Sunday, October 07, 2007

"I am so glad I got to roam those hillsides.": Mad Men

(I'll have a Brotherhood post up tomorrow night, and we'll hopefully get caught up over the first few days of the week. We're still trying to keep up with all of the premieres and such. -- ed.)

Everyone who writes about the antepenultimate episode of the first season of Mad Men comments on how the show, which is usually a thematic, atmospheric sort of thing, ditched all of that to send the plot into high gear (well, high gear for this show). Betty's suburban boredom, Don's secret identity, Pete's ambitions, Roger's health problems and Peggy's weight gain all collided in an hour that actually might pass for "action-packed" on this show. I wouldn't want to see "Mad Men" do this every week, but it was fascinating for now.

The biggest development (and the one that bookended the episode) involved Don's long-lost brother Adam (his brother from when he was still Dick Whitman). Adam sent a mysterious package to Don, then went back to a hotel room and hung himself, leaving most of the money Don gave him for whoever came to clean his room. At the end of the episode, Pete was in Don's office when the package was delivered, and he took the package for himself. Presumably, this will lead to some sort of blackmail (though Don might be OK if his secret past came out -- after all, the Robert Morse character is fond of Ayn Rand, which might mean he would like the "self-made-man" aspect of Don's character). Most of the episode was about how the other characters related to Don (from Betty bringing up the salesman to his interactions with Peggy, whom he apparently views as a colleague now), so it was interesting to have the impending arrival of the package hanging over the rest of the episode. It was a nice deployment of the old maxim of having the gun go off in the third act.

Peggy, meanwhile, is gaining more and more weight, and this week, she's asked to write some copy to advertise a weight-loss device (which is actually something very akin to a vibrator). There's some joking from the guys about how she could use the device, but there's also a grudging respect for her talents. I've seen a lot of theories about why Peggy is gaining weight thrown about the Internet, but I think my favorite two are that she's trying to sublimate her sexual desire for Pete with food (witness the scene where he talked about The Hunt and she rushed off to have a Danish from earlier in the season) or that she's just gaining weight to avoid sexual harrassment (apparently something that happens commonly, even in a world where people didn't have a name for sexual harrassment). I'm not sure which side I fall on, but Peggy's weight gain (while not the best from the makeup point-of-view) is a surprisingly complex take on something that's often played for laughs, even on quality dramas like this one.

Betty found herself trying to suppress sexual desire for a salesman (finally turning him out of her house, but fantasizing about him while leaned up against the washing machine). When she told Don about what had happened, he reacted in anger (what did she expect, though?). The relationship between the two of them, built as much on Don's suppositions of how she should behave as her own suppositions of same, has been one of the most fascinating aspects of season one, and I'm intrigued to see what happens in a second year.

This writeup is shorter than usual because this episode feels, more than any other, like it will make more sense in light of what happens in the last two episodes of the season. I'll be there for both, waiting in eager anticipation.

1 comment:

Bianca Reagan said...

I enjoyed the vibrating storylines. Betty should have taken that air conditioner guy for a ride. Like Don's hasn't stuck his junk in every halfway intelligent lady in Manhattan.