Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mad Men Recap Season 6 (Episode 13): In Case Of

Why Mad Men Episode 13 (Season 6) Worked:

  • Ted and Peggy.  What a complex relationship.  He's a good guy who can't help himself from doing bad.  And he's turning Peggy into a bitter, professional, single, career woman.   The back-and-forth between them was excellent in this episode.  Her final blast at him was chilling.  "Get out!" she hissed.  "Just get out!"
  • Megan's great 60s clothes.  She could have been a dancer on "Hullabalo."
  • Bob Benson manipulating Pete to drive the car at Chevy HQ.
  • Ted's conversation with Don about him wanting to move to LA.  It's always great when Ted lays himself emotionally open with Don.  He knows that Don knows what he's all about.
  • Don falling apart in the Hershey's pitch meeting.  Another great off-the-rails moment for Don this season.  And wonderful WTF looks on the faces of his colleagues as they wonder where he's going with his spiel.  
  • The partners meeting where they tell Don to take some time off.  Yep...that's exactly how it's done in real life.  Cold as ice.  But they were right.  Don was tough, though.  Good scene.
  • Lou Avery to Don at the elevator right after he