comedic value (something we found out around season 3 that Elizabeth Moss was very good at), and while it is kind of depressingly funny (like a clown getting trampled by an elephant, or a herd of elephants, or even just a clown getting hurt at all for that matter), it's kind of rough to watch. I squirmed when she tried to find the perfect wording for her snarky response to Ted for sending her flowers he actually didn't. I'd be embarrassed as hell too if I were her and found out they flowers were for someone else, but she handles it with about as much grace as Don did at Sterling's mother's funeral (just with slightly less barf). She loses all sight of professionalism,  even telling Joan she couldn't get any work done today because of the flower mix-up. She is literally the hottest of messes. She ends up having to get a new secretary because she's too embarrassed to deal with Shirley again. Huh. Acting out irrationally to the point where you need a new secretary because you're too ashamed? SOUND LIKE SOMEONE ELSE WE KNOW? (It does. The answer is Don. It sounds like Don.)
Joan has quite a different kind of day. It starts out as same as ever, with her having to deal with her duties as a partner and also as "Head of the Secretaries," a role she was somehow never able to free herself from, even after her promotion. That's why it's so satisfying when Jim Cutler finally notices her double duties. Joan's story is on the same trajectory it was last week, with more and more responsibility rightfully coming to her door. She kind of oppositely mirrors Pete this week, who starts the day off feeling great but gets his new account partially taken away from him as the workday goes on. This week's Pete is definitely the kind of Pete we are more used to. Petulant, angry, hilariously storming in and out of rooms. I love when he tells Ted they aren't talking anymore. Good God, I love Pete Campbell. Ya know why? It's not because he's a good character (Lord no, he's mostly repugnant), it's because he's an interesting character. He's impatient and more than a little selfish, but he's also still damn good at his job. And his job is essentially getting people to like him so that they will like his company. He can't be only smarmy if he continues to land important accounts. And therein lies what I think makes Pete Campbell so interesting. He obviously has the ability to curb his emotions in front of others, but can't seem to hone it. 
Pete being Pete, Joan getting more responsibility, Jim almost butting heads with Roger, secretary shifts, it's apparent that life at the office is going on almost exactly the same without Don there. It's disconcerting to see things go smoothly without him. I'm sure most people (myself not excluded) secretly hoped SC&P would start to fall apart without their masterful creative director there to make somber, gravely-toned soliloquies about life, death, and the nature of happiness to their clients. But that's just not the case. Business must go on. Copy still needs to be written, accounts to be landed. It's a scary notion for him to arrive at, but Don needs them more than they need him. It's been almost three months now, and still no call. Rumors have begun to circulate about Don's absence, and while no one knows exactly what happened, people know that SC&P is Draper-less and still functioning without him. 
Jim Cutler refers to him as their "collective ex-wife who's still receiving alimony." Ouch. I remember when they told him to go on leave last season that it seemed unlikely he'd be returning. I read somewhere that usually being told to go on leave like that was actually just a polite way of firing someone they couldn't technically fire. But then Don seemed so confident about his imminent return last week that I myself found myself feeling hopeful, especially since he was still writing such dynamite copy. But things at the office definitely suggest otherwise.
How much does Don truly believe he's going to get to come back to work? He's putting on a decent front, at both his "social" lunch with a fellow ad-man (whose name I am far too lazy to go back and find out, because whatever, dude was wearing a pink shirt with an orange tie anyway, LAME), and when Dawn came over to give him the low-down, but how much of it is bullshit? It was extremely depressing to see Don clean up his place and get all dolled up, straightened tie and all, to just have a two-minute discussion with his former secretary about the current state of affairs at the office. The need for secrecy does not seem to bode well for Don's future either. And then to see him just immediately turn the TV back on and loosen his tie…ugh. It's sad. We're used to seeing him in turmoil, but he usually gets to be wallowing in it in his office. It's much sadder when it's in his apartment. Alone. In his robe. Watching Little Rascals. Munching on crackers (but he is eating again! Don ate two episodes in a row! That has to be a Mad Men record.)
Don's business affairs are paramount, but the center of the episode is Sally. I'm glad they didn't try to cram even more into last week's episode, but she was the one thing it was missing for me. Sally's revelations about her father last season were some of the most painful in the shows history. The older Sally got the more inevitable it became her father's sordid affairs would start to spill out onto her. But it ended up even worse than I could ever have imagined--her walking in on her dad plowing Lindsey Weir. That's not an easy sight to bounce back from. It seemed unlikely the two would ever be able to get past such a traumatizing event. Don, however, in one of the most rare examples of honesty, shed some light onto his past when he showed Sally and Bobby the run-down whorehouse he called home. That moment at the end of Season 6, with the two of them exchanging glances in front of the old brothel was one of my all-time favorite moments in Mad Men. No words were needed between the two, and Sally, young as she is, finally started to understand, at least a little, something about her father's past that perhaps made him the way he is today. It was subtle, beautifully acted, and highly effective. 
