Sunday, March 25, 2012

MAD MEN 5.1/5.2--"A Little Kiss"

It's that time again, after only, what--17 months?--it's time once again, for Witless Prattle's continuing coverage of Mad Men, a show that you would rather think would be at odds with the blog's mission statement--er, if Witless Prattle could ever have been said to have a mission statement (and thank God I don't) It's good to be back in the saddle and have something that actually enforces a little discipline, and I'm also rather glad that for the next three months or so, "Best dinosaur comics" and "power girls tits" won't be the main sources of traffic for this blog.

So let's begin! Last time, things had been thrown into quite a tizzy, as Don had got engaged under rather specious circumstances, Joan had a bun in the oven (possibly--the argument for or against made it Schrodinger's baby, kinda) and we've skipped ahead from all that. Fortunately we have two hours to catch up with things, and after such a long layover, we really need it.

"I hope to be dead by Christmas."

Thanks for the close-up of the baby's ass, TV show! You could have just taken my word I was paying attention!

Not that everyone's doing all that well--Don's turning 40, Roger's been sidelined (turning ever so slowly in Bert Cooper, who apparently didn't quit and is still drifting around the office) and Pete is, in his usual oily, flesh-crawling way, completely ill at ease with the sad sack he fears he's becoming (best summed up by his choice of jacket for Don's surprise party. Holy shit, that thing nearly killed the pixels on my HDTV.

Don's staring at the notion he may not be able to stay as au courant at 40 as he did when he was younger (remember when he was all hip and balling beatniks in the Village?) and fears that he's the butt of Megan's laughter (Roger assures him he isn't, speaking with the voice of experience) What's worse, Sally doesn't seem to get on with Megan any more than she does with her mother, Peggy suspects he's losing his edge, and Don admits as much about it at the end of the episode--he's not really into work anymore.

Megan throwing him a surprise party seems to make that point exceedingly sharp, and leads to them having a rather ugly argument, wherein we learn that Don at least told her about the whole Dick Whitman thing (that's progress, I reckon) and Don gets all bitchy after the surprise party because he feels like he's been embarrassed (if by "embarrassed" you mean "reminded he's getting past his sell-by date)

Roger, meanwhile, is being quietly shoved into pasture, but is not going entirely quietly, content to passive-aggressively needle Pete and try to poach his clients, and prank the competition, an idle prank which causes big-ass ripples through the episode. Pete responds by holding a new/old client's (Mohawk Airlines, last seen in season 2) account hostage on account of trying to get a better office and leverage himself into a position of power. It goes about as well as you'd expect, namely there's about as much tension between him and Roger as there are between the Lannisters and the Starks.

Not that Pete's not doing that well himself. He's arrived, got his kid, got his house in the suburbs, but he seems a little unfulfilled, fearing it's already over for him. So he pulls his little power play with Roger for a better, more impressive office, which Roger handles in the way these things usually resolve--by making Harry Crane (whose weight has decreased in proportion to his slime-ball-ness) give up his office. I'd like to think that Roger keeps a grand in change on him at all times just for this this kind of thing. Then again, making Harry Crane suffer is kind of the official sport of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, innit? Not like he doesn't have it coming, really.

Things aren't much better the further we get from the center of power. Peggy bombs the big presentation with Heinz (a holdover from Dr. Faye's efforts last season--nice continuity there) and feels cut adrift from Don, and then Megan has a go at her for complaining about work at her party (Sheesh, doesn't seem like that's fair) and Lane tries to return a wallet in a means so creepy it feels like it belongs in a Todd Solodnz movie. Seriously, that whole scene was weird.

And then there's Joan. Sadly, Dr. Rapist is still alive it seems, and baby life is really not agreeing with her (holding down an office full of crazy people? Snap. One infant? Hell on Earth) Part of it's the sleep-deprivation (is that the #1 complaint of all new parents? Seems to be.) Part of it's what seems like post-partum depression; Part of it is dealing with her mother, and part of it is her fear, like Don and Roger, that she's getting shuffled on, a feeling only compounded when she visits SCDP and everyone is happy to see her, yet fobs her off all the same. It finally culminates in her breaking down with Lane, who thankfully retrains his wallet-related creepiness enough to be actually supportive.

Shame. Next time she'll wheel that baby cart in like Itto Ogami if the whole "being made to feel irrelevant" stuff keeps up.

Then again, as we wrap-up for this week, it seems like the secret to the Don/Megan marriage is not dissimilar to when he hired a hooker to slap him around last season. Also, she cleans her apartment in a bra and panties. They had weird ideas of what constituted domestic bliss in the '60s . . .

So this was pretty good. I can't really say it was a return to form or like we never left because Mad Men doesn't work that way. Clever bit of meta-commentary with Mad Men returning to the air after a year and change and featuring damn never everyone in the cast second-guessing whether or not they're "with it" anymore. Of course, given we're now rounding the first year (of show-time--actual time has jumped ahead more than that--and against the backdrop of the 60's things are changing in ways that are going to leave people behind, especially as they find the breezy, idle stuff they used to get away with gets them into situations they aren't entirely equipped to handle.

And we'll leave it there for now. Join us next week for another episode of Mad Men, and for those of you who are new here, we don't even bother trying to decipher the "next episode" promos. There's no sense in reading "Tea Leaves" now when we can talk about it next week at length. Until then--soupy twist!

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