Monday, October 11, 2010

Mad Men Episode #12 (Season 4): Blowing Smoke

Why Mad Men Episode #12 (Season 4) Worked:
  • The overall sense of panic, confusion and dread as the agency continued to lose business and not land accounts. It felt very slice-of-life and underscores the strength of this series. The business scenes from the world of advertising feel real. Don Draper's lunch with the Heinz executive who implied SCDP might get a shot at the company's business in six months (wayyyyy too long for Don's company....they need the business and cash flow NOW) was pitch perfect. And I loved the way the news was delivered about SCDP not getting a shot at the Philip Morris business. A half dozen faces hit the floor as subordinates tried ease-dropping through the walls. A cold wind is blowing.
  • Pete's scene with his wife when he tells her they need to dip into their savings account for at least $25K to help prop up the agency. She tells him he can't. He shoots back: "You don't get to forbid me!" That scene showed how the pressures of work spill into the home. We realized Pete's dilemma and we also could see Trudy's point of view.
  • Don's "Why I Quit Tobacco" essay/ad in The New York Times. That was great writing and direction with his voiceover and shots of various people reading the published copy. Maybe it wasn't realistic that a partner would do this, but the troops needed a big gnarly idea and this was it. I particularly loved Don walking into the office fresh as a daisy asking his secretary if he had any calls and he was given a two-inch stack of messages. And everything that happened after that was great. The fake Bobby Kennedy call. Don's speech: "I'm not going to explain to you what I did. It's an ad for this agency. If you don't understand it, you shouldn't be in this business." Megan saying that she loved the letter (Fess up love all things Don.)
  • Don's hat. Dude knows how to wear a lid.
  • Don's smooth way as peels bills from his pocket. So much cooler than slapping down a credit card.
  • Don paying Pete's share to keep the agency afloat.
  • Peggy asking Faye for a drink. Sisterhood is powerful.
  • Betty's outfit when she finds Sally with her boyfriend. Kudos (again) to the wardrobe unit.

Why Man Men Episode #12 (Season 4) Didn't Work:

  • Don's encounter with freelance illustrator Midge Daniels and her visit to her village apartment. That hit all the wrong notes. First of all, I forget who Midge was (help me here) and I'm a pretty faithful fan. I never bought that she and her husband were junkies. Was the point of the scene to draw a line between cigarette addiction and heroin addiction? I couldn't tell. Worse yet, I didn't care.
  • Sally's scene with Glen the neighborhood boy. The show starts crawling when they pop up. And the boy who plays Glen can't act.
  • Cooper resigning from the agency. Huh? Did that really happen? Seems like that kinda slipped in through the back door. Shouldn't that have been a bigger moment?

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode #12 (Season 4)

  • B. Solid effort marred by scenes with the freelance illustrator and the Sally scenes. The problems at the agency are especially riveting.


  1. The scene in Midge's apartment (the unmade bed, the flushing toilet, the awful husband) was absolutely excruciating. Were they there to remind Don how fragile his success is?

  2. Midge was his first girlfriend in season one - the one who threw the TV out the window onto the sidewalk to show him she didn't care about her other admirer who had bought it for her. She was also the one he bought the tickets to Paris for (she declined.)

    I agree with Susan, that scene was excruciating. Seeing that kind of desperation firsthand reminded Don (along with the Heinz scene) that desperation is not his style and inspired him to take a drastic measure to regain the upper hand. They may still go down in flames, but it'll be on his terms.