Sunday, June 2, 2013

MAD MEN 6.10--"A Tale Of Two Cities"

 Some people think Sunday is the end of the week, and some think it's the beginning of the week. All we know is that if it's Sunday it's time year again for another trip 55 years (give or take) back in time to review Mad Men--exactly the kind of show you wouldn't expect someone writing about comics on a blog somewhere to be writing about, and yet, you would be wrong. This may or may not be what is considered a "black swan event." I myself am not sure.

 Last week, Abe got stabbed by Peggy, thus making last week the Greatest Episode of Mad Men ever. Well, not so much, but there was a lot of people realising they couldn't exist either in the place they used to or the place they wanted to. What waits for us this week? Let's find out!


 "SCDCC sounds like a stutter and looks like a typo"

 We begin by foregrounding this week's major 1960's Event, which is rolled out in a somewhat clumsy fashion: This, dear readers, shall be the episode about the 1968 Democratic Convention. Thankfully it fades into the background, more or less and becomes an occasional level for conflict more than having people talk about The Big Historical Events That Will Reverberate For All Time . . .mostly. When it doesn't it reaches Wonder Years-level navel contemplation, sadly. At least when they did the Kennedy Assassination it felt a little more natural.

 There's plenty of internal friction, in any case--after a notable period of time, the agency grapples with trying to name itself. This is a look under the hood at some internecine strife, as Cutler is rather annoyed that there's so many of SCDP's people still in key positions, but Ted recognizes (as Don doesn't) that there aren't two sides--they're one side, and they have to get along together (which was the whole point of the merger in the first place, you'll recall) Cutler seems to make an effort to do that by getting Bob from accounts to babysit Ginsburg who's being an ass.

 Or so it seems, because the whole thing ends up being a somewhat complicated gambit to lose one of Roger's clients as a means of centralising some power on their end. That this costs them a lot of money and some bad word of mouth is immaterial, as Cutler's still playing the power game, which Ted warns him about again.

 Meanwhile, the episode draws a contrast between Roger, Harry and Don going to woo the Carnation people. They're pretty arrogant and lazy about the whole thing, assuming the Carnation people are going to be country mice, completely wowed by the hoity-toity New York City folk. They get a rude surprise when they learn that the Carnation people have their own views of the city mice and take a hard line with them. It doesn't work.

 Meanwhile, we spend a bit of time at a 1960's Hollywood party. I'm not gonna spend too much on it, because dear God it was pretty embarrassing.  Thought it was something of a surprise that Danny from Season 4 (he of the crappy 'The cure for the common ______" ad pitches) shows up and when he's finally tired of Roger's short jokes, punches him in the nuts. Don takes a rip from a hookah full of hashish and nearly drowns. Given Roger is an experienced LSD pilot, obviously Don is a lightweight by comparison.

 Joan lucks into something by arranging a meeting with Avon's ad rep (this is, one assumes, the payoff to the girl's night out with her friend a couple episodes) and feels a bit all at sea when she detects that this could be new business. She tells Peggy, who blanches a bit when Joan immediately suggests Don. Things seem a bit better when Ted suggests that Joan take Peggy along, but then it's Joan's turn to blanche when Pete gets the call to woo the client.

 So Joan doesn't invite him.While this seems like a good idea because nothing brings a business dinner down like having Pete there is a definite baller move on Joan's part (who's been struggling this season about trying to get out of the perception people have of her as the Eternal Secretary) and she and Peggy actually do a decent job of wooing the client, even though they don't quite work as smoothly as Roger and Don (possibly because they're doing something Peggy knows they probably shouldn't) Joan sees it as a necessary power move to get herself seen as something other than The Girl Who Slept With Jaguar The Hutt which she wants to be even less than the Eternal Secretary, and unfortunately Peggy throws it right in her face. It's . . .well, kinda mean.

 That said, I hope it works. Given Peggy's grave warnings about going her own way, I hope Joan doesn't have Lane Pryce's punishment for overreach in her future. It's not quite that bad--Pete reads her the riot act for the thing with Avon, but Peggy--bless her--covers for Joan, even if it's a temporary respite.

 So this all culminates with a new name at last: Sterling Cooper & Partners. It's a concrete example of Ted trying to make peace and unify everyone and Don seems to grudgingly see the need for it. Pete freaks out and smokes a joint so powerful it makes The 60's happen right in front of him.

  This was a pretty muddled episode, and for all the good bits, there was just so much "Look! The 60's! Mini-skirts! Janis Joplin! It was a time that happened!" It got a bit wearing. And the whole business with constantly playing the whole "two cities" motif felt a bit obvious and lacked Mad Men's usual light touch. Though if I remember right, they pretty much have an episode that's not quite as complete before things speed up for the final drive. Here's hoping they've got all the nonsense out of their system now.

 And that'll do it for this week. Join us next week when Sally invents a time machine out of baking soda and a refrigerator box, Harry Crane becomes a cyborg, Pete develops a mad posh for cuchi fritos, and Peggy perfects the Weirding Way. All these things and more guaranteed to have an utterly negligible chance of happening when we meet back here in seven, for a little somethin-somethin' called "Favors"It's bound to be a real thigh-slapper!

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