Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mad Men 'The Summer Man': A cliche-fest

"He's a handsome two-bit gangster like you" - Dr. Faye Miller describing her dad to Don Draper.

I don't have much time (and it's kind of late here in Pittsburgh), so I will keep this review of tonight's Mad Men short.

After last week's episode, where the writing and acting were phenomenal, this one was a huge letdown for me. Riddled with cliches and non sequiturs, this one didn't seem to go anywhere. And I understand that with shows like Mad Men not every episode will advance the plot (if Mad Men can be said to have a plot in the conventional sense) significantly, but this one was just were gauzy and detached, floating somewhere in the ether, much like that episode where Don visited California in the previous season and hung out with a bunch of weird wealthy Europeans.

It seems that Don has finally decided to change. He stays away from the usual morning drink, resists taking Dr. Miller to his apartment after that date (and what a date it was, with the elaborate game both of them played - Dr. Miller strongly hinting her dad is connected to the Mafia somehow and cleverly sequestering Don's coat), and finally reminds himself to play the responsible father.

But the diary writing? Blah. Don's diary is full of cheesy one-liners. "I should've finished high school." Is this the creative genius Don Draper behind such legendary ad campaigns as Glo-Coat and Kodak? Even James Patterson writes better than that. Heck, even Roger's supposed memoir (horribly titled Sterling Gold) sounds better than this tripe.

The Peggy-Joan subplot didn't really work for me either. I know the show was trying to touch on the serious problem of workplace sexual harassment, but Mad Men has been a bit heavy-handed from the beginning, and I thought they handled this clumsily by making this a Peggy-Joan turf war.

To end a cliche-infested episode, the writers used another cliche: Aesop's well-known fable about the contest between the wind and sun about who can get a man to take off his coat sooner.

Some cool things I liked in this episode:
  • Very nice use of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" in the beginning!
  • Joan reprimands the troublemakers (who are making a terrible ruckus by banging the vending machine) by asking them to call the customer service line to get help from adults. Pete Campbell chooses that exact moment to poke his head in to investigate the source of all the noise, which is very ironic. Much has been said (on Mad Men analysis blogs) about Pete Campbell's child-like psyche.
  • "Go S**t in the ocean!" - such a piercing insult.


  1. I think this was the first time I felt really disappointed with an episode. The Rolling Stones at the beginning was probably the highlight of the episode for me, but then the Don Diary. What was that about? He had just been making fun of Roger for the same thing. Is Don's writing somehow more legit because he's using a paper and pen? And the new habit of swimming? Maybe it's just me but everytime there's a scene where a character is swimming in the water I think of reading All the Pretty Horses by McCarthy in high school and how the swimming scene represented baptism and a rebirth. It certainly applies to the episode, but it just doesn't seem like the Don Draper MM fans have known and loved. The scene where he races the younger swimmer seemed to be trying to make a point, but then they just moved on to the next scene so quickly. I hope the writers nix the Don Diary in the next episode.

  2. Hey just out of curiosity, do you watch Rubicon as well?
    (Or Dexter?)
    If so, I can do reviews of them too.

  3. I've never seen Rubicon, but I do watch Dexter. Can't wait for the new season to start.