Personally I am much more invested in this part of Don's redemption than I am his relationship with Megan or the firm. The firm is doing fine without him, Megan is living in LA all on her own and doing well in her career, all without Don living there. If anyone still needs Don as a positive influence in their life, it's his children. Already coming from a broken home with a painfully narcissistic mother, it seems unlikely Sally can escape adolescence healthy and unscathed. It's Don's responsibility to do everything he can to make sure she doesn't end up who he is. I know it's not an easy task for him, but the episodes that put this dynamic in the forefront are usually my favorite, most emotionally responsive episodes. 
It doesn't start out well for them either, when he first returns home to find her waiting there for him. As she's grown, Sally has definitely inherited a lot of Betty. Fortunately, Sally is still at the age when acting like a fifteen year old girl is appropriate. She's snarky and angry at her father, and is now old enough to see through his lies, which she's piecing together there are a lot of. The more he lies to her the further away she gets, and it comes to a head in the car when he won't answer her questions about his job. "It's more embarrassing for me to catch you in a lie than for you to be lying." This, too, is the first time Sally clearly brings up his affair with Sylvia. It's heartbreaking hearing Sally express genuine fear of going to her father's apartment. Don has no moral recourse. They sit and eat (well, she doesn't at first, and he only eats a french fry…but there's still food in front of Don! I shouldn't get so excited about this every time, but dammit I do) in almost silence until Don realizes the only thing he can do to get through to his daughter is just be honest with her. Because of him she's had to grow up a lot faster than she should have, and he owes her honesty more than anyone. 
And he finally gives her some. He tells her the truth about his job. He tells her the truth about being ashamed. And she responds. And she eats. And he even makes a cute little joke about dining and dashing (a wonderful bit of acting from John Hamm. He even had me going for a second). The episode ends with a beautifully earned moment between father and daughter, one that I think the episode rightfully took its time building to. The look on Don's face after she tells him she loves him is devastating and sweet. It pleases me greatly to see Sally and Don at the emotional center of this episode, because I think it might be the only relationship Don has left he might be able to salvage. AND THEN THEY PLAY 'THIS IS OUR YEAR' BY THE ZOMBIES AND EVERYONE GOES CRAZY! HAVE YOU HEARD THAT SONG? I MEAN, HAVE YOU REALLY HEARD IT? IT'S SO GODDAMNED GREAT! MAD MEN YOU BEAUTIFUL BASTARD.

Stray Observations:
  • "Just cash the checks, you're gonna die someday." Ted Chaough is a real barrel of monkeys in California. It's quite humorous. I love when he wonders which of Peggy's accounts they lost, completely unaware of how bat-shit crazy Peggy's acting in New York.
  • The bit where Dawn and Shirley jokingly call each other their own names (Get it, cuz they're black and they are easily mixed up?!) was quite funny. Also, who isn't happy for Dawn at the end when she gets Joan's old job? She's quite possibly the best secretary Don's ever had, except for Miss Blankenship, who's only fault was not being able to properly stay alive.
  • "She knows what day it is. It's right there on her calendar. February 14th, gloomily masturbate." Dear God, Ginsberg, don't ever change. DON'T. EVER. CHANGE.
  • Don sets an alarm for 7:30am, turns it off, and then sleeps past noon. Yep, that sounds like unemployment to me. People definitely sleep a lot when they're unemployed. Or sometimes they wake up early to watch an episode of a TV show twice so they can write a review about it and make sure it's up by the time people are awake in the states to read it. I don't know. I mean, I've heard that some unemployed people do that.
  • "Jesus, Draper, is this your first funeral?" Sally gives a great look after that question that clearly conveys, "Shit. It is." I want to quickly mention how lucky the show was when they cast Kiernan Shipka. She was like all of six when the show started, and almost eight years later, she has blossomed into quite a solid little actress. I think her work in the last two seasons has been increasingly good.
  • Roger Sterling said kike about three times in twenty seconds. DON'T YOU CHANGE EITHER, STERLING. YOU STAY GOLD. Oh man, should there be Ginsberg/Sterling spin-off, a la The Odd Couple? I think I've answered my own question.
  • I would be remiss if I didn't point out Burt Cooper's impeccably polite racism. Goddamn, dude. I mean, of course it makes sense. It's still 1969, and Cooper is about a hundred and fifty years old, but you still can't help but drop your jaw at his request to get a "colored" girl out of sight from the elevators. But at least he was cordial about it! If you're gonna be racist, at least do it politely! That's what my mother always taught me, anyway.
  • Two episodes without Harry Crane? I can get used to this. 
