Monday, June 3, 2013

Puddles of My Mad Men Season Six: "The Better Half"

Belated bullet points on last week's episode.

Because of Memorial Day Weekend, I arrived back to my apartment late, dehydrated and slightly (but good) sunburnt, and had some other impending deadlines at regular work and for some freelance assignments, so I could not review last week’s episode of “The Better Half” in a timely fashion. However, I do have to get my say in.

Since there are always a variety of excellent sources for Mad Men recaps, you can read about the following themes more in depth elsewhere: doubles, what is real and what is fake, who wins in a relationship of any kind,  and the meaning of sex.

Instead, what I am going to do is provide you with a few bulletpoints for odd observations and thoughts I had about the episode. Tomorrow, I’ll post my riff on this week’s episode of Mad Men.

- I find it interesting this season that Pete Campbell has regressed so much in his professional life. His visit to Duck and his overall appearance in the office just seem to give off the air of a dishevelled man, a man who’s lost his way. Now, Pete has always been a bit lost in his own way, but no matter how badly he was behaving in the office or outside of it, he always had a business savvy and drive that gave him a sense of purpose. His great line of resignation , “There’s nothing else I can do,” to Duck while sipping a drink basically sums up Pete Campbell’s current existence.

- I know that Roger is a child, but it did seem that his daughter overreacted a bit to the Planet of the Apes incident. Besides, if she’s already making up excuses for her kid like, “We don’t have stairs in the apartment, he’s not good at them,” while dressing the pipsqueak in a stupid outfit like that, her son’s going to have some problems regardless. I mean that kid is like three or four years old! Also: when the hell did she have a kid?

- When Betty and Don get together at Bobby Draper’s camp, Betty delivers two classic and oft-repeated Mad Men lines. First, when Don grabs her hair, she utters the always great, “What are you doing?” that tends to precede many a Mad Men sexual encounter. Then, later, Betty says that when she saw Don at the gas station she thought, “Who is that man?” Now, that line has been used by approximately 100 different characters when describing Don Draper*.

(*Editor’s Note: This is also true of the way approximately 100 people have described me in real life (IRL) as well.)

- I know that Peggy has been at an overall upswing over the past two seasons or so, but it is interesting to see her falter this week. Her indecision was been a fairly rare misstep for her lately, as both Don and Ted (and then, later, a stabbed Abe rips her a new one with his devasatating break-up speech) walk all over her. This one mistake not enough to predict a Campbell-esque dip in performance, but those two have always been connected and it’s maybe something that could come into play.

- And for old times sake, let’s just give it up for Abe once more.

- The look Don has on his face while watching Betty and Henry have breakfast is truly a great feat of acting by Jon Hamm.

- Much has been made of Bob Benson and his shorts, however, the intimate rapport between he and Joan  in their scene together was just as impressive. Bob’s chirping, poised tone mixed with Joan’s sultry and gossipy rises and falls in tone created an extremely pleasing effect.

- The look and shrug that the ambulance attendant gives to Peggy when she says of Abe, “He’s going to make it.”

- Writing dialogue for Harry Crane must be one of the fun parts of being a Mad Men writer. “You want to get your balls tickled, Pete? Go see a headhunter.” What a jackass/like most guys I overhear on the subway.

- Though, that brings up a side question: Would Harry be termed as a “bro” today. He’s kind of chill I guess.

- Elizabeth Moss is a great actress. And I love the way her eyes look in the last scene with Ted. My favorite look for Peggy is when she’s been through a ragged night. To me, she never looked more beautiful than in the “morning after” scene with Don in “The Suitcase.”

- The version of “Always Something There to Remind Me” that they used over the closing credits was good, but it doesn’t beat this version. Just wait until about 0:35 when the background singers come in.

- I read a recent Richard Ford essay that made me think of Mad Men overall. Ford wrote the introduction to my version of James Salter’s Light Years* and in it he says the following of Salter’s characters:

“Salter is not lenient with the Berlands. In one sense they are the handsome fresh-faced couple we chat with at twlight lawn parties in the Hamptons, or notice through a taxi window in front of the Modern, or find ourselves seated besides at La Bayadere. But in another, more trenchant sense—and the novel insists we hold several views of the Berlands at once—they are disengaged, glib, tending to the fatuous, risk averse and in cringing jeopardy of knowing that they live lives of no serious consequence…The characters in Light Years are all simply the way they are: consumer-sentimentalists, unstriving, clueless, isolated culture bearers of a civilization in wintery decline.”

I don’t have any further comment on that. I just think it’s something to keep in mind while watching the rest of this series play out.

That’s it for “The Better Half.” I’ll be back tomorrow with my regular metaphysical Mad Men riff.

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