Monday, May 27, 2013

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 9, “The Better Half”

After last week’s disappointment, this week’s episode is a return to form: a masterful hour of television, through and through. There are so many great developments it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll begin with Peggy’s storyline, which is the most symmetrical of the episode. Finally, Mad Men is paying off the promise of the merger in episode six with the kind of Don-Peggy-Ted professional “love” triangle storyline I had been hoping for, one that places front and center the conflicting personalities, loyalties, histories, and egos that inform these three characters’ relationships. Peggy starts the episode in the uncomfortable position of being fought over by her two mentors, and ends the episode with both of them boxing her out physically and emotionally, literally shutting their office doors on her. In a wonderful touch, the complete reversal of her relationships with them is emphasized ironically through her starting and ending the episode in the exact same physical location: midway between Don and Ted’s offices, just outside of the conference room.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 8, “The Crash”

Given how invested Don was in his affair with Sylvia, I suppose some emotional fallout was inevitable. And given my relative disinterest in Don's affair with Sylvia, I found this to be the most lackluster episode of the season thus far, despite all of the whacked out, druggy behavior from Don and others at SCDP. We’ve never seen Don flail about this much after the end of an affair. He’s like a teenage lover who can’t figure out how to get over his first heartbreak, and who thinks that his ex can somehow be talked back into their relationship, if only he could figure out the right combination of words. And that’s precisely what he spends nearly the entire episode attempting to do, as he descends into a speed-induced frenzy. Don has made his way in the world based on the power of his ability to convince people of what he wants them to think – that he’s Don Draper, that his ad campaigns are brilliant, that he’s a devoted husband – thus Don is extra-frustrated that Sylvia has stopped buying what he’s selling, especially considering the importance he places on this particular sale.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 7, “Man with a Plan”

This week’s episode continues the trend of a character spouting the opposite of one of the themes that can be read out of the episode. Early on, Sylvia beckons Don to a midday tryst by calling him to say, “I need you, and nothing else will do.” Throughout the episode, however, we see repeatedly how people are able to easily take the place of one another (or how people fret about how replaceable they are), as SCDP and CGC deal with the inevitable layoffs stemming from the merger:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 6, “For Immediate Release”

Joan spelled out the theme of this week’s stellar episode most explicitly in her bitter, emotionally charged confrontation with Don: “Just once, I would like to hear you use the word ‘we,’ because we’re all rooting for you from the sidelines, hoping that you decide whatever you think is right for our lives.” However, behaving as a part of a team rather than as an individual is something all of the characters struggle with this week, as nearly everyone indulges in a series of impulsive decisions: