Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mad Men - "Hands and Knees" : Men down

I will be honest here. Didn't like this episode that much. I hate it when shows like Mad Men resort to the pregnancy plot device. It was sort of OK when they did that with Peggy in Season 1/Season 2, but to do it again with Joan?! I expected better from the creative gurus on this one.

I didn't have enough time to do a post on last week's episode, but I enjoyed that episode a lot. For a show set in the 60's, Mad Men has been very coy about tackling the social and political upheaval of the times directly (with a few exceptions. See: Nixon v. Kennedy, JFK assassination, and Liston v. Ali fight). So it was refreshing to see last week's episode tackle civil rights issue and women's rights issue as well. All three of the strongest female characters on the show (Peggy, Joan and Dr. Miller) realize they are missing something in their lives (either due to personal choices or society's restrictions) towards the end of the episode. Honorable mention goes to Sally, who tries valiantly to escape her mother's house to stay with her father. Like the grown-up trio, she too realizes at the end that she can't always get what she wants (zing! I worked in a Rolling Stones reference). Miss Blankenship's death provided the same black humor that the lawnmower incident did in Season 3.

With that out of the way, on to Sunday's episode. Seems like this was the male version of last week's episode. Don, Lane, Roger and Pete all end up devastated when they are confronted with terrible situations. Don goes into uber-panic mode when he realizes he inadvertently applied for a security clearance from the DoD when his firm chose to work with North American Aviation. He is a deserter from the Korean War, a man who stole a dead lieutenant's identity so he has solid reasons to be afraid of the government finding out about his sordid past.

Roger finds out from a callous Lee Jr. that Lucky Strike, the client that keeps SCDP afloat, has decided to pull out. Both men inherited their respective businesses, and seems like both are gettint irrelevant now. Roger also has to deal with the shocking news that he got Joan pregnant when they went out for dinner.

A side note here: like the Peggy pregnancy plot line, Weiner was coy with one also. We see Joan at the abortion clinic, but we never actually see her going in or coming out with an abortion.

Lane Pryce. Oh Lane, I feel for thee. A fully grown-up man like him getting brutally whacked on the forehead by his father's mean-looking walking cane and being forced to call his father "sir" - very very poignant. Sure he made a mess of things in the U S of A, but for him to bow down (literally) to his father's orders was just a shocker. I guess that explains his obsequiousness from Season 3.

In many ways, Pete Campbell acted as the adult in this episode, which is something of a rarity for this character. He handled the Don issue quite effectively and went as far as to take the whole blame of ditching NAA on himself. His rant about how dishonest people leave everyone around them in tatters was pretty impressive as well.

But like I said, didn't enjoy this that much. Too disjointed, lumpy and out-of-character moments in this episode. The creative cabal rushed us through very many pivotal moments in one single episode (Joan is pregnant! SCDP is on the brink of ruin! Don may be outed! Lane is heading back! Don and Faye might break up now!). The Season 3 finale rushed us through many developments as well, but that one was crafted masterfully. This one reeked of clumsiness.

Some random things I liked:
  • Sally's reaction when she found out Don was taking her to see the Beatles!
  • Don's "You're not a real doctor" to Faye (who has a PhD) in the middle of his panic attack when she tried to help
  • Betty not being portrayed the monster, for once
  • Roger's fury unleashed

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