Sunday, May 26, 2013

MAD MEN 6.9--"The Better Half"

Look, I KNOW you all feel the darkness right now, but I want you to know we're going to get through this, and it'll be brilliant. Yes, it is once again time for another weekly installment of Witless Prattle's inexplicably popular Mad Men reviews, proof positive that, as always, the least likely is the most dangerous (or, y'know, something) Last week . . .man, last week was something wasn't it? Everyone shot full of meth, acting crazy as hell, tap-dancing for God knows what reason and even with all that going on, they found time to have a break-in at Don't apartment. Oh, and I finally twigged that the guy who plays Cutler was Perseus in the old Clash of the Titans movie. Perhaps I need a B12 shot as well. What sort of madness awaits us this week as we enter the home stretch for the season? Let's find out!


 "We're all a little out of context right now"

The theme for this episode is "duality," the ongoing conflict between Ted Chaough and Don Draper, and those trapped in between, and where one belongs at what point in time.

 Don is well aware that Peggy prefers Ted to him (how much, one imagines he doesn't know) and parades her through the room in an effort to force the issue. Peggy doesn't want to play this bullshit and tells him off for making it a contest and point out--not incorrectly--that if they just worked together and didn't make it a horse race they'd get a lot more done. But since Don has too much fun being a miserable asshole, the lesson slides off his back.

 Meanwhile Pete is feeling a bit all at sea, having burned his bridges, lost a shitload of business on account of being Pete Campbell and having a mom now mightily into her Crazy Cat Lady years and no good option on how to deal with that and having a window seat among the partners post-merger, consults a head-hunter, who is Duck Phillips, a man who, given the levels of dissipation we've seen him go through must be able to perpetually reincarnate himself. Duck accurately diagnoses his problem that his personality is toxic and priorities are like crazy paving, but like with Don, Pete's far too much of an asshole to take helpful advice like that on-board.

 He's not the only one. Roger, fresh off of failing at being a Cool Grandad with his grandson (apparently Don's advice about taking the kids to see Planet of the Apes is not something that's consistent across all lines. Then again, if you're taking parenting lessons from Don, you've already lost) tries to bond with Joan and their child in the most awkward way possible, doubly so because we drop in on the reality that Bob and Joan are a thing. Joan tries to handle it as diplomatically as possible and poor Roger looks crushed (and given how annoying Bob is, seeing him with Joan probably crushed a lot of people)

 Because one can never fight only ONE war on this show, Peggy finally has enough of Abe's liberal white guilt bullshit and says she's selling their west-80's place. It's good to see her finally stand up against that crap--I mean, he's been pulling since they met, giving her shit for working for THE MAN. And to his credit, Abe backs down in a moment of clarity.

 Then Peggy stabs him, on accident, and Abe breaks it off with her because working in advertising "means she's always the enemy." Peggy, to her credit, doesn't stab him again, because that kind of assholism should really be punishable by death.

 Meanwhile, Don goes to see Bobby at summer camp and runs into Betty, which I'm sure is a meaty story thread and not at all just an excuse to give Betty something to do. Mind you, she's already had a rather troubling moment earlier when one of Henry's buddies at the fundraiser offers her some coffee and sex (sand coffee) and Betty actually doesn't rule the idea out immediately. Henry is kind of a jerk about it, but it turns out he's just kinda turned on by the idea, and then, because this wasn't icky enough, Betty and Don knock boots because of course they do. Is Don on some kind of "have sex with every woman he used to have sex with as some sort of exit interview" process after Sylvia? It seems . . .and odd way to deal with a breakup.

 That said, for all the crap I give Betty and for all that I wonder why she's on the show at moments, the afterglow scene is actually pretty good, as she diagnoses Don's problem pretty succinctly--anyone who loves him, he really treats like shit. Even more amazing, Don readily admits that he has some kind of disconnect that means he can't do that (which reaches back to that scene about Bobby after they went to see Planet of the Apes) It all gets a rather poignant button when Don wakes up alone the next day and sees Betty having a grand old time with Henry. There doesn't seem to be a place for him in the past, present, or future, does there? 

 While this is going on, Megan gets the make put on her by Arlene, which Megan rebuffs in a rather assholish way and Arlene gets all catty about it. While I laud Megan for being the person with the most fidelity in this entire cast of characters, "letting her down easy" is not one of her virtues. Though it does lead to her having a heart-to-heart with Don about how he's been disconnected from her and Don admits to it. It's a neat parallel to Sylvia's dream two episodes ago about telling her husband she was back home. Whether Don means it for keeps or not remains to be seen--there's another month's worth of episodes for him to screw it up.

 Meanwhile, the fallout from the Abe breakup gives Peggy a perfect opportunity to formally hook up with ted, but Ted rebuffs it (again) and poor Peggy is left adrift between Don and Ted--repelled by the former's contempt and antagonism and the disinterest of another (and ironically, Don is in a similar position)

 While this wasn't an episode with everyone tap-dancing or otherwise tripping balls, it was quite incisive and elegantly tied up a whole lot of things. Plus Abe got stabbed--I've been waiting I dunno HOW many years for that. Even the whole Betty thing, which usually feels like just an excuse to keep her on the show served the story and really brought a lot of stuff out. It was quite good.

And that'll do it for this week. You know, after the dope-fueled mayhem of last week, me putting irrational stuff here in the teaser for next week doesn't seem that far out now. That said, join us next week when Don starts a commemorative spoon collection, Bobby regenerates into Colin Baker, and Joan lives a life of danger for the FBI. These three things and whatever other batshit nonsense I dream up is mostly probably guaranteed not to happen in next week episode, "A Sale of Two Titties"--err, I mean "A Tale of Two Cities." Be there. Aloha!

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