Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mad Men: Season Four, Episode Eleven

Spoilers!

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce seems to have settled into the “coma” stage—it’s stabilized but certainly down. This allows us to contemplate a few characters more-or-less at our leisure such as:

What the heck happened with Peggy and that nebbishy activist-journalist dude during that car ride? One second they’re as cool as ever; the next they’re making out and spending the night together. I suppose it’s The Youth; and I suppose I also have to say Go Peggy, since she basically played the episode right, particularly with the requisite Moment of Misogyny, which she handled correctly. Thinking back a few episodes when Joan told Peggy off about Peggy’s seeming like a bitch henceforth—well, that all seems more than a bit foolish, hasn’t it? Both characters seem to have hit their respective nadirs at that point, and while you can’t exactly call Joan’s situation peachy at this point, her problems then are not her problems now. Meaning that while Joan was wrong, the portents of that episode went unrealized, unfortunately—it would’ve been an interesting plotline.

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Don Draper is Don Draper. Get back to me when he’s doing something intriguingly Don Drapery rather than typically Don Drapery. Put it this way: if you were to spoil this episode of this season to someone who’d only seen season one, Don would seem completely boring. “Oh, Don slept with two different women and strategized how to win business for the firm.” Meh: get me at a situation in which the Don Draper Bubble is really threatening to pop.

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Roger Sterling has made a late charge forward as the most interesting character. The last two episodes have fully exposed the idea that Sterling is a lumbering anachronism, someone whose life has been revealed as useless. He’s married to the wrong woman and in the wrong line of work: these things are problems.

Sterling’s fate has been a long time coming. Sterling never really took to his work because it was the family business; it’s clear he likes the peripherals of the ad business—the drinking and the cavorting—far more than the intrinsic work in of itself. And while some anachronisms are charming, the reason for Roger’s anachronisms—that is, working for the wrong reasons because of family pressure (to inherit the family business—is thankfully practically extinct these days, and nearly becoming so within the reality of the show. The people who are most effective in Mad Men are the people who work because they really like, on a certain level, working at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. It’s why Pete Campbell getting warned to consider his family (and abandon the firm) is well-intentioned but probably wrong. It’s because one of the biggest and best themes of Mad Men is that man is a working animal.

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