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Monday, August 18, 2008

Mad Men 2.4: Betty and Don's Son

At least three powerful story lines in tonight's episode (2.4) of Mad Men ... Peggy's relationship with her jealous sister and a young priest ... American Airlines of course falls through after Sterling Cooper pulls out all the stops for a pitch on Good Friday ... but the story that I found the most winning was Bobby's (Don and Betty's sweet, highly intelligent, little boy).

Betty's been on Bobby's case all season, growing increasingly intolerant of the little lies and things that little boys do. It comes to a head tonight, as Betty, in her least attractive moment (emotionally, she still looked beautiful) urges Don to spank Bobby and be a better disciplining father.

Don's relationship with his own father, and the beatings he endured, makes him averse to any kind of punishment for Bobby, let alone a spanking. In a superb scene with the two of them, Don explains this to Bobby, who notes that Don's father is dead, and Don could use a new one. Don hugs him. An outstanding performance by the two of them - but special kudos to seven-year old Aaron Hart, and a really classic, heart-warming rendition of little Bobby. I'd give Aaron an Emmy just for that.

Meanwhile - what's got into Betty? Why is she acting so, well, cruel to her son? The Freudian answer is that she's taking out the resentment she has for Don on Bobby ... Well, Freud's a little obvious, but more so now then back in 1962.

Children of course played a major role in The Sopranos, Matthew Wiener's other great work (in a supporting creative role with David Chase). And so did at least one priest, and his interaction with Carmela. The priest in tonight's Mad Men, and the hint of the romantic relationship he might have imagined with Peggy, resonated a little with The Sopranos.

That's a good thing. Both The Sopranos and Mad Men are among the best stories ever to be told on television.

See also: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6 Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12: The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men

And listen to my fabulous 20-minute interview last Fall with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

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

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John Muth said...

Hi Paul,

I've actually not seen the newest episode yet - and only saw the first three episodes of Season Two, today - but I just went through your reviews of the other episodes and the comments thereafter. I'm pretty surprised to see a couple of the plot points - that seem like they might very well wind up being pretty important or later a larger focus.

1. The biggest being the party at Paul Kinsey's, where Joan is introduced to Paul's girlfriend. Who happens to be black. I thought that it was was a nice sort of innuendo that when he later confronts Joan at the office, about things she said that night - that Joan seems to go out of her way to say that she's judging the relationship based on the fact that the woman (I cannot remember her name) is a cashier at a supermarket and not about the race. Obviously, in the show we are heading into the time of Martin Luther King and the major push of the Civil Rights movement. Maybe the show will avoid this, maybe not.

2. Don's secretary, Lois, and her incompetence and in the first episode the tongue lashing given by Peggy, in how she ought to represent Mr. Draper. Then the sly implication that Peggy winds up sharing her office space with the copier, when the last we saw it, it was being looked over by Joan and Lois. And finally, leading to her dismissal, when she is help partly responsible for the UTZ Nuts owners being allowed to see the comedian that causes all the trouble in the third episode. Of course, now with Joan stepping in to be Don's secretary until there's a suitable replacement found. "Someone who will be happy with that job", as Don said.

3. And lastly, Peggy. It seems to me, anyway, that her baby is not gone forever as it might have seemed...Unless her sister somehow also had a baby around the same time. (Although it seemed kind of odd for over a year to have passed since the end of last season and the guys are still talking about Peggy's weight.) The so far, only exchange we've seen between Peggy and Pete Campbell has been him asking her if she wanted to have kids. Which was cold, insensitive and plain ignorant. I have enjoyed - and felt satisfied - with Peggy asserting herself. And her slight transformation into being like the men she has to work with - namely in the scene where she is kissing the guy at Paul's party and he wants to take her home. "I'm in the persuasion business..." Great line. and a great moment for Peggy!

As for Betty, I'm curious to see where they're going with her character this season. So far she's been the character put through the most: therapy, modeling, the infatuation of the young boy and now the flirtation and seeming experimenting with her feminine wiles. Not so much with the man, at the stables, but like with the tow-truck man, for instance. So, this ought to be interesting.

Don Draper, it seems is still always on the hunt for some kind of peace. Or a way of coping with this "modern" life. The book of Meditations he's been reading. The going off to watch French New Wave cinema. The apparent lack of any secondary women in his life - well until we got Mrs. Jimmy Barrett. But, either that's going to develop into something of trouble, or maybe his violent groping of her, has quelled that relationship.

I'll be watching episode 4 tomorrow on On-Demand, and I'll be back then to discuss that one. So far, great show! Have you by chance gotten to watch the first season on DVD? I'm excited to eventually get it. I'm interested in finding out what the creators have to say about the show and seeing more of the actors in modern day setting. :)


michele said...

Aaron Hart actually turned 7 the day the episode aired! What a fun birthday gift :-)

Paul Levinson said...

Happy birthday, Aaron!! (and thanks for letting us know, Michele).

Excellent post, John - do come back and say what you think of Episode 4.

I haven't seen the producers' commentary yet - I actually don't usually spend too much time with that (preferring, instead, to stay misguided by my own misconceptions of what I see on television)...

More seriously - I'm a great believer in I. A. Richards' advice, back in the 1920s, that the explanations of creators for what they intended in their work are not reliable...

John Muth said...

So, a little later with the comment than I was hoping....But, wow. That was a fantastic episode. First of all, I was surprised to see Colin Hanks portraying the priest that has been talked about. His arc in this episode - and by the mentioning that he was just a visiting priest, I wonder if he'll be back or if this was a one shot episode. I absolutely saw a correlation between Father Gill and Father Phil (which, the actor - Paul Schulze, has actually made an appearance in this show, as the stranger in one of Don's flashbacks, from Season One. Showing, Young Don, the traveler's code. )

Not being Catholic, I have to wonder whether Peggy's sister knew, that it would be Father Gill in the confessional, when she revealed the information about Peggy - or if it was a fortuitous circumstance. And the build-up of Peggy's family in this season so far...I'm very interested to know where this is leading - or if it's just to give us a peek at the more blue collar-like house hold in the early 1960's.

I like that both of Don's kids are being given a troubled personality. With Bobby getting the attention and Sally, being shown with an obvious infatuation with alcohol. (The non-reaction, reaction to Sally being passed out at the office, from drinking, was shocking - in the way that this show can be with the revealing of details so foreign now, to our current society (like the kids jumping all over the car in the first season...). Also, a shocking moment was the pushing contest between Don and Betty. A big gambit, having the lead in a show strike a woman let alone his wife, in a current television show...It works and the lack of any stated remorse is also very brave.

The whole situation with Don and Bobby, was very tender and Don's revelation to Betty about his developed feelings about his father striking him - it's still amazing to see how little Betty (and everyone, really) really knows anything about Don.

A great episode. I might go so far to say the best of the season so far...Of course, I always like the ones that reveal more about Don Draper.

Til next week. :)

Doug said...

Not likely to get an Emmy, but he did earn a SAG award for being part of the ensemble. Lots of clips of him around the web at the event, very cute.