Saturday, 30 October 2010

'MAD MEN' 4.8 - "The Summer Man"

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Summer heralds optimism, which is exactly what Don Draper (Jon Hamm) receives this week, following the death of Anna Draper, the only women he believes knew the real him. Don's swimming baptismal lengths in a public pool, and has taken to writing a journal to organize his thoughts, in lieu of a real person he can confide in. But the cool breeze of change is blowing across '60s society itself, as Don's noticing interracial couples walking the streets, and even the music (The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction") carries the swagger of a youthful, progressive generation making their mark on the world...

This was definitely the turning point episode for Don, having spent the majority of season 4 as a walking disaster zone when it comes to relationships and his treatment of other people, particularly women. The death of Anna appears to have forced Don to mature, and take more responsibility for his own happiness. I likened his relationship to Anna to as that of a son on great terms with his mother (well, the woman who unwittingly "birthed" Don Draper by allowing Dick Whitman to use her dead husband's identity), and some people believe children are always in the shadow of their parents until their parents die. It's only then that the torch is irreversibly passed to the next generation, as keepers of the family name, which strikes me as something that's happened here.

At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, tensions rose between Joey (Matt Long) and Joan (Christina Hendricks) after he shrugged off a reprimand from her with the hurtful remark "what do you do around here besides walking around like you're trying to get raped?" This began a story of great discomfort, as Joey kept making disparaging remarks about Joan to his friends, including Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), who felt she needed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Joan against this bullying, sexist behaviour.

After Joan noticed a pornographic cartoon of herself having sex with Lane (Jared Harris), she dealt with the situation by upsetting Joey and his clique by remarking on their likely conscription to fight in Vietnam, where they'll be melancholic for the days of working alongside her. Joan's words seem to have delivered the required punch, but Peggy decided to take some action herself to show solidarity and opted to fire Joey from his job. But in recounting her act of sisterhood during an elevator journey with Joan, Peggy was astonished to hear that Joan considers her support extremely unhelpful ("all you've done is prove to them that I'm a meaningless secretary and you're another humorless bitch"). It just goes to show the disparity between these two women: Peggy thinks you need to demonstrate power and control in a man's world, whereas Joan believes in subtle methods of control and quiet manipulation (like dropping hints to Don about Joey's attitude). And in the latter's case, she's perhaps just too distracted by the fact her husband's leaving for two months of basic training in the army.

Back with Don, he appears to have regained his mojo when it comes to women; a dinner date with Bethany (Anna Camp) went well, and despite the uncomfortable presence of ex-wife Betty (January Jones) and Henry (Christopher Stanley) at the same restaurant, and fact Bethany seems to realize she's a double of Betty. For Betty, accompanying her new husband as he discusses a political campaign with an aide, she's reminded of her old life as she watches Don flirt with another woman -- seeing he's moving on and his evening is more romantic than hers. She retired to the rest room in tears, to the frustration of Henry on their premature car ride home.

The antagonism between the Drapers reared its ugly head again, with Don told he can't have the kids at the weekend, as it's baby Gene's second birthday, and he's unwelcome at the party, too. Henry even rang Don at work, to request he remove boxes containing his property (marked "DRAPER", almost taunting Henry in the garage, who hates how Don will always be his wife's first love). It felt like a way for Henry to keep some measure of control over Don, rubbing salt into the wound by suggesting he swing by on the weekend he's been denied seeing his children. Interestingly, once Don had collected his things, he simply threw them away in an alley's skip – perhaps symbolizing he's making a definite break from things of the past. He's growing, maturing, rising above things.

In asking Faye (Cara Buono) out on a dinner, for the third time, she actually agrees this time, as his approach felt less entitled, and he's cool enough to end their evening with a kiss in the taxi home, finding the restraint to leave her wanting more. In so doing, he used Faye's own advice in business: "kindness, gentleness, and persuasion win where force fails."

And if this episode saw maturity from Don, that filtered through into Betty, who came to realize she has more to lose than her ex-husband, so has to take stock of what she has and be deferential. Don arrived in the middle of Gene's birthday party, but the situation was coolly defused by Betty, who simply handed him Gene while she stood back with Henry. "We have everything," she told him. And as Faye reminded Don about Gene, "all he knows of the world is what you show him", so Don feels he can have an active role in Gene's life without having to worry that his family have been irrevocably stolen.

Essentially, let's all be adult about things. That'll last -- right?

WRITERS: Lisa Albert, Janet Leahy & Matthew Weiner
DIRECTOR: Phil Abraham
TRANSMISSION: 27 October 2010, BBC4, 10PM