Episode Reviews (3)
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JFK to LAX (Spoilers Ahead)
Mad Men began its final season this week. The opening shot shows us the once disgraced and now headhunter/ad man Freddy Rumsen doing an expertly written pitch for Accutron watches. Freddy has become somewhat of a freelancer in his spare time getting paid for the odd ideas that he spitballs in offices of SC&P and the like. Peggy sees the pitch and is blown away by how well presented and written it is and tries to incorporate the idea to her new boss Lou Avery, who is the new head of creative (aka Don's replacement), who is unimpressed by her efforts. Peggy really is caught in a rut it would seem now that Don is on leave and the nurturing push that Don always gave her to express herself seems to no longer be part of the workplace. Peggy is also scrambling to find a connection on a personal level after her attempts to apologize to Lou for pushing her agenda fail and he tells her to "just drop The saddest scene is at the end of the episode where she attempts to get the plumber to stay the night after having looked at the plumbing her tenant (she's a landlord now, interesting) was complaining about.
Roger seems to be in a rut much the same as Peggy and is going down the rabbit hole of counterculture in his new open relationship with his young girlfriend (Roger, when will you learn?). He gets a message from his daughter that she wants to meet with him which makes him understandably nervous with all of the mistakes he has made in his life. They meet for lunch and she surprisingly forgives him for all of the wrongdoings he has inflicted upon her as part of her new outlook on life and that she wants to be a part of his life. It's good to see Roger so flustered seeing as she doesn't seem to want money or have an agenda outside of wanting to spend time with her father and not be mired in hatred for him for the foreseeable future. The ray of light doesn't seem to work for Roger, and his embracing of the open lifestyle seems halfhearted too on his part, as his young partner tells him that she doesn't mind if he was with someone else.
Joan and the new stressed out head of accounts Ken (Eyepatch) Cosgrove agree to send Joan in his stead to meet a client's (Butler Footwear) new head of marketing. Ken says that the illusion of having something come up will make him look more important than having to meet with low level marketing types like Wayne Barnes. When Joan meets him Barnes is surprised and sexist towards her, saying such things as "Ken should be the one to hear Joan persists and he tells her that they're thinking of doing all of their advertising in house from now on, thus cutting SC&P out of the contract they have with them. Joan asks that he hold off on his decision and not fire SC&P wanting to prove herself as a partner in the company and more than Ken's errand-runner. Ken finds out about her attempts to keep Barnes' threat from him and he tells her to never try to undermine him and use his office ever again. Joan trying to take initiative and save the company a client, even being smart enough to get pointers from a university professor on marketing 101, shows that she wants to be made use of more on a company level (and not in the way of the events of "The Other Woman").
Don lands at LAX to visit Megan on his new state of being on leave, seeing as Season 7 is only a few months after Season 6 ended. He has been away and it shows in his awkward dealings with his young bride. While he tries his best to engage physically she doesn't seem that into it. Although Megan seems to be doing fairly well for herself, even with her seemingly creepy agent saying that she has a bright future ahead of her. She seems content in her new house in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Los Angeles but Don just can't seem to deal with the fact that they are and have been growing apart since Season 6. Don is so very lost right now, as shows in his increasing consumption of alcohol (something I would like him to cut back on as he did back in Season 4) to sharpen himself and attempt to get back to work. Despite him leaving LA in a way that seems to be that of someone alienated from their significant other Don returns to New York on a plane and makes a new friend. What's most interesting, in Mad Men fashion they clearly share an interest in one another, is that Don doesn't sleep with her or try to even though she tells him to come with her when they land. His statement of "I've got to get back to work" is at least a sign that he is trying to get some semblance of balance back into his life and not resorting to his old ways. I don't know if this is a sign after having shown his kids the house that he grew up in as they didn't show up in the premiere but I'd very much like to see how that has had him open up to others in his life. After all, with the show coming to an end the biggest question is that of can Don Draper really change? After many years of seemingly treading water with his new marriage and the professional success, the man behind the curtain of his Don Draper mask seems to finally be popping out (at least a little bit). The best part of the episode was finding out that Don was indeed still at work but only feeding his pitches, such as Accutron, to Freddy to present as his own original work. While Don may still be in a dark place without Megan in his life all the time at least he's till pitching and not falling completely into the abyss of his old habits. It's also nice to see him generous enough to help benefit someone else with his ideas and that the show respects Freddy (himself a recovering alcoholic after being booted from SC back in Season 2) has a continuing sobriety that Don is hopefully emulating.
Season 7 began in somewhat of a deliberate pace but still gave us plenty to like and chew on as we begin to move into the final phase of the 60's and the chronicle of life on Madison Avenue with our beloved ensemble. It's too bad it's split up into two parts as I'm sure AMC is pulling their punches writing and creativity wise to squeeze a few more Emmys out of the show's prestige before it ends but I'll still try to make the best of the ride along the way.moreless
A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness
Season 7 moves slowly, but it is designed to move slowly. The most powerful character in this episode is time, and it directs and steers the characters through their scenes. This is an episode in which time has the power to allow characters to speak, or to silence them. This is a breathtaking episode, not because of turns and twists in the plot, but because it unveils, slowly, how the individuals within this show their voices, and our memories about this series are all going to disappear by the end of the season. This is an episode about voices getting lost into the universe.
Season 7 opens with a familiar face looking at the camera directly and demanding our attention: it is Freddy Rumsen, reciting a pitch for Accutron watches. We don't realize it at this moment, but this is not Freddy speaking: it is Don, taking over Freddy's voice, and asking us to listen to him. Freddy is freelancing for Sterling Cooper, but, behind the scenes, we learn that Don, who is still on a leave of absence, is providing Freddy with his ideas. In his pitch, Freddy describes an advertisement in which the sound of the watch the "ohhmm" of the watch which arguably represents the passage of time -- begins to drown out all other voices and sounds in the boardroom. Freddy/Don's takeaway slogan: it's not a timepiece: it's a conversation piece. His slogan merges time with conversation (or individual identity), and hints at individual existence disappearing into the void of a never-ending universe. This pitch is not about watches. It's about man's mortality. Ohhmmmmmm.
Hearing the pitch, Peggy is dazed, and sits silently for a moment. She is smart enough to see its value. She describes it as an "end run" rather than a "home run," again reminding us of the finality of all the events that we are about to witness. But Peggy is not in the same place as Don: she is still striving and struggling to be heard. Her character has been engaging in this battle since Season 1, and, more than any other character, she has succeeded in finding a voice. Until now. "Accutron: it's time for a conversation," she says, restating the pitch in a way that is significant more in what it reveals about Peggy's thinking than advertising strategies. "It sounds more elegant to
This is Peggy's constant role within Sterling Cooper, as she climbed from being an unknown secretary to an integral part of the creative team and nearly to creative director. For the rest of the episode, she will try but now fail to make herself heard, while struggling with listening to those around her. As the episode progresses, we learn that rather than taking Don's place (or Don's voice) within the company, as we thought was happening at the end of Season 6, she has been instead forced to report to Lou Avery, who refuses to listen to her advice or words at all. Lou is a horrible boss, and Peggy is shut down. Peggy is frustrated by her inability to have a voice within Sterling Cooper, her inability to use her words to motivate those around her, including Stan, and by her inability to find a voice with which to address Ted, her suddenly present ex-lover. Peggy, again wanting to be heard by not listening, is yelled at by the son of her tenant, and yells back that she does not understand her. Later, she both tells her secretary to call to fix the plumbing she cannot ask herself while trying again to convince Lou to go with the other pitch. This time, she uses Fred/Don's original slogan: It's not a conversation piece. It's a timepiece. While Peggy is listening now, her arguments again fall on deaf ears. Finally, at the end of the episode, she is overwhelmed by the knowledge that she has no one to lean on to help with things like fixing her tenant's toilet. The constant breakdown of plumbing is not what is really causing Peggy to become so sad, of course. She is reaching a point of near desperation because she has no one who listens or hears her either at work or at home. She is alone in the dark.
Meanwhile, Don is visiting Megan in . Visually, the appearance of Don begins with him moving out of time with the rest of the characters around him, and Megan approaches him in slow motion. Until he speaks with her, he appears to exist in a space in time outside of those around him. When Megan speaks, Don's asynchronous slow motion view of the world suddenly stops abruptly: she tells him that they are running late, and must get to dinner. They get there early. Later on, back at Megan's home in the hills, Don is troubled by the sounds of coyotes howling out in the darkness, in the depths of the canyon that surrounds them. " They're far away," Megan reassures him, "That's what happens to sounds in the These are, quite literally, voices in the darkness. During an argument, Megan tells Don that he is "not here long enough for a fight," reminding us all of his upcoming disappearance. That night, Megan falls asleep as Don watches a movie in which the concept of a Fountain of Youth written on a page on the screen, but the words describing it are not spoken aloud: the capacity to verbalize his desires being silenced. Don argues later for a home near the ocean which we have seen in the past as being a sign of home to him -- but Megan wants to keep to the canyon. On the way home, on the red eye, he meets a woman who begins by telling him that if his vision of reality differs from the truth, "you can blame Madison Avenue on that Later, Don watches Nixon on TV during his inauguration as his voice literally has the attention of the nation. All of us watching, however, know what his future holds.
In the meanwhile, our sight of Roger opens with him sitting in the aftermath of an orgy. The phone rings, and it is his daughter, asking for a meeting. "I feel like we really got somewhere last night," says Roger's naked girlfriend from the floor. Roger, not so sure, and surrounded by a hedonistic hangover, only sighs. Later, when Roger meets with his daughter, she tells him that he is forgiven. It seems unsettling, and Roger does not appear to know how to respond.
Again out of synch with what should be happening is the one that was scheduled between Butler Footwear and Ken, who is overwhelmed with all of the accounts he has and the things he needs to do: not enough time. Kevn has turned into a grumpy, ornery person by now. He sends Joan to meet with the head of marketing from Butler (Barnes) without him. Within moments of her arrival, Joan realizes that the conversation that needs to occur cannot: they is out of synch with what needs to be talked about. She realizes that she cannot immediately fix this. She begs for more time, and then takes pro-active steps to figure out how to right what it wrong. She means with a professor from the business school, on a Saturday, who gives her the words to go back and approach Barnes so that he listens. Joan is the one person in this episode who somewhat succeeds in controlling both time and in forcing herself to be heard. She walks away, somehow, the strongest character of the night. By the end of her conversation, she is replacing the voice of Barnes with her own, telling him what to say to Butler Footwear.
There is, in the end, an unnerving biblical reverberation about time and mortality that circulates throughout this episode. John the Baptist is credited with the saying "Vox Clamantis in Deserto," or "A Voice Cries Out in the (Also the motto of Dartmouth College, by the John was also famous for forgiving people who were sinning, and Roger's daughter may have been the unwitting John of this episode. It is a fitting episode for the final season of a show that is always full of these allegories. Both Peggy and Don end this episode alone, crying in the darkness, not unlike the coyotes. Don is unable to close the door on his past? while listening to a voice asking him to let go. Neither Peggy nor Don had a voice that was heard.