Friday, 8 May 2015

MAD MEN, 7.12 – 'Lost Horizon'

Friday, 8 May 2015


It's now strange to think Mad Men's just a few hours away from ending, conclusively, because everyone's move from SC&P to the dizzy highs of the McCann-Erickson building could probably fuel another half-season. Still, the fact everything has to be condensed at least means "Lost Horizon" was appreciably stuffed with incidents and fun moments, as most of the key players realised their career ascension come with some unfortunate caveats.

Don (Jon Hamm) was mailed his ex-wife's wedding ring, which stirred a feeling of a door to the past closing behind him. And after being flattered by his new boss, referred to as their "white whale" who'll "bring things up a notch around" according to Jim Hobart (H. Richard Greene), during Don's first Coca-Cola conference meeting he stares wistfully at a jet flying high above the city outside. A symbol that there's always something higher than yourself, so you have to find true happiness not through career progression but more down-to-earth concerns? Whatever it was, Don felt compelled to go looking for Diana, the forlorn waitress who gave him the brush-off, and it was a fun subplot that also enabled Don to take on another identity (a key component of early-era Mad Men), by posing as a beer salesman to gain access to Diana's family home. I'm glad the storyline with Diana's actually playing into the final half of this season more, but I'm unsure if we're headed for a happy ending with Don finding genuine love… or if Diana's more a symbol herself, of unobtainable happiness. It's hard to see how he can find her, save for a miracle, or her deciding to find him—in which case, she'd better hurry before he moves apartments!

My favourite storyline actually focused on Joan (Christina Hendricks) this week, who met some new copywriters and her new partner on the Avon account, Dennis (Greg Kromer), whose first interaction with her client Barry during a conference call was a resounding failure—as he made an unfortunate faux pas after forgetting Barry was in a wheelchair and inviting him to play golf. It was a mistake, sure, but also a sign that the personal touch Joan prides herself with is being eroded inside such a large corporate machine like McCann-Erickson. Worse, after approaching her new boss Ferg (Paul Johansson) about the matter, and expecting his full support, it became clear Ferg's only really interested in Joan for her attractiveness and doesn't rate her workplace abilities. While we've seen various iterations of Joan dealing with office sexism before, there was a bit more spikiness to this encounter—but mainly later, when Joan goes to Jim Hobart and expects him to fight her corner, but instead realises he's similarly unimpressed by her former SC&P status as a partner and backs Ferg. And while that may have been the end of that in seasons past, Joan has the financial security and nerve to actually lock horns with Jim and threaten him with legal action over the business's clear violations regarding equal opportunities and its treatment of women. And it almost worked, too—were it not for the fact fighting in court would probably be cheaper than giving into Joan and paying her off with the $500k she's still owed.

Another amusing storyline was Roger (John Slattery) and his realisation that leaving the SC&P offices is effectively career retirement, as he's on a floor with old farts and is essentially being put out to pasture. Here, he floated around the empty offices of the business he co-created, playing the organ and looking for booze. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) later joined him, as her new office isn't ready yet, and she even rollerskated to his musical accompaniment in one delightful sequence. It was also great to see those characters in a two-hander, as Peggy even mentioned they rarely speak one-to-one. It felt like a torch-passing scene, really—Roger's on his way out, but Peggy's actually invigorated by the move, and enters the McCann-Erickson building wearing bad-ass sunglasses, cigarette jutting out her lip, and carrying Cooper's bizarre 'octopus having sex with a woman' painting as a bold statement.

Those were the main storyline this week, although there was plenty happening around the edges. I liked Don's moment with ex-wife Betty (January Jones) in her kitchen, giving her a shoulder massage, and supporting her decision to study psychology. They seem to be in a really good place now, behaving like adult friends—notably not getting so caught up in that feeling that they sleep together, which happened once before. A real turning point has been reached. I also enjoyed Cooper's (Robert Morse) return, again seen as a figment of Don's imagination, during his car ride home—playing devil's advocate over Don's crazy decision to seek out a waitress he barely knows, who probably doesn't care about him.

Overall, "Lost Horizon" was a wonderful episode and contained maybe four or five very memorable scenes. We're so close to the finish that it's even more exciting to wonder how the last episode's going to play—any big surprises, or will things just coast to a satisfying but inevitable end? The show has always been charting the social upheavals and generational changes of the 1960s, so it just feels more likely than ever that the younger characters (Pete, Peggy, Harry, Joan, Ted) are going to end up happy with their new lives/riches, while the older ones are given a more bittersweet farewell because it's the end of their era. Don's the main conundrum—he stands in the middle of the two extremes, so it could go either way. But after seven seasons chasing love and getting it wrong time and again, I'm hoping for an upbeat end where he puts personal happiness over work.

written by Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner | directed by Phil Abraham | 3 May 2015 | AMC