Sunday, April 22, 2012

MAD MEN 5.6--"Far Away Places"

 Somewhere between reason and insanity, between fact and breakfast, madness lies, and lies and lies . . . Welcome once again to Witless Prattle's ongoing happy success funtime reviews of the new season of Mad Men. Last week set a new milestone for awesomeness as Lane beat the shit out of Peter, capping off an episode which attempted to do for Pete Campbell what eating cat shit was supposed to signify for Ron Burgundy--his lowest point.

 "Alone, I'm an escaped mental patient. Together, we're a couple of rich perverts."

  This is an episode of things I liked and really hated. Let's start with the positive.

 I liked the interior into Peggy's life--her relationship with Abe isn't going any better than it has with any other guy we've seen her with, but at least she's willing to threaten to pull the plug when he acts like a douchebag (or, given he acts like a douchebag above tolerable levels) We also get a sense that her ascendancy at SCDP has led to a rather crippling OCD, as she spends the first ten minutes wondering where her gum is.

 The remaining minutes are an interesting exercise in putting Peggy through a  montage of Don Draper's greatest moments. . .except with Peggy dropped in, which means we see her fail. The big high concept with Heinz? She totally shits the bed. Standing up to the client a la Don and Jantzen from last season? Pisses off the client to the point she gets canned off the account.Going off the movies for some chemically-aided catharsis? Manages to find a really dweeby guy with weed and ridiculous pants and jacks him off.

 Astoundingly NOT the most questionable use of ecstatogenic substances this week.

 Anyways, because this show delights in needling me at times, we dwell on Ginsberg, because of reasons. Ginsberg is as twitchy and unlikeable as ever, and I'm getting every so slightly tired of him being built up to be a Big Deal despite being well, to date, not.We haven't seen any brilliant ad stuff from him that saved an account yet--his only brush with that caused Don to threaten to throw him into traffic. And yet, here he is, getting a moment to share a story which may or may not be true about him being the child of concentration camp inmates. I feel extraordinarily skeevy about a character using the Holocaust to persuade me to like them.

 Then again, I kinda felt like Peggy calling her boyfriend immediately afterward was even skeevier. Genocide apparently juices her like a cranapple.

 Then things swing back to "fun," in an immediate sense (of more troubling for the long term) as Roger Sterling takes LSD and trips balls for awhile, which leads to him and Jane splitting up. While I do not recommend and cannot imagine, say Dr. Phil, suggesting you drop, given that Jane apparently dragged Roger to the shittiest LSD party of all time with a bunch of pompous bohos wittering on about truth for what felt like five excruciating minutes and then having to be in the same room with them while they're tripping is the kind of chemically fueled nightmare that I'm sure led to the destruction of Syd Barrett's mind.

 Anyhow, while I did enjoy Roger's acid journey, I'm kinda getting tired of these funky trippy dreams/drug trips/whatever. We've had like, three of them, and this is getting so very close to that point where say, Sopranos started believing it's own press and dropping in go-nowhere dream sequences that added nothing to the plot but got rolled out because god dammit, that's what Highly regarded TV shows do.

 I'll explain why this doesn't work done over and over again in a bit. Let's focus on Don and Megan's romantic getaway to a Howard Johnson's (which I admit, gave me a slight twinge of nostalgia, even though I can't remember actually having been to one, as such) This gives them an excellent opportunity to have a wonderful knock-down drag-out fight wherein Megan's annoyance at being yanked off her work with Peggy and the bunch coupled with Don using her as his release valve to escape work and responsibility are superheated into an argument that soars above and beyond their usual bitchy s/m level and into Don roaring off in the car, returning only to find that Megan is gone.

 Don reacts to this in the most insecure, OCD-addled way possible by calling everyone and staking out the HoJos. Possibly the whole time thinking "man, I strangled that woman in my fever dream for this?"

 OK, let's talk about why this doesn't quite work for me: because we've done the "seismic changes happen, but no they don't really" thing so many times this season that (like the Incredibles, wherein if everyone is super no one is) that now everything feels like some fragmented, arty bait and switch so really, why get all that excited about it, because they'll just walk it back.

 This, of course, meant to parallel Roger and Jane's LSD vision (even the shots are the same) and really play into Don's insecurity and fear that Megan will leave him at the first available opportunity, because so much of his happiness is invested in how she sees him and if she thinks he's still sexy, then he's not old. That's been the general theme of the show since its return, but again, because they've hedged so much up to this point that it doesn't have the impact it should.

 Likewise with Bert's lecture to Don to get his priorities straight and stop sneaking off with Megan. While it's nice that it's there, it raises a couple of questions, namely did they ever bother to explain why Cooper un-quit or what he still does there. It's meant to echo a scene from an earlier season where he was able to muscle Don and bring him to heel, but because the rest of the episode felt so. . .off-kilter, trying to do a straight scene at the end just feels like one more crazy scene that may or may not "count."

 So, yeah. This season is rather troubling so far. Not dramatically as much as because it feels so slipshod and self-consciously "arty."

 That's all for this week. Join us next week when Don decides to try culottes, Joan takes up a hot-dog eating contest and makes everyone in the office sterile, and Roger goes bra shopping in a little sumpin'-sumpin' we call "At The Codfish Ball" Until next week--soupy twist!

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