Sunday, May 13, 2012

MAD MEN 5.9--"Dark Shadows"

 Welcome welcome, one and all to another installment of Witless Prattle's continuing, highly rated, and rather dubious (given that this a comics blog and all) coverage of Mad Men, a show which is much critically regarded and yet every person I've suggested it to has not cared for it.

 Last week things took a turn for the creepy in some respects and things began to assemble in some sort of shape as we slowly turn towards the conclusion of this season. What surprises wait for us this week? Let's find out!


"They're refreshing for the damned"

 The house of Collinwood is. . .oh, wait, hang on. The title threw me. No, we begin with the Betty draper Miracle Diet, wherein burnt toast, 4 ounces of cheese, a grapefruit, a personal trainer and a month or so of being off the show will make the pounds just melt away. Betty takes an opportunity to have a snoop in Don and Megan's apartment (and to check out Megan in her brassiere, because of reasons) and she and Megan have a conversation which is only marginally less chilly than, say polar ice pack.

 Hilariously (seriously, I lost my shit laughing at this) Betty goes home and decides to blast whipped cream into her mouth. I'm sure this was supposed to be a nuanced story beat, but for Christ's sake--this was just too damn funny for words.

 But seriously folks, Betty's real secret is Weight Watchers, which is kinda nuts, but well, the theme for this episode is "competition." Betty having a peek at Megan, seeing how Don lived now, she measured herself against Megan and Don's new life, and found it wanting, hence, her tumbling off the diet wagon for a bit.

 If that were the only thing she did, that would be one thing. But, being that she's well and truly sick of Megan being so awesome, Betty decides to use Sally to ask Megan about Anna, Don's first wife. As this is Sally we're talking about, it's a lot like Betty just dropped a daisy-cutter bomb in from 20,000 feet, and boy does it do a lotta damage.

 I confess, don't get this--I guess we're supposed to sympathise with Betty, but then she does this utterly vindictive thing which proves that any of these vague motions at self-improvement are just part of a larger game wherein she "wins" against Don. It's very hard to get "sympathetic character" out of that for me, and she got a lot of episode to do it with. Really, the most honest thing she says is that she has everything she wants and no one else has anything better.

 Not a flattering sentiment. Time for an informal poll: Who's more evil--Betty Draper or Cersei Lannister?

 She's not the only one competing, however. Don's noticed that Ginsburg's (because more of Poochie is always a good idea) name is on a hell of a lot of the work from SCDP and the most recent thing he did was the letter for the New York Times last season that he was told not so very long ago guaranteed he'd never get the highest profile business. What's more, it's clear from the brainstorming session that his ideas are. . .well, a little wanting. There's a danger that like Freddie Rumsen, he's losing his ability to connect with the people they're selling to.

 On the plus side, Jon Hamm's "devil voice" is really funny. On the other hand, goddamn Ginsburg's idea is the clear winner. I'm sure he has his defenders, but Ginsburg hurts like an abscess tooth. He's a great big Katamari ball of Yiddish caricature and made out to be the Next Big Thing and hasn't really earned it by virtue of being a, y'know, interesting character.

 So it was rather pleasing to see Don sandbag him, at least in a visceral sense and to put him in his place, and to see Peggy turn against him when Ginsburg couldn't stop running his mouth about the secret job he got from Roger (who has doled out so much money for off the book projects and favours, even he thinks he should carry less mad money)

 And of course, Roger's always competing with Pete, hence his enlisting of Ginsburg (again) to woo a Jewish concern who wants to sell wine to Gentiles. This requires him to shell out more money (and a new apartment)  to Jane, who you might remember he divorced on the advice of a brain full of acid. Given that she seems taken with Bernie, the son of the boss of this wine company, it may or may not work for all parties.

 Roger deflects Peggy's bitterness about it by saying "every man for himself." Given what we see demonstrated this week, he's not wrong. However, the larger question is "can a business held together by the local gravity of simmering resentment on all sides against all sides survive?"

 You could say that Roger has a moment of regret when he realises he's screwed up Jane's fresh start by . . .screwing her in her new apartment, but it's too early to tell.

 Oh, and Megan's competing with her other actress friends, who's auditioning for a role on Dark Shadows (No, really. I kinda winced) I also question whether or not their timeline is right--Dark Shadows did start in 1966, but I'm not sure it was the Dark Shadows that everyone came to know until a little ways in. By which I mean it wasn't an excuse for Johnny Depp to gad about in goth drag again, of course.

 So yeah, everyone is busily trying to shank everyone else. I can't imagine how this could possibly go badly--after all, on Game of Thrones, everyone's been barely holding back their urge to kill everyone since the first episode and look how good that's been going! In any event, we're lining the pieces up for the final stretch of episodes and everyone's appropriately miserable. It remains to be seen if everyone will rally or further rip themselves apart.

And that does it for this week. Join us next week as Don feels "ways" about "stuff," Roger spikes the water cooler with LSD, Joan and Lane start a fight club, and there are so many more hiLARious jokes about Harry Crane's allegedly enormous dong in a little sumpin'-sumpin' we call "Christmas Waltz" because nothing says Christmas-time like the middle of May. Until next week--soupy twist!

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