Monday, August 02, 2010

Mad Men "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" Reaction


Last night's "Mad Men" was so full of great moments that appeared to show where this season is going, but to me the seminal one came about 36 minutes in, after Don's secretary revealed to some co-workers that he'd left his keys at the office, and wouldn't be able to leave the office Christmas party with them as planned. After she mentioned that it might be an hour, because she might "need to get some food" in the drunk Don Draper, Joey (who I really don't like) chimed in regarding Don with, "he's pathetic."

Four years ago when "Mad Men" began running, it was about the advertising men on Madison Avenue who were seen as larger than life and put up on a pedestal by all those around them. But fast forward a few years and a new generation is coming into the advertising business, and they don't see Don's drunken womanizing as something to idolize, but instead as a cautionary tale. Roger coming back to the office after a "lunch" meeting that consisted mostly of downing scotches is no longer cute, but a roadblock to success. And the old-fashioned ideas that worked so well in the past no longer have a place in pitch meetings.

While Don's comeuppance has yet to come directly at him at work, at least publicly, Roger's was on display for everyone when Lucky Strike's Lee Garner Jr. forced Roger to embarrass himself by playing Santa at the company Christmas party -- a party that wouldn't have happened (for financial reasons) if not for Garner's expectation in the first place. Still, while that incident was definitely humiliating for Roger, I think the scene that showed his loss of power more was his interaction with Joan, where he was remembering an old dress she wore, in an attempt to be flirtatious, but she wasn't having any of his come-ons (though she did wear that dress to the party). Joan definitely appears to be trying to be treated as more of an equal, and though the minds of the men at SCDP are slow to change, it appears to be working.

To help hammer home the old school/new school divide, Freddy Rumsen showed up for the first time since Season 2, bringing with him an account for SCDP. While he's now sober (and apparently serving as a sponsor for one of the execs at the company he brought to SCDP), he's still old fashioned, which means his expectations for the campaign don't meet up with Peggy's. I did like Freddy's decidedly old-school dislike of the new offices, particularly the psychedelic painting in the meeting room. He's definitely got a point about that.

Back to Don, because I really got bored with Peggy and her super-short boyfriend after about a minute... After Allison, his secretary, brought Don his keys, Don put the moves on her, and after the shortest resistance ever, she gave in. Then, she showed up at the office the next day expecting to get the Jane Sterling treatment, but instead she got the brush-off from Don, a brush-off that included a $100 "let's forget this ever happened" bonus that probably made her feel like a prostitute. It was just a great scene. In fact, why don't you watch it right now:

video

Just look at Allison's change in facial expression from when Don asks her to come inside the office to the end of the scene. That's great writing by Matthew Weiner and phenomenal acting by Alexa Alemanni. Those types of subtle visual cues are what always make this show worth watching.

Before I wrap up this post which has already gone on longer than I'd anticipated, I need to mention the Glen/Sally subplot. You remember creepy Glen and his fascination with Betty from way back in Season 1, right? Well, now he's back and he's got a creepy fascination with Sally, Don and Betty's daughter. Everything about Glen gives off a future serial killer vibe. Everything. I can't decide if he needs to go away completely, or he needs to actually murder someone, but if creepy is what they're going for with the character, they've got it down. I'm not sure where his story is intended to lead, but as long as they don't dwell on it too long, I'm willing to stick it out.

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