Wednesday, 12 June 2013

MAD MEN, 6.11 - 'Favors'

Wednesday, 12 June 2013
written by Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner | directed by Jennifer Getzinger

A very good ante-penultimate episode, but if I'm honest it didn't sink its fangs deeply until the dazzling final moments with Sally (Kiernan Shipka) walking in on her father, Don (Jon Hamm), having sex with Sylvia (Linda Cardellini), the mother of the teenage boy she has a crush on. It was a real shock in a drama that hasn't delivered one in awhile (when you stop to reflect on it), and everything that followed was sublime. Don's look of pure panic and confusion, with almost no idea what to do next, allowed Hamm to turn in a terrific performance and show a side to his character we've never seen before. A man who can sense his life's house of cards about to collapse, and is powerless to do anything about. Damage limitation will be difficult, that's for sure.

The ensuing dinner table scene, with a flustered Don returning home to a meal cooked by Megan (Jessica ParĂ©), having to appear normal in the company of his crestfallen daughter, was so uncomfortable it actually hurt to watch. To then add Sylvia's husband into the mix—here to thank Don for his string-pulling efforts in keeping his son away from war—was almost excruciating to watch. No wonder Sally snapped and ran to her room, forcing Don to make a mewling excuse for his actions on the other side of her locked bedroom door. Sally isn't an idiot, and my feeling is she won't buy Don's story about "comforting" Mrs Rosen after she heard bad news. Okay, so she fell for the grandma story that burglar told her a few weeks ago, but that was probably the moment she woke up to life's realities.

So what happens next? Sally's world's been torn apart, because she always considered her father so pious and blamed her mother for her parents divorcing. She's not especially close to Megan, but can she keep this a secret from her? Will she tell Betty? Will Don be forced to tell her the truth and hope she's mature enough to keep silent, promising to mend his ways? We have two more episodes to find out, but I suspect the truth is going to come out and we'll end the season with Megan as the second ex-Mrs Draper.

The rest of this "Favors" was enjoyable, but I can't say it left enough of an impression on me. I very much liked Pete (Vincent Karthesier) and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) giggling like old friends over dinner, to the disgruntlement of Ted (Kevin Rahm) who became a gooseberry. By virtue of the fact Pete's senile mother mistook Peggy for Trudy, it also reminded you of how close Peggy perhaps came to becoming Mrs Campbell back in season 1. They even have a child together, which is something I'd forgotten about.

The mystery of Bob Benson (James Wolk) was also partly revealed, when it became obvious during a discussion with Pete that he's gay and has feeling for the man he appears to be basing his career on. I hope there's still more to Bob than this, because the show had a perfectly good homosexual character in the sorely-missed Sal, so maybe it's a smokescreen for the deeper truth to come. I like the theory online that he's a government spy, no matter how far-fetched that seems. Bob being gay perhaps explains those tight shorts from a few episodes ago, though.

Another relationship this episode tackled was the working one between Don and Ted, who are the ostensible figureheads of the two ad agencies that have merged. They respect each other's talent, but their professional partnership isn't going well. Much of it's Don's fault, naturally, because he works better as a lone wolf and just isn't making the effort to adjust. We're definitely supposed to side with Ted in the conflict here, as his family scenes made abundantly very clear: he may be a workaholic, which concerns his wife, but his marriage feels robust and his two kids really love him. The Chaough residence feels like a much happier place to be than Chez Draper.

Overall, there was much to enjoy about "Favors", but it was the fantastic sequence with Don/Sally at the end that really made this hour. The rest was good but couldn't hold a candle to the drama of Don being caught with his pants down at long last.

9 June 2013 / AMC