Wednesday, 19 June 2013

MAD MEN, 6.12 - 'The Quality of Mercy'

written by Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton | directed by Phil Abraham

History's been subtly (and not so subtly) repeating itself throughout season 6, which some have claimed is a sign Matthew Weiner's running out of ideas. I'm not sure that's strictly the case, but we'll be in a better position to judge halfway through next year's (final?) season. While Don's (Jon Hamm) philandering behind second wife Megan's (Jessica Paré) back has been the most obvious callback to earlier seasons, it was a lovely surprise to discover that enigmatic Bob Benson (James Wolk) is another identity thief like Don Draper. 1960's conmen love double initials, don't they! This season's been pretty unnerving for several reasons, and I've loved how the writers have woven that into the pop-culture of the time: movies like Planet of the Apes and this week's Rosemary's Baby, but also the scaremongering Nixon advert.

"The Quality of Mercy" was a very good episode, if only for three key scenes: Sally (Kiernan Shipka) escaping her intolerable parents to join Miss Porter's Connecticut board school, where she made friends with two would-be teenage bullies, before being reacquainted with old friend Glen (Marten Holden Weiner); Don using his knowledge of Ted's (Kevin Rahm) repressed feelings for Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) to manipulate him during a meeting with a client angry about a commercial's inflated budget, where he evoked the memory of Ted's dead colleague Frank Gleason to salvage the account (while lessening the glory for Ted and Peggy's ad concept); and Pete (Vincent Karthesier) discovering that likeable Bob's a fraudster (much as he did Don in season 1), and this time deciding it would be beneficial to simply hold that information over him. This is a battle he's lost before, so rather than use his experience to outmanoeuvre Bob, it was interesting to see Pete resigned to the fact.

There was a lot going on this week, really, and it was one of the funnier episodes in quite some time: Ken (Aaron Staton) getting shot while on a hunting trip with the rambunctious Chevy clients, having to wipe under an eye-patch when he started to cry; and especially the hilarious moment when Don had to play-act being a baby ("waa-waah-waahh!") as Ted and Peggy performed the St Joseph's advert, with Joan (Christina Hendricks) as a Jewish mom offering chicken soup. Genius. But it was also a very tense episode at times (in the aforementioned Ted/Don and Pete/Bob scenes), although I was glad Sally managed to avoid becoming the underling of two old-school 'mean girls'. She's still pretty naïve at times and lacks some life experience, but she's learned a thing or two and managed to impress the girls enough to join their clique.

Overall, this was another fine hour of Mad Men. It'll be interesting to see what happens with Bob, now Pete's cracked his secret--but what would Don's reaction be if he ever found out? It's funny that we perceived Bob as a Pete Campbell wannabe, when he's actually a Don Draper tribute. And will Sally reveal Don's affair to her mother? If so, will Betty keep quiet or tell Megan? How will the season end for Don next week? I'm guessing with personal and social calamities on the home and work fronts. This episode opened and closed with Don lying in a foetal position (and doing a literal baby impression), which sold the idea he's retreating into an infantile state of mind... lashing out in fear, pettily trying to break-up potential love-matches like Peggy and Ted, who are both characters representing qualities he has but doesn't manage to present as well.

16 June 2013 / AMC
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