Today is Saul Bass’s birthday. He’s always been a big inspiration to me. He said, “Work? It’s just serious play.” I love that.
-I can’t remember an episode of Mad Men where a single story took up so much of the episode. I guess what they were doing was using the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr as a foil or pivot for a few different characters. I didn’t feel it was super successful, did you? Without knowing what they were going for, I guess I can’t judge that too much. I hate to say it, but I think Don’s secretary, Dawn, had a bigger role last week to set her up for this week and possible future episodes.
-I guess I was surprised at the response to the assassination, how shaken everyone was. We’re only a few seasons away from Roger doing a blackface routine at a party, and now it seems all the characters have completely evolved on the race relations front. (Except for Harry Crane who was more distressed at lost advertising revenue.)
-In the first two episodes of Season 5, Pete had two instances of looking uncomfortable around racism. Tonight his outburst seemed to have more to do with his own situation, but it would be pretty tight if the writers were knowingly making Pete the most comfortable around various races on the show, but only dropping evidence of this once or twice a season. Pete is spiraling, trying to make smalltalk with the Chinese food delivery driver and trying to set the groundwork to convince Trudy to let him come home. While there’s no doubt his argument with Harry Crane was partially about MLK, his last line about MLK’s family drives home the point that this was about his own family. “It’s a shameful, shameful day.”
-It’s curious the characters for whom they choose to focus on and provide backstory. For instance, this week we found out Michael Ginsberg is a virgin and is a wreck around women, but we’ll never find out anything more about Stan. I don’t know what the Ginsberg story had to do with this episode or this season. Any ideas? Maybe to show the Men of Mad Men, aren’t all handsome and suave, there is some vulnerability there.
-Peggy has a tax problem and she’s going to solve it with some interest payments on a new condo. There were some funny moments with the real estate agent when she assumed Abe was the money behind this purchase. The Second Avenue Subway mentioned as the boon to the condo’s price still isn’t completed yet, so maybe it’s a good thing Peggy didn’t get that apartment. The biggest part of this plot line was Abe guilelessly discussing Abe and Peggy’s future children. It was a really sweet moment seeine how Peggy responded to that. “I’m going to Harlem in a tuxedo.”
-Ethan from Lost is now a trippy insurance salesman named Randal Walsh trying to push the advertising envelope. I’ve got no idea either, except Roger’s still experimenting. “This is an opportunity. The Heavens are telling us to change.” I saw Don consider this for an extra beat.
-This episode was titled The Flood, but the only direct reference to a flood was Ginsberg’s father, “In the Flood, the animals went two by two. You, you’re going to get on the ark with your father.” Did you catch anything else?
-I noticed this week a commercial with a voiceover by Jon Hamm. Is that new? Also, Christina Hendricks has been pitching scotch all season.
-Awkward meeting between Megan and Don and Arnold and his wife. And then Don calls DC to check on them? Come on, Don, settle down.
-The hug between Peggy and her secretary and Joan and Dawn contrasted nicely. There’s real warmth between Peggy and her secretary, while Joan and Dawn are still trying to figure each other out, though. Don did seem genuinely concerned for Dawn, though. Peggy’s secretary: “I knew it was going to happen. He knew it was going to happen. But it’s not going to stop anything.” That could be about Don.
-I can’t really remember much of this from the earlier seasons, but I feel like newspapers/radio/TV are being used for expository and dating information more consistently this year. It was used a significant amount tonight.
-I’m not going to buy into a Bobby story line until they promise not to change the actor again. We’ve had the same creepy Glenn forever, why can’t we stick with the same Bobby? In any case, Bobby can’t allow for the wallpaper to be uneven and gets punished for his obsessiveness. I think this was supposed to show his steely steadfastness to details, he is his father’s son, but they’ve never really illustrated that specifically for Don, so what do I know. I did love Bobby in the movie theater, though, first when his mind was absolutely blown by Planet of the Apes, “Jesus!” and then when talking to the movie theater employee, “Everybody likes to go to the moves when they’re sad.” It showed a compassion and empathy never exhibited in Betty (except for with Glenn and the violin girl) and hardly exhibited in Don. That was a sweet moment, too.
-Setting up Don’s speech on fatherhood, which is especially poignant to me as a brand new father. “I don’t think I ever wanted to be the man who loves children.” “And you act proud and excited, hand out cigars, but you don’t feel anything.” Don’s never really loved his kids (which is going to make it harder for Megan down the road), or more accurately, has never really lived for his kids. And one of the first times he does feel true parental love for Bobby is after Bobby’s kindness to the man in the movie theater, “You feel the feeling you were pretending to have and it feels like your heart is going to explode.” But then this is all turned on its head because Bobby’s biggest fear is his step-dad will be shot. Don acidly clarified Henry isn’t important enough to be shot, but is clearly stung. That juxtaposition was one of the best of the season.
I am very pleased to be included in LetterCult’s Best Custom Letters of 2009! There is some amazing work featured—I am humbled to be in the line up.