Monday, June 24, 2013

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 13, “In Care Of”

Just when I’m ready to give up on Don, he demonstrates some of the self-realization and responsibility I questioned him capable of last week. However, the small measure of growth Don undergoes in the season finale does not come easily to him, ends up costing him dearly, and requires him to first overcome his usual patterns of behavior. Early in the finale, Don once again copes poorly with his problems in the ways we’ve become accustomed to, by drinking and fleeing. Don calls Sally to try to get her to testify in the grandma Ida burglary, and she shames Don with her moral superiority. Devastated by his own failures, Don spends the day indulging in the first coping mechanism: drinking at a bar. He appears to bottom out when he punches a minister and spends the night in jail; it’s somewhat of a turning point, as he’s next seen dumping his alcohol down the kitchen sink. However, we have ample reason to doubt the sincerity of this new leaf: not only is it unrealistic for a functional alcoholic like Don to quit cold turkey (as Ted will point out to him later in the episode), but more importantly he’s still repeating other negative patterns of behavior, in that his next thought is to run away, this time to California.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 12, “The Quality of Mercy”

My prediction that Don would use knowledge of Peggy and Ted’s feelings for each other to inflict pain on the pair came to fruition in this week’s episode, in a cruel scene where he let them think that he was on the verge of embarrassing them in front of a client. Ted and Peggy spend most of the episode in a positive reinforcement feedback loop, where their feelings for each other fuel their ideas for St. Joseph, which in turn fuel their feelings, and so on, ad infinitum. It’s as though the ad is taking place of their consummating their attraction to one another, and their giddiness is obvious to everyone around them, including Ted’s secretary, Ginsberg, Joan, and of course Don.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 11, “Favors”

Roger begins this week’s episode by revealing that he can juggle, telling Don, “See? Not all surprises are bad.” However, this episode features a number of characters discovering surprises, nearly all of them construed as bad. The biggest and most portentous is a pair of mutual surprises Don and Sally give one another: Sally surprises Don by walking in on his latest tryst with Sylvia, while Don surprises Sally by revealing himself as a philanderer. My predictions about Don and Sylvia’s affair leading to disaster seem to have come to fruition, or very nearly so. After their mutual surprises, Don and Sally next confront one another late in the episode, at Megan's dinner table, where Sally cannot meet Don's eyes. When Arnold and his son Mitchell make an appearance to thank Don for helping Mitchell avoid becoming a draft dodger, Don gets Arnold’s thanks, which prompts Megan to fawn over how sweet Don is for helping their neighbors (an about-face from his disinterest earlier in the episode). This display of hypocrisy is too much for young Sally, who shouts at Don what many viewers have long wanted to shout many times over the course of Mad Men’s run: “You make me sick!” She then storms out of the dining room and locks herself in her bedroom. It’s a cathartic moment for those of us who’ve wanted Don to get his act together (although this shock is unlikely to change his habits or increase self-understanding), but it is also a profoundly sad moment, as it is a product of the destruction of whatever faith Sally still had in her father. However, once again, what’s bad for characters is exciting for viewers: this development significantly shifts the power relations between them, as Sally indicates when she subsequently refuses to open her door for Don, stating, “You don’t get to talk to me anymore.” Perhaps Don being beholden to Sally will lead Don to being a more attentive parent in a (futile?) attempt to redeem himself; or perhaps Sally will simply use her knowledge to try to manipulate Don – she would certainly do so were the same thing to happen between her and Betty.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 10, “A Tale of Two Cities”

This week’s episode is titled “A Tale of Two Cities,” and revolutionary motifs and themes ripple throughout the episode, which takes place in the midst of the riots during the 1968 democratic convention in Chicago. Various plot threads explore the conflicts and contrasts between the older generation of hard line conservatives and the politically active American youth culture, and the way in which the Mad Men’s characters navigate this “revolutionary” divide.