Thursday, 15 May 2014

MAD MEN, 7.5 – 'The Runaways'

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Don's pregnant niece calls him for financial support, Ginsberg grows paranoid about the firm's new computer, and Betty fights with her husband over a public disagreement at a dinner party.

DON DRAPER – family matters

This week, Don (Jon Hamm) began to fight back against the rather obvious plot to force him to leave SC&P, after Harry (Rich Sommer) confided in him that Lou (Allan Havey) and Cutler (Harry Hamlin) are chasing business with Commander cigarettes—the tobacco product sold by Phillip Morris, the company Don humiliated in the New York Times. Rather than sit back, he manipulated the situation brilliantly by gatecrashing their meeting and making it obvious to the client he's indispensable (as the only man with first-hand knowledge of their competition). It seems to have worked, if Cutler's sour parting words to Don were anything to go by ("you think this has saved you, don't you.")

But while Don had a victory in the board room, the bedroom was another matter entirely. The encroaching 1970s (famed for popularising swinging) got an early start on the Draper household, with Megan (Jessica Paré) attempting to rejuvenate her marriage by supplying her husband with what she believes her can't help desiring: other women. How could any man resist Megan and her friend Amy (Jenny Wade)? You've have to be made of stone. But it was clear from Don's reaction and body language that it was far from the spicy thrill Megan thought would rekindle their relationship. She's misunderstood Don completely in this respect. He doesn't crave other women, exactly, he enjoys the thrill of cheating on the women he's with.

The other notable storyline for Don (this episode was Don-heavy) concerned the return of Stephanie Draper (Caity Lotz), Anna Draper's niece, whom Don has accepted into his family as his own flesh-and-blood—although there's still wriggle room for the fact Don clearly fancies her, too. Stephanie's seven months pregnant and in financial strife, so it was interesting to see her interacting with Megan as Don planned to fly out to L.A to make sure she's okay. And while things started well, it became clear that Megan's a little jealous of how close Stephanie and Don are, and how Stephanie believes she knows his "secrets" (which are largely a mystery to Megan). This disgruntlement resulted in Stephanie being sent away with a cheque for $1000, much to Don's chagrin after his belated arrival back.

BETTY - argument

The Betty (January Jones) storylines feel like pointless filler to me these days, as I'm still not entirely convinced she would exist as a character if it wasn't for the fact Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) became so popular. Here, Betty and Henry (Christopher Stanley) had a fight when she dared to voice an opinion on Vietnam at a dinner party, that was a contradiction of her husband's thoughts on the situation. They're increasingly seen as a very backward and dysfunctional couple, with Henry something of a caveman in his attitudes at times. Sally also seems to have had enough of her mother; being particularly rude to her face, after she came home with a broken nose (which ex-model Betty reacted to as if it was an insult to the genes she's passed on, amusingly).

GINSBERG - insanity

The strangest part of this episode, and the one storyline I don't think worked in the slightest, involved Ginsberg (Ben Feldman). He spent much of this hour in a comic relief mode, convinced the new IBM computer is having a detrimental effect on the office and turning some of the male workforce gay. It was all very odd and slightly puzzling, but then went completely insane when he presented Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) with his sliced off nipple while ranting about the new machine. Ginsberg was carted away on a stretcher (supposedly to the "funny farm"), as the shocked employees watched on in shock. Unless I've completely been misreading Ginsberg's character all this time, I just don't see where this came from! Has he been slowly going insane from the beginning, but we failed to notice? Am I being particularly slow because there were clear signs he's mentally unbalanced? Whatever, this didn't feel convincing and I'm actually very disappointed Ginsberg may have bowed out of the show in this manner.

  • I loved the creatives discovering that Lou is the creator of a comic strip entitled Scout's Honor, after finding a copy on their photocopier. Lou's rant about the validity of his pastime was also a lot of fun, and once again painted him a very bad light. After five episodes, I think we can safely say Lou Avery is an egotistical, chauvinist prick.
  • It was surprising to realise Caity Lotz is the actress playing pregnant hippie Stephanie Draper, as she's now more popularly known as Sarah/Black Canary on The CW's Arrow. Always fun when a relatively minor character on Mad Men breaks out elsewhere, which is what happened with Alison Brie when Community started.

An episode of mixed merit and one big misjudgement this week (Ginsberg), but worth it for the Draper's awkward threesome and Don's masterful tactics at the Phillip Morris meeting that may have (temporarily?) saved his career prospects. I like seeing Don have a resurgence, and still hope Mad Men ends with him in a much healthier place all round.

written by David Iserson & Matthew Weiner | directed by Jennifer Gerzinger | 14 May 2014 | Sky Atlantic