  • There's only five episodes left of this little half season. I'm thinking by the end of these seven episodes we will have a definitive answer as to what is happening with Don and SC&P. 
  • Oh, and did I mention THE ZOMBIES WERE PLAYED AT THE END THE EPISODE? DID I? DID I?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 1, "Time Zones"

In this new weekly segment, I will review each week's new episode of the current and seventh season of AMC's Mad Men. Are you all as excited as I am? Of course you are. Of course you are.

"Time Zones"

                               "If she doesn't know you, you should just keep it that way, that's what people do."

The main question going into this final season of Mad Men (not actually the last season, because ugh, but more on that later)is: Is Don capable of change? Is he even worth salvation? After last season's glorious Don Draper meltdown (Hershey's Chocolate…Whore's Love It!), I was in the camp that maybe Don wasn't long for this world. I'm not saying he was going to kill himself (because that would be laaaaazy), but maybe he was finally tired of the facade of Don Draper. Maybe he wanted to be able to reconcile what was left of Dick Whitman. That sad little kid who was practically raped by a busty whore, and then beaten with a wooden spoon because of it. His marriage, his children, and his job were all detonating at the end of season 6. Was it the beginning of the end? Or was it an opportunity for Don to get his shit together and burst triumphantly from the ashes, like a goddamned phoenix?
The phoenix thing seemed…less than likely.
Which brings us to the season premiere of season 7, "Time Zones." Two months have passed, and a great deal of the episode, like most of Mad Men's premieres, focused on reacclimatizing us viewers into what's going on around at SCDP (SCDPCGC, SC&P, hey, that is the best one). Since Mad Men uses real-time in-between seasons, there are always a lot of questions they have to answer in the first episode. It makes for a fun watch, to see Joan, and Ken, and then Pete, and the whole gang and then go "Oh so that's how Pete's doing!" but it also makes for less nuanced, captivating episodes. Yes, I am interested in Ken's daily breakdowns due to Pete and Bob's absences (I LOVE BOB BENSON), but the show is at its best when the story is slowly unfolding over several episodes rather than just playing catch up (MORE ON THAT LATER, OKAY???). That being said, there was still plenty to like about this episode.
Last season fiddled with the idea of Joan trying to climb the Accounts ladder at SC&P with Avon Cosmetics, but that didn't go very far. This season we find out that they did in fact get the account, but she's still hungry for more. Lord knows Joan deserves more say around there. She's a goddamn partner of the entire firm, but they still treat her like Head Secretary most of the time. Maybe that can finally change? It looks like she's started demonstrating some more Peggy-ish qualities lately. Unlike Peggy, however, Joan still has a demure, sexy, female sensibility she brings to the table. It might not be as direct as Peggy, but I bet it could be just as effective.
Cool Ken Cosgrove and awful Pete Campbell have pretty much switched places, and it's hysterical. Ken even has Pete's old secretary, and apparently does have a limit to how aloof and laidback he can act under pressure. Just a buttered roll for breakfast? Come on, Ken, you need some more fiber in that diet. I for one have always been an unrepentant supporter of Pete Campbell (I'm not even totally sure why, I just don't think he's actually as shitty a person as most of his actions would lead you to believe), so I am particularly pleased to see him doing well in California. Those plaid pants, the hug he plants on Don, that goddamn sweater he ties around his shoulders, the way he just yells for iced tea instead of ordering it like a normal person…it's hilarious. We actually got to hear him seriously use the word "….vibrations." I could watch an entire episode of just Hippie Dippy Pete. Maybe he won't blow his brains out like everyone's been speculating for seasons. OR maybe it's a misdirect! Hippy Pete overdoses on groovy vibrations and pastrami sandwiches!
Peggy, however, ain't doing as great. After she took Don's chair at the end of season 6, I thought things might really be looking up for ol' Margaret. But she seems to be stuck in more of the same than ever. She's still in that same shitty apartment she bought with Abe. She's still stuck around Ted. And now she's got an even stupider boss to make her job even harder (Lou Avery is gross, just let me say it. I don't like him. Or his face.) Peggy's ambition and hardass attitude have seemed to hold her back as much as it has propelled her forward. If it were happening in today's world it's because strong women in the workplace, equality, you go girl, but back in the 60's, even after she's spent almost a decade making a name for herself, she still is putting up with bullshit from all angles. And Lou sucks.  Did I mention that about him? He might not be as emotionally damaging as Don, but at least Don knew copywriting.
