Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Mad Men" recap: I'm worried you're not getting enough ketchup

Spoilers for this week's "Mad Men" below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.

Because I'm so crazy late with this week's recap, I'm planning for it to be a bit short. But I'll do my best to cover as much as I can. First off, this was another week where I kind of hated the guys on this show. Actually, I might have hated them more this week, because this was an episode where we saw many female characters -- Megan, Joan, Dawn -- working to get ahead in their careers, only to have someone try and slap them down.

Let's start with Don and Megan, because I worry we're reaching the point where their relationship is making me dislike Don in a way I can't bounce back from. Yes, he treated Betty badly. But we never saw Betty try quite as hard in their marriage as Megan does. Megan has a career and wants to be her own woman, but she also wants Don to be happy. She's open with Don in a way the guarded Betty could never be. Can you imagine how guarded and weird Betty would have been if she and Don had gotten the sort proposition Don and Megan get from Megan's boss and co-star? She would have completely shut down, whereas Don and Megan are able to discuss the incident, have some initial awkwardness, and laugh.

Megan's also open about the love scene. Yes, she probably wouldn't have turned it down even if Don protested, but she's honest about something, which, as she points out, he might never have known about had she not told him. So it's really gut-wrenching to see Don show up at the taping of Megan's big scene, basically just so he has a reason to get mad and flee to Sylvia.

Given his increasing jackassery in his personal life, it's sort of satisfying to watch him take a hit at work. He does well in the Heinz presentation, and the "Pass the Heinz" idea is a good one. But Don's inability to hear and respond to what the client wants is getting to be a major obstacle for him. Peggy, meanwhile, has either learned from Don's mistakes or is young enough that she hasn't developed her former boss's bravado. She comes up with an idea that's not that much different from Don's. It's simple. It has few words and a single, powerful image. But it also shows the ketchup bottle. Instead of expecting the client to come around and see her brilliance, Peggy finds a way to be artistic and keep the client happy.

Yeah, Don's not been particularly awesome this season. The main thing keeping him sympathetic is that he's less of a douche than many of the other men in his orbit. Last week, we had Pete royally screwing up his affair and his marriage. This week, we have Harry being an UTTER ass to Joan.

OK, I'm going to try and approach this unemotionally, keeping my inherent love of Joan and my inherent dislike of Harry out of it. Objectively, Joan might have been too harsh on Scarlet, who probably didn't do anything she didn't do when she was a secretary. Objectively, given the fact that he does handle the Dow problem well, and generally seems adept at his job, Harry probably should have a higher status at the agency than he does. But the way he approaches this argument is so sexist, obnoxious and horrible, I just want to hit him with a shovel. After most of the guys at the office basically begged Joan to have sex with Herb to seal the Jaguar deal, Harry treats her like a common skank who slept her way to the top, rather than the hard working, deserving woman she is. In fact, even though Roger, Bert and the like probably wouldn't have given her the partnership if she hadn't slept with Herb, none of them seems to believe she doesn't deserve a seat at the table.

And if Joan took a firmer hand than necessary with Scarlet, than it's only because it's one of the few ways she can assert her authority. Harry had no right to slap Joan down like that! She outranks him! He needs to get in line!!!!! .... Sorry. I just hate Harry so much.

On the bright side, we got a decent amount of Joan this episode, for which I was very grateful. We saw her wrestle with not getting enough respect at work, while simultaneously seeing how much her friend and even her mother admire her progress in life. And there was that really good scene between her and Dawn, in which Dawn, throws herself at Joan's mercy and later tells Joan that hers is the only opinion at SCDP that matters.

And guess what -- Dawn got a storyline this episode! Go Dawn! No, it wasn't terribly meaty, but we see her difficulties trying to keep her dignity and her job at a time when being a black woman in the working world wasn't the most thing ever. We also see that Dawn is a compassionate person who doesn't just regard her bosses as taskmasters. She sees that they suffer, too. She's smart and observant. And, like many of the other woman on this show, she isn't immune to the struggles of having a personal life outside of work. So, yes, they still need to do more with Dawn, but this was a step in the right direction.

Anyway, here are some more of my thoughts on "To Have and To Hold":

  • Let's focus for a minute on the beautiful scene where Don stops at the hotel door to listen to Peggy's presentation. A really good moment for Jon Hamm, from his rueful grin when he hears Peggy's line about changing the conversation to his complex pride at hearing his protegee knocking her presentation out of the park. Very nice.
  • Part of me was hoping that a young Garrison Keillor would show up as the third contender for the ketchup job. And that he would present something like this.
  • Is Sylvia the first "Mad Men" character who has really been show to have a strong faith? Well, there was Peggy's mother, but her faith is mainly scene as obstacle to Peggy, as in the episode last season when she goes ballistic about Peggy living in scene. I think this is the first time we've seen someone with such a complex faith -- the kind of person who would cheat on her husband, but pray for her married love to find peace.
  • Hey, Joan's college buddy is Marley Shelton from "Sugar and Spice," arguably the greatest movie ever about bank-robbing cheerleaders!
  • And, while we're on the topic of guest stars, I hope Megan realizes that, since Ted McGinley is her boss, her soap is about to be cancelled.
What did everyone else think?

1 comment:

Bill Scurry said...

Good point about Ted McGinley... what's more, that guy's involvement would cancel an orgy.