Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

Well, I really liked the double ending of the concluding episode - #13 - of Mad Men on AMC tonight: first, what Don would have wanted, coming home and telling Betty and the kids that he'll be going with them to spend Thanksgiving with her family ... cut to ... Don walks through that same door to find Betty and the kids already gone (he had previously told her he wouldn't be joining them). Sure, Don might have called Betty and told her he was coming home ... But the double scene worked so well I can accept Don's lack of phone call as a necessary set-up.

I also loved Harry (Isaac Asimov ringer, played by Rich Sommer) invoking the prehistorical cave paintings in Lascaux. They may indeed be one of the earliest known forms of writing. Siegfried Giedion has suggested that, if seen in flickering candle light, the images may move, and may be a primitive motion picture. (My colleague Ed Wachtel at Fordham University dubbed this the "first picture show," and I worked it into my science fiction novel, The Silk Code. The original Isaac Asimov found these cave paintings fascinating, too.) So why not look at Lascaux as the first advertising on public walls? Harry's mention of Lascaux is emblematic of the literacy and respect for history in the series, and one of its most winning qualities.

Don's promotion of Peggy to copy writer was also gratifying - did Don do this in part to stick it to Pete? - probably. But I also had some big problems with Peggy Olson on tonight's show.

First, she seemed unnecessarily critical about Annie speaking the commercial - or maybe the problem was that Annie sounded ok to me. I mean, hey, what do I know, but I found her convincing enough...

Far more serious is Peggy's pregnancy, which my wife called as soon as Peggy started gaining weight. But wouldn't have Peggy realized she was pregnant before this? Her baby didn't look premature, which means she would have been pregnant for a good many months. Even in 1960, how could she not know this?

Elisabeth Moss did a great job of portraying Peggy, as she has done throughout the series, but this part of the plot just didn't add up.

I also found the scene with Betty and the neighbor's boy a little confusing. Betty wants to talk to him because ... she wants the ear of someone who idolizes her ... ok ... but this could have been made a little more clear.

The scene with Pete and his wife was a little more clear: She at first is operating on the premise that they are not trying to have kids, but, Pete, under pressure from his father-in-law, thinks maybe they should, even though he is still concerned about his income, which his wife assures him is no problem. Ok, you can get that, if you work at it.

So, all in all, I thought the next-to-last episode was better than the final episode of Mad Men. But, that's ok, I thought the same thing about the last two episodes of The Sopranos (with the exception of that brilliantly ambiguous last scene).

Mad Men has established itself as a wonderful time machine - which Don appropriately mentioned in his great soliloquy narration of Kodak's "Carousel," another superb sequence (a real Kodak moment) in this concluding first season episode. The acting - beginning with Jon Hamm's tour-de-force Don Draper, to everyone on the show - is superb, and I hope Matthew Weiner keeps up his fine work on the series for many many years. We are, after all, still a long way from the present - though, as Mad Men also shows with a wink and nuance in every show, maybe not that far away, after all...

See also reviews of other episodes: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ...

And Season Two reviews ... 2.1: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox Machine and a Call Girl

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

6-minute podcast review of Mad Men

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
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