Episode Reviews (5)
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Dick Whitman Returns
I thoroughly enjoyed tonights episode. Whenever we see Don Draper in Dick Whitman form it always serves to breathe humanity into the character(s) Jon Hamm and Matt Weiner have created. This season thus far has seen Don falling into a downward-spiral personally and professionally, and while he continued on that slope in The Good News, it was reassuring as a viewer to see Don truly connecting with those around him. Punctuated by refreshing humor and vulnerability from the usually reticent Lane Pryce, Joan Harris, Greg Harris and Don Draper, the episode successfully examined the dual nature of the personnel and the personal and the conflict that arises when the two collide. Jared Harris, the standout of the episode, was a perfect example of this. The prim and proper Brit, crushed by the weight of a deteriorating marriage, the headache of managing a fledgling agency and a lack of social intimacy, let all of his pathos and drunken humor loose in the presence of the similarly broken Don, to both tragic and hilarious results. Joan too found herself floundering by way of her own predisposition. Joan, equal parts defensive and aggressive, motherly and distant, courteous and biting, was caught in a turmoil of identity, rendered powerless in her work by Pryce and physically powerless by the good doctor Greg. Every bit of her armor had fallen away, and in finding herself helpless to fix herself, much like Pryce, Joan was laid bare.
Which brings us to Don. Don is chameleonic in his ability to shift in manner and presence depending on his surroundings because Don is a character, a cipher, and as illusory as the promise of the products he sells. Dick Whitman is his antithesis and center. As Dick and in the presence of the widow Anna Draper, he is no longer a sketch but a fully formed idea. He speaks openly of his marriage and his faults, preferring to tend to honesty rather than betrayal. Thus seeing his last vestige of a hope for normalcy in the character of Anna literally wither and die, and his betrayal to circumvent it, made for possibly the most tragic implication in all of Mad Men.
The Good News was a staggering study in the stripping away of the walls that the characters have built for themselves to give way to their own nature. For all of Mad Mens praise for its period attention to detail, it isn't as often noted for its greater achievement- examining what it means to be human and the timeless battle for the reconciliation of all of our moving parts. This episode is the perfect example of why i watch this show.moreless
More and more loss
The slow but steady deconstruction of Don Draper continues in this episode, as his one true refuge is suddenly ripped out from under him.
It hasn't been shown often, but we've known since the second season that Don has maintained a strong relationship with the real Don Draper's widow. If anything, it is the one place where he has always been able to shed the skin of Don Draper and be himself: Dick Whitman. But throughout his time as Dick in the first half of this episode, that refuge slowly disintegrates, as he finds himself shifting into his Don Draper persona all too easily, and perhaps permanently.
Would Dick Whitman have sought solace in the arms of a college girl like Stephanie? It's possible, but it felt more like his false world intruding on his true existence. Anna's cancer is practically another metaphor: with Don Draper's life falling apart at the seams, even his tenuous grasp on his true self is being devoured by the abyss.
The net effect is that very soon, Don will no longer have anyplace to escape his Don Draper persona. Instead of being a matter of choice, it will become a matter of necessity. How that realization will come and what the fallout will be might not become apparent until next season. This season certainly seems to be about the process of breaking Don apart to his fundamentals.
Ironically, Don's initial response seems to be rather nihilistic. Upon finding Lane reeling from a personal crisis, he all but leads the repressed man down the garden path. Despite his many claims to the contrary, Don is absolutely pushing Lane into certain decisions and choices. For at least a little while, Lane is acting a little bit like Don Draper. And while it's often very funny, it's also a bit disturbing.
There was also a rather substantial subplot for Joan, which was much appreciated. Oddly, her rapist of a husband Greg was depicted in something of a favorable light, which may have been an intentional ploy to counter expectation. But his impending muster to basic training and then likely deployment to Vietnam ties into the historical realities of 1965.
But it may also be another example of how Joan, herself a woman who puts much stock in her appearance of absolute control over her world, is constantly dealing with the reality below the surface. Joan has always been about keeping up appearances. Is Joan being set up to have her own artifice stripped away and the truth revealed?moreless
The Good News
The Good News? You only wasted an hour of your life by watching this. The bad news? You wasted an hour of your life watching this.
I know some people love everything Mad Men does and think that this season has not lost a step, but I just am not enjoying this year so far. Maybe it is AMC's pretentious narrator, maybe it is nothing at all happening in the episode, but I just find Double M to be boring, and not the great TV Matt Weiner will trick you into thinking they are producing.
Yet another disappointing Season 3 ep. Hopefully the show can turn around.moreless
Don the Pimp....
This was a pretty average, easy going episode by Mad Men's storytelling standards. What starts out by Don experiencing the futility of life ends with a him finally embracing the inevitable as he and the rest head into 1965.
We see Don stepping into Dick Whitman's shoes as arrives in LA, before heading to Acapulco. He reconnects with Anna and is shattered to learn the hard way that she has cancer. He also realizes there is nothing much he could do, other than, as her sister (I guess) says, be the man in the room with the checkbook. I personally enjoyed the second part of the episode, where Don and Lane get drunk out of their minds and hit the city like some stoned teenagers. Don also hooks up Lane with a prostitute for which Lane thanks him for the welcome distraction.
As much as I love seeing Christina Hendricks on the screen, I absolutely hate that creep of her husband. I couldn't stand him as Sam in Desperate Housewives, and he is simply an unwanted piece in the complicated character maze of Mad Men.
This episode was okay, and I don't expect to see a lot of action for a few more episodes.moreless
Don sees Anna Draper again, Joan and Pryce clash, and Don and Pryce have a night on the town.
I gave this episode a seven out of ten, it was good but not great Mad Men. It was more of a character study episode and servicing some characters that needed fleshing out.
First was Joan and her husband Greg. Greg was reviled by Mad Men viewers and was seen as a boob and a rapist. The writers gave him some much needed depth this episode as he was finally seen as a real person. He is a good doctor, maybe not surgein material, but we see he is good at doctoring when Joan cuts her hand. She wanted to go to the hospital, but he had none of it and fixed her himself. They needed to make this character deeper as too many people just wanted him gone from the show. Since this obviously isn't happening, they needed to make him more sympathetic and less of a cartoon.
Also in need of some depth was Lane Pryce, and he got it in this episode. Like Greg, we didn't know alot about him and he seemed like a square peg and a bad fit with his American partners. However, now that he is divorced, this gives Don someone to go out with and a new friend in the office. (it looks like Roger is retired by marriage and health problems) Don refuses to give him advice, remembering what his advice did to Roger's marriage. He also quotes the theme of the show to Lane, "are you doing what you want or what is expected?" The researcher stated this to Don last episode and he requotes it here. Don has always battled wants v. expectations.
Finally, the episode starts off with Don visiting Anna Draper, whom is like the mother he never had. Its rather odd, since they are around the same age. He acts more like a platonic husband to her. He is open, speeks freely and does things around her house without her asking. He is like the perfect husband, except he is still chasing yourth and beauty as Anna practically throughs her neice to him.
She shoots him down and brings him down with the revelation Anna is dying. The only person whom he ever could be himself around is going to be lost to him. I think it would have been more interesting for Don to consider what has chasing youth and beauty in women got him? He might have been happier with Anna.
Best comic bits are Anna's sister, who is scandalized by Don's appearance and boxer wearing, Lane and Don discussing what percent of moviegoers are getting hand jobs, and Peggy (in her only scene) having to remind Joan of her boyfriend that noboby but her is taking seriously.moreless