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Monday, April 14, 2014

Mad Men 7.1: Vignettes and Playboy

Mad Men was back with its seventh season last night - it will be its last, though presented in  two seven-episode parts, over two years.   As was the case with much of season 6, this first episode of the final season offered a compelling series of interlocking vignettes, rather than a single overarching narrative. Indeed, the plot barely moved forward, making the episode more like a sequence of still life paintings, brilliantly rendered, hanging on diverse walls, than a story across time.

Among the highlights of this new form of television story telling -

  • Don's slowly deteriorating relationship with Megan:  It was already on the beginnings of the rocks last season, and is moving along to break-up ever so exquisitely slowly.   Megan, out in Los Angles and receiving Don's visit, barely wants to sleep with him.  She might have been more open to Don, had he not been rushing back to New York the very next day on a red eye.  But, understandably, she can't quite see where their relationship can go with this series of in effect one-night stands.  For his part, Don flirts with a blonde real estate agent in LA who looks like a young version of Betty, and a woman on the red-eye, who looks like an older version of Megan, and whom he might even have wanted to have some sex with, if it had been confined to something on the plane.
  • Don's business is more blurry than a watercolor: he's still on leave, but pitching some kind of business, while he's still a collecting a check from what's left of the grand old firm.   The merger has made the firm even less recognizable than it was last year, giving it a faintly alien quality accentuated by Don, Roger, Bert, and Harry not on hand in the office - for different reasons - and Ken with a patch over his eye, courtesy of the hunting accident he had last season.   (Actually, I'm assuming Bert and Harry were absent for different reasons, because no reason was presented.)
  • Peggy and Joan are still have difficulty getting their good ideas accepted, again for different reasons.   And I've got to say that I found Joan's character more interesting than Peggy's in episode 7.1, because Peggy's problems seem a rehash of what we've seen in just about every season.
  • The visual details were outstanding, as they always are.   My favorite was seeing a copy of Playboy in Don's possession.  Let's see: its January 1969 - Nixon is being inaugurated - would have been cool had that copy of Playboy been the March 1969 issue with the McLuhan interview, and a tip of the hat to "the medium is the message" line that we heard lo those many seasons ago on this series.  It wasn't, but its these resonances, real and imagined, that make Mad Men such a fine piece of television.
And it's great to see this series right back where it belongs: on television, not in our recollections - at least, not until after 2015.

See also Mad Men 6.1-2: The Lighter and the Twist ... Mad Men 6.3: Good Company ... Mad Men 6.4: McLuhan, Heinz, and Don's Imagination ... Mad Men 6.5: MLK ... Mad Men 6.6: Good News Comes in a Chevy ...  Mad Men 6.7: Merger and Margarine ... Mad Men 6.8: Dr. Feelgood and Grandma Ida ... Mad Men 6.9: Don and Betty ... Mad Men 6.10: Medium Cool ... Mad Men 6.11: Hand in the Cookie Jar and Guy de Maupassant ... Mad Men 6.12: Rosemary's Baby, Dick Cheney, and Sunkist ... Mad Men Season 6 Finale: Beyond California

See also Why "You Only Live Twice" for Mad Men Season 5 Finale ... Mad Men Season Five Finale

See also Mad Men Season 5 Debut: It's Don's Party  ... Mad Men 5.3: Heinz Is On My Side ... Mad Men 5.4: Volunteer, Dream, Trust ... Mad Men 5.5: Ben Hargrove ... Mad Men 5.6: LSD Orange ... Mad Men 5.7: People of High Degree ... Mad Men 5.8: Mad Man and Gilmore Girl ...Mad Men 5.9: Don's Creativity  ... Mad Men 5.10: "The Negron Complex" ... Mad Men 5.11: Prostitution and Power ... Mad Men 5.12: Exit Lane

And from Season 4: Mad Men 4.1: Chicken Kiev, Lethal Interview, Ham Fight ... 4.2: "Good Time, Bad Time?" "Yes." ... 4.3: Both Coasts ... 4.4: "The following program contains brief nudity ..." 4.5: Fake Out and Neurosis ... 4.6: Emmys, Clio, Blackout, Flashback  ... 4.7: 'No Credits on Commercials' ... 4.8: A Tale of Two Women ... 4.9: "Business of Sadists and Masochists" ...4.10: Grim Tidings ... 4.11: "Look at that Punim" ... 4.12: No Smoking!  ... Mad Men Season 4 Finale: Don and -

And from Season 3Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere and 3.7: Brutal Edges ... August Flights in 3.8 ... Unlucky Strikes and To the Moon Don in 3.9 ... 3.10: The Faintest Ink, The Strongest Television ... Don's Day of Reckoning in Mad Men 3.11 ... Mad Men 3.12: The End of the World in Mad Men ... Mad Men Season 3 Finale: The End of the World

And from Season TwoMad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 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 ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season OneMad 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 ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes



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