And then there's Don. Donny Don Donny boy. The episode title clearly stems from his new bicoastal life with Megan (Roger seems to be experimenting with some BI-coastalness himself, AMIRITE!?!? *Looks around for high-five. Sees no one. Clears throat.*) While it's anything but perfect, I have to admit that Don's doing way better than I anticipated. I was pretty sure he and Megan were done after he told her he wouldn't be moving to LA, and I didn't think he'd be doing very well with being practically fired as well. But as it turns out, he and Megan are still trying to make it work. Only now they're across the entire country from each other. Absence make the heart grow fonder, right? (I actually have no idea if that's true, I read it in a fortune cookie once) But Megan still has reservations; not wanting to bang, getting extremely agitated over Don trying to give her large presents, and why shouldn't she? Don was the absolute WORST last season. She says she hates barely seeing him in this new arrangement, but it also seems to be the only way to possibly have their relationship work. Is it worth it?
The reveal that Don wrote Freddy Rumsen's inspired Wristwatch copy was delightful, but a lot of me expected Don to just be way worse off than he is. Yes, he is still working his way back up, and using other people to get his ideas out there out of fear of losing the job he only might still have, but his copy is great, and he's apparently been kicking ass at it since he was asked to leave his own firm. Last season I don't think we saw Don nail one pitch. They were either all about suicide or robbing dudes with prostitutes for candy bars. It's frustrating that he can still be that goddamn good at his job, but only months after the fact. Get it together, Draper. Or don't. I don't know. I DON'T KNOW, DON.
It all seems like a temporary fix. He is trying to make it work with Megan, but then the second he's on the plane he starts flirting with the attractive Megan-esque girl sitting next to him. He even admits "She knows I'm a terrible husband." Well, you're goddamned right. She knows it, you know it, this chick sitting next to you on the plane knows it…even if he doesn't go home with her, I don't know what he's going to do, or can do, to truly make things better. When he is watching TV with a sleeping Megan, the screen shows some fairy-tale looking text that reads: 
"In these days of war and rumors of wars--haven't you ever dreamed of a place where all was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight? Of course, so has every man since Time began. Always the same dream, sometimes be calls it utopia--sometimes the Fountain of Youth--Sometimes merely 'that little chicken farm.'"
       Yep. I'd say that sounds like Don. At the beginning of the end, this is where Don's head is. But it's also where his head has always been. We've seen him go up and we've seen him go down, but he keeps ending up in the same place: looking desperate and forlorn, gazing off far away as the episode turns to black, only this time he's sitting outside in the freezing cold. What does this last season have in store to possibly fix that? Or is he just broken and can't be fixed? Maybe he's not supposed to ever find that little chicken farm.
Are we going to find out this season? Who knows, because it's not a real season. It's half season. Just a little halfsy. Part of a season. This is the biggest problem I see going into these seven episodes. Since there's going to be another year long break between Season 7 part I and Season 7 part II (barf), it's actually two distinctly different sets of episodes. But with only seven episodes instead of the regular 13, I think they are going to have to cram a whole lot in the next six hours of television to make it feel like it's at a proper point of completion. I understand why AMC is breaking them up (Because A) with Breaking Bad gone, and now Mad Men almost done, AMC is totally screwed with their line-up, and because B) DOLLAR DOLLAR BILLS, Y'ALL), but after this episode, I am even more wearisome that it is only going to stifle the slow, deliberate pacing that the show has become so famous for. I want to watch everything unfold in its own time, and I don't think 7 episodes are going to cut it. 
But still, Mad Men is back, and I am gleeful about it. It is easily the best show on television today, and also the best show AMC has ever aired (suck it Walter White). Two half seasons or one regular season, either way I am still excited to see how Don might better himself, or further explode everything in his life he gives a shit about.

Stray Observations: 
  • Roger is apparently living in an opium den. It suits him. It really does. I like his inter-gendered harem, too, he's very 1969 right now. Is his daughter in a cult? Iiiiiiiiit seems like his daughter is in a cult. I could do some inter web research to see if there were any popular cults emerging in the late 60s in New York, but that's NERD STUFF. I don't RESEARCH. I WATCH TV, OKAY?
  • I was so excited to see Joel Murray (Bill Murray's younger brother) in the opening credits. I love Freddy Rumsen. "There's a nice way to say that, and the way you just said it." Classic.
  • Ken not being able to throw the earring because of his eye patch was the funniest thing I've seen.
  • Megan's very gay agent mentions getting her teeth fixed and I got very angry. I love Megan's teeth. They're probably her best feature (cause it's obviously not her spousal choice skills AMIRITE??? *Holds hand up for high five. Waits. Puts it back down. Clears throats*) But really, I think her teeth are cute. 
  • Lou is creepy. When he called Dawn "nurse?" Yuck. 
  • We saw Done take TWO BITES OF FOOD this week. In ONE EPISODE. That has to be a goddamn record. Don NEVER eats. I hate handsome men on television who are never hungry. I ate a sandwich and chicken tenders during 45-minute episode alone. 
  • Mad Men has absolutely perfected the Megan Draper side boob. Megan's side boob is worth more than most women's whole boob. There, I said it.