Sunday, June 10, 2012

MAD MEN 5.13--"The Phantom"

 It's time now for Mad Men! Five good-looking New Yorkers from all walks of life! Draper, their leader, is Mad Men Red! Pete, able to leap tall trees, is Mad Men Black!  Roger, the acid-dropping human outboard motor is Mad Men Blue! Harry, the slow-thinking head of media is Mad Men Yellow! And their man squeeze Joan Harris is Mad Men Pink! Under the guidance of the his man, Dr. Cooper, who, from his advertising agency and day care center keeps the world safe from the evil machinations of Bernie Tanaka, and Mel Fujitsu--at one time his partners, but now his arch-enemies!

 Who can stop them? Who can save the world! Cooper, that's who!

  The ultimate persuader in the war against shitty advertising, these are the continuing adventures of Mad Men!


 "You want to be someone's discovery, not someone's wife."

 Well, in the midst of SCDP's best quarter ever, the mythical second floor is potentially no longer mythical, and everyone's lining up for position for a new office, because no one wants the one available, because it was Lane's. Lane's absence is felt, but not really talked about explicitly, most especially by Joan, who is really stepping up to his role, though the empty seat in the conference room is a silent reminder that things aren't quite right.

 Speaking of things being out of joint, Topaz Pantyhose storms out of a meeting where Ginsberg was being a pushy shithead (as usual) about their latest ad. Topaz, you may remember, was the company that finally broke SCDP's losing streak last season, and was won by Peggy. Clearly, her loss is beginning to tell--another silent reminder of one who is absent.

 This is manifesting itself around the office for different people. Joan is reminded painfully of the cost of their prosperity (and Lane's malfeasance) when she gets the cheque from the insurance company for Lane's death benefits, and wonders to Don if she could have done something for him (*ahem*) to help him. Don has no answer . . .

  . . .because Don has his own pointed reminder of absence and the cost of loss, because he's been seeing his dead brother Adam (who also killed himself by hanging) around the office. One could read this as his version of Joan and the empty chair, but Don's lost a lot this season--his notions about the company he built, his wife working the job and keeping him engaged, his friend, who he thought he was cutting a break, and now Peggy, his protege.

 It culminates in a very creepy moment with Don when, at a trip to the dentist, he sees Adam, who tells him it's not his tooth that's rotten. The image of the rope burn around his neck is really kinda creepy.

 Peggy, who we see in command at CGC (whipping everyone into shape) is doing OK, or seems to be, when Ted Chaough hands her Phillip Morris' newest project, a cigarette for women, which I suspect is Virginia Slims. This is a bit of a difficult thing for her, as she doesn't smoke. . .but I guess she'll learn.

 Pete, meanwhile, has another dalliance with Beth, who wants one last tumble before she goes in for electroshock therapy. I'm not really sure that he's the guy you would choose for your last fling before you use current to erase it from your mind, but I can certainly understand why you'd want to delete Pete from your memory. Though I'm not sure she really has any kind of mental problems that require electroshock therapy as much as she's a deeply bland actress.

 Pete should be happy, as he gets what he wanted--another ride on the Beth-train, plus deniability because she can't remember, but if you you know Pete at all, you know what's coming. Dude can't resist picking the scab. So he goes to visit her in the hospital post-therapy to see if she remembers feeling a tingle, but she's completely wiped him out, which causes him to do an agonizing appraisal of his situation, which, Pete being Pete, will not take in any way shape or form.

 Because Pete can't stop picking the scab, and gets in a fight with her husband on the train, which Pete loses. Then Pete picks a fight with the railroad dick, and gets punched again (Does this rise to fanservice yet?) and thrown off the train. And in a final twist of the ironic knife, Trudi says he should totally have an apartment in NYC, right about the time he'd talked himself out of it.

 But these are all little things which rotate around the spine of the episode--Megan is trying for a job in a commercial that Don is overseeing, one she wants so bad (possibly because she hasn't worked ever since she began going in for auditions) that she throws her friend under the bus to try to get it. Don tries to talk her down from it, claiming it'll do her no favours, but there's an added vector of pressure: Megan's mom, Mrs. Calvet, is staying over and really being an utter bitch.

 It's not just her usual haughty Frenchness. It's not sneaking off to go rolls in the hay with Roger (people bond over the craziest shit) it's not her cool dismissal of Don, it's her incessant smashing of Megan's ambition to be an actress. Mrs. Calvet has no faith that her daughter is talented or any good, and thinks Megan should just give up--it's not like Don won't take care of her anyways.

 This, then, becomes a vector of pressure on Don, because Megan really needs the win to throw it in Mrs. Calvet's face. Coupled with Adam saying he's "rotten" and a meeting with the widow Price, who lets him have it, blaming him for a whole bunch of shit he really had nothing to do with (kind of a shame, given what happens, that Don gets shit for what he doesn't do. Not like he didn't have plenty of ugly shit he actually did) this ultimately tips him to the dark side (we are led to assume) as he gets Megan the job, and, it seems, is going back to his classic philandering ways.

 Meanwhile, the view from where Peggy's staying in Richmond is of two dogs fucking. The symbolism in this show is like a heel kick to the groin sometimes.

 So! Sic transit Season 5 of Mad Men, where everything seems balanced on an abyss finally tumbles in. But at least Pete got smacked around a couples times, lest it all be utter bleakness. I'm not really sure I like the implication here that "at their heart, people don't really change," which, if you know that's coming, tends to negate the drama and my investment in it--resetting everything to default works for Tom and Jerry cartoons, not so much for five seasons of a continuing drama.

 We'll have to see how it all plays out, I suppose.

 And that's it for this wee. . .well, this season, really. Join us next year (I guess?) for the penultimate season of Mad Men, which I'm sure they'll switch up things by making it a happy fun-time musical or something like that. After the Russian winter that was this season, some sunshine would be welcome. Anyways, join us here at the Prattle for season 6, and until them--soupy twist!

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