Sunday, April 8, 2012

MAD MEN 5.4--"Mystery Date"

It's time, it's time it's Vader Time! No, no--silly rabbit, it hasn't been Vader Time since 1998! No, it's time once again for our weekly stop in with the wacky denizens of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as we stop in and wet our beaks in the deep pool that is Mad Men, because the world waits with bated breath to see what a misanthrope who typically writes about comics says about one of the noted TV shows of our time.

Last week, Mad Men decided to kinda waste my time trying to wring sympathy out of the fact that Betty Draper might have cancer only at the 11th hour to say, "Just kidding! She's just a fat bitch!" (That's not me being mean, either--that was pretty much the thrust of the episode) Seven days later, I'm not sure why that was even a thing.

I'd love to tell you this week was different. I would love to be able to tell you that.

"I just wanted to hear the tone of your voice so I could make sure it's not as annoying as it is in everyday life."

"They're more about necrophilia than shoes."

TWO good quotes this week.

We open with Don being sick, possibly from the dreaded lurgi. The tone is immediately set when one of Don's old flames pops in on him and Megan in the elevator, leading to tension, because while Don told her he was Dick Whitman, he apparently didn't go into enough detail about the whole "fucking the entire female population of the tri-state area, ages 23-40."

Meanwhile, Ginsberg, thanks to being twitchy and all-around annoying, possibly because he seems to have no other characteristic short of being ripped whole and bleeding from a Woody Allen movie. He's become easily the most punchable person on this show, and this show is not short on punchable people.He nearly gets fired by Don, which gets my hopes up more than the Betty thing last week, but alas--it's not to be. Neither, sadly is Don's threat to throw him in front of a cab followed up on. Mad Men, you are such a cocktease.

I think it would be an idea to turn Ginsberg's volume down a little. For such a thinly-drawn character, he's getting an alarming, almost Poochie-level amount of face time. Plus I want to punch him like, so hard.

Meanwhile, Joan is welcoming Greg, the ever-present Doctor rapist (in that he is a doctor who is a rapist, not a man who rapes doctors) back from Vietnam to see his (not) son and fuck Joan really a whole lot. Consensually, one assumes. Joan gets all upset when Greg tells her he's been stop-lossed (or whatever the Vietnam equivalent was) because I can see a few more months of dealing with her mom would drive anyone crazy. It's not helped at all when Greg reveals he volunteered to go back to Vietnam (perhaps the wisest thing he's done) This leads to a great big fight wherein Joan doesn't break another vase over his head, but we do once again put a button on what a never-ending disappointment he is.

That button is finally pushed when Joan tells him to stay his ass in Vietnam, and for all some of the other bits of this episode rankled, that was a moment a long time in coming and so very very welcome. Now true, this means Joan has a hard time ahead of her, but thank fucking God she gave that asshole his walking papers. Given how the show seems to be playing with expectations (notice I didn't say "bait and switch." Yet.) this was a welcome step forward for once.

Elsewhere, Roger proves himself the Tyrion Lannister of Mad Men, when he pays Peggy some mad cash to dream up an ad campaign for Mohawk on the fly. It was a great scene watching Peggy shake him down for money, even as Roger tried to use all the usual cards against her, like threatening to fire her. But good on Peggy flexing her badass muscles.

Sally, meanwhile, doesn't get along with Henry's mother any more than she does anyone else, being whiny and pouty when Mrs. Francis makes her eat a tuna salad sandiwch and won't even share the details of a spate of serial killings with her. Mrs. Francis explains that she's just doing this for her own good, and as if to put a button on this, tells a story of her father pump-kicking her into a wall for no reason. I do love it when people on this show relate this kinda stuff as thought it were a character building exercise.

This relationship leaps into surreal territory soon after when Sally, with a head full of serial killer news, can't sleep, so Mrs. Francis, while brandishing a butcher knife, tells her in detail about it, then gives her a Seconal to sleep. She reminds me a bit of Ma Fratelli. Only not quite as nice.

Meanwhile, Don gets stalked by Andrea, who for some reason talks like a porn star, which is not something I would have imagined that copywriter's do. It seems Andrea is stalking him rather a bit and Don, tripping balls on fever is all "Leave me alone, I'm a family man" and she pushes him too hard, and he. . .well, does. Then he strangles her to death (I thought her name was Andrea, not Cheryl/Carol), because that's a natural response to sexual blackmail, really.

Only not, because he kind of dreamed it, which. . .man, really? Are we going to do this shit every episode this season "Oh here's something that you didn't think would happen, except we're walking it back now?" C'mon Mad Men. Don't be that guy.

Oh, and Peggy finds out that Dawn (the new black secretary) is sleeping in Don's office, and they end up bonding, which on Mad Men, means they get shitfaced. This was a pretty fun set of scenes, and my favourite thing this episode.

So this episode on balance was mostly good, but Don's fever dream reminded me too much of that shit with Betty and kinda cast a pall over my enjoyment of it. Nevertheless, I'm sure someone out there wanted to see Don Draper strange someone in the nude, so, well, they've done that now. On the other hand, Joan's kicked Dr. Rapey to the curb, and that's progress.

And that's it for this week! Join us next week when Don tries out his new nunchaku set, Roger tries to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket bike, and Peggy bakes her famous fritatas as Pete looks a blank sheet of paper for ten whole minutes in "Signal 30." If you can't tell that I've utterly given up on trying to decipher the "next week on Mad Men" teasers, well, you do now, I bet.

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