SO, I missed last week’s episode, which I appreciate but didn’t like in summary. This week’s episode was an interesting one, sending us (and some of the characters) to very interesting places.
The episode’s format, which reminds me of the 1998 indie film “Go,” where three plot lines start at a common point, diverge in a non-linear format, then re-merge at the end, was a little jarring at first, but I loved it once I got it. Mad Men has done this with episodes in the past, such as season three’s “Seven Twenty Three,” but the varying aspects of the three plot lines, and the similarities, knocks this one out of the park.
The starting point, Roger trying to whisk Don away for a long weekend, only to have Don take Megan; Peggy getting frustrated at losing both Don and Megan for her Heinz pitch; and Roger reluctantly going to Jane’s friends’ party to eat and drop acid, is an amusing couple of scenes. Roger and Don, recalling the last time they did anything as a duo, helped illuminate the show’s history, and brought a smile to my face.
It was nice to see that Peggy’s development and maturation from the young, naive secretary in the first episode is not all warm and positive, and that she is becoming much of what we see as wrong with other characters; seemingly cold and unpleasant to those close to her. However, it was nice to see her make a stand with the Heinz representative, aka the guy with great ideas who seems unable to express what he wants. While I agree that she had to be taken off the account, for the general good of all persons involved, it was something Don himself would have done, and probably could have sold, had he been there. Elisabeth Moss distinguished herself quite well, showing a feistiness where it needed to be, and a neediness where it needed to be, without overdoing it; I loved the touch of having Don’s secretary, Donna, who had that awkward moment with Peggy previously, be the one to wake her up.
Roger’s story was definitely the most intriguing, and the best of the three, both of in terms of content and execution. It was nice to see his wife again, played by Peyton List, who gives a great performance, the best on the show yet actually. I had wondered how long it would take for there to be a truly sixties drug moment; the uses of marijuana on the show were amusing, but having a main character (and an older one too) use LSD was something I think the show needed. The fact that Roger’s trip happened the way it happened, I won’t go into specifics since I would wreck my computer laughing too hard, and culminating in Roger and Jane both expressing their discontentment with their marriage gave Sterling arguably his best moment in a long time; he wasn’t lying through his teeth, he wasn’t trying to justify some grand reason for his actions, he simply said he wasn’t happy. The scene the next morning, where the two of them agree that a divorce is probably for the best, and agree to try to make it as painless as possible (let’s see how that long that agreement lasts) was a brilliant scene, especially since Roger looks happy that his life is making a serious change.
Don’s story, to me, seemed muddled: it looked like it wanted to make a big point, then went a little crazy, then pulled it together at the end. The major point of Don’s story is that he wants his marriage to Megan to be like his marriage to Betty, where he is in charge and she accepts that; he seems unable to realize that, well, that ain’t happening. Megan, who seems uncomfortable with the increasingly preferential treatment showered upon her at work by Don, also doesn’t like living her life under the control of Don. Don’s genuine concern for her, finally illustrated at the end, opens the door that maybe he’ll adjust, although we can only speculate at this point. I thought the plot was well-handled, although a little murky, especially since the well-prepared Don was forced to scrap a vacation, and drive home in the middle of the night.
The episode ends with Peggy, having possibly reconciled with her boyfriend (or just using him as he thought), Roger, having made a life change he views for the better and is still in the afterglow, and Don, who is trying to come to terms with the previous 24 hours, all returning to the office. The real gem of the episode, though, is Robert Morse’s performance as Bertram Cooper; the elder statesman of the group, in a way, finally ends Don’s honeymoon period, putting a hammer on his excursions with his wife, and insinuating that, although productive, the office needs Don there to get the job done. The heavy implication, something very true, is that Don’s head is out of the game, and is needed to help keep the agency afloat.
The side plot in Peggy’s story about Ginsberg is one reason why Mad Men is the way it is, and perhaps defines this new character better than his two previous appearances: he is unsure of his place in the world, and doesn’t like where he is at the moment, going so far as to deny that his apparent father is just that.
The episode works once taken in as a whole, but I thought it could have used a few adjustments. As ever, the performances were great, and aside from a few bad lines of dialogue, most of it worked great.
My rating: 4.4/5.0