Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mad Men 6-4: To Have and to Hold

I've been scrambling to get a lot done before I leave for vacation this weekend, which means that I had time to see this week's "Mad Men" but not really any time to write about it. Now that we're at mid-week a recap seems a tad pointless - but I will share ten general thoughts I had about the episode:

1. I enjoyed it more than any of the previous episodes this season - I suspect largely because it focused a little less on Don and a little more on the women he's *not* sleeping with, especially Joan. And one can never have too much Joan! Even when she's miserable, she is still the shiznit.

2. I'm all for more fully realized African American characters on MM, and Dawn, as Don's secretary, is a logical starting point - but the focus on her did feel a bit abrupt, partly because she was so much on the margins last season. Still, I appreciated the glimpse into her world, and wouldn't mind seeing more.

3. Joan may have been "punishing" Dawn by handing over timekeeper duties to her, but in a way she was also passing the torch (or, in this case, the keys). That moment was heavy with symbolic significance.

4. Harry's evolution into a Grade A, 100% certified douche is now complete. I was so hoping when Roger and Bert handed him the big check that it meant they were canning him. And yet, when you think about it, he's not wrong about his value to Sterling Cooper. He's just wrong about Joan's.

5. Speaking of douches, the theme of Don's treating/viewing women (Megan, Sylvia) as whores - when really, HE's the biggest whore in the room, or at least the biggest hypocrite - continued this week. Not a coincidence, I think, that this is also the episode in which Joan was basically made to feel like a whore (again) and both Sterling Cooper and Ted Chooooaugh's firm turned tricks for Heinz ketchup - in a hotel room, no less.

6. Loved the juxtaposition of Don's and Peggy's pitches to Heinz, Peggy's cribbing Don's "change the conversation" line...and Don's reaction. I initially thought that Peggy won the showdown, but I have since learned from other recappers that in fact neither of them landed the account; a bigger firm did. Which explains Ted Chooooaugh's somber demeanor afterwards and his comment about Heinz letting all the little firms fight over scraps.

7. Lots of people being shut out of rooms where they desperately want to know what's going on: Ginsberg and the secret Heinz Ketchup workroom; Harry and the partners' meeting; and, of course, Don eavesdropping on Peggy's pitch. No matter what, these folks always seem to feel like they're on the outside looking in, and it gnaws away at them. All of them. Except maybe Ken Cosgrove, who lights a cigarette and affects not to care (but even Ken's good humor is wearing thin, as we see).

8. Lines of the Week That Shouldn't Have Worked, But Did:

-Sylvia telling Don that she prays he'll "find peace." I'm not a fan of Sylvia (even though I like Linda Cardellini), and the line only underscores the hypocrisy of her behavior - and yet, somehow, it rang true.

-Not really a line, but Joan's friend's whole spiel about how inspired she was by Joan's career success. Her naive admiration is supposed to highlight the disparity between appearance and reality, a disparity Joan herself points out. Yet there was something oddly compelling, rather than frustrating, about her friend's refusal to accept it. Because the fact is, despite the price Joan had to pay and is still paying, despite the fact that she's still not being accorded the credit and power she deserves, what she's accomplished IS truly remarkable. And her friend was right to tell her not to let the bastards grind her down.

9. Least Subtle Line of the Week: Megan's co-star, on Don - "I'm sure he's a man who plays many roles." Look out for the falling anvil!

10. And last but not least: SWINGERS! Don's and Megan's reaction: priceless.

Finally, a heads up that I won't be recapping the next couple of episodes because I'll be traveling. But I'll resume when I return.


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