Monday, August 24, 2009

"Mad Men" Ep. 3.2: "Love Among the Ruins"

Well now, that's more like it.

A lot to chew on in this episode (not that that isn't true of every episode). Much more focus on Peggy, making up for her relative lack of scenes last week. A woman caught between two contradictory roles - that's a theme the show has been developing for a while now, but which came especially sharply to the forefront tonight. Perhaps a little too much so; it wasn't exactly subtle. Still, Peggy's response to the conflict was absolutely intriguing. She's clearly experimenting with her persona, but what will be the ultimate result? (And by the way, is she just naturally drawn to guys who look like Pete Campbell, or are they just naturally drawn to her?)

There was something a little surreal about opening with the clip from "Bye Bye Birdie." Almost had a David Lynch-like feel; it reminded me a little of the opening of "Mulholland Drive." I thought Ann-Margret was actually supposed to be able to sing, based on her co-starring in all of those bad Elvis movies; apparently not. Not that it mattered, if the reaction of the men folk at Sterling & Cooper was any indicator.

For the first time since I started watching MM, I actually felt a pang of sympathy for Don's domestic situation. Having to come home to a moody pregnant wife and a houseful of in-laws, especially after a bad day at work, is no picnic. I'd read a spoiler about papa Gene moving in with them, but what was most interesting to me was how willfully Betty was rushing to attribute malign motives to her brother and sister-in-law - motives that their private conversation belied, IMO. Don't know what to make of Don's taking charge of the situation. Was it out of genuine consideration for Betty, or just an alpha-male reflex to her brother's dithering? An assertion of control here, in this sphere, that he didn't have at work? Perhaps some combination of all of the above. Still, the look Betty gave him when she realized what he'd done was quite touching. But this can't possibly end well, picture-perfect family though they are.

Significance of the Maypole dance at the end, Don's fixation on the teacher, and his stroking the grass? For me, it had echoes of the fantasy he plied Betty with in the last episode to help her sleep - imagine you're on a beach, digging your fingers into the cool sand beneath your chair, etc. Perhaps Don was entering his own, um, happy place? Or maybe he just got a good idea for the Diet Pepsi ad right then & there.

Other random observations:

Totally with Paul and the naysayers about Penn Station. The place is now depressingly void of charm or grandeur, both of which it appears to have once had in abundance. But how in hell did Paul get away with telling off the client? And if the Brits are even more conservative than Don Draper, conservative enough to turn down Madison Square Garden, I think Sterling Cooper is in trouble. Of course we already knew that.

Yay for Embeth Davidtz as Mrs. British financial manager (or whatever he is)! Loved how every word out of her mouth sounded like a sneer. Wonder what they'll do with her character. Not have her sleep with Don, I hope.

Oh Roger. Get a clue. At least you always get the best lines, though I forget what they were this week.

Odd but poignant moment with Roger and Joan, and the beat before he calls her "Mrs. [whatever Dr. Rapist's name was]." And her unreadable expression before she turned away.

Some strange editing in some of the scenes, and I could have done without the close-up on Roger's daughter's wedding invitation (hey look, everyone! the wedding date is NOVEMBER 23, 1963! Could that possibly mean anything? Could it now?), but overall, a well-executed episode, stronger and faster-paced than the season premiere.


Blogger ToastyKen said...

I was also somewhat confused by the ending. I suppose maybe he feels detached from his family life and needed to touch the grass to feel that it's real? I dunno.

I think he agreed to host Gene mostly out of a desire to do the right thing, actually, though I agree that he was turned off by by the brother and enjoyed showing him up.

I actually had to go look up info about the old Penn Station afterward. It was gorgeous!

Also: The "You're an army man, Gene," comment. :P

7:23 AM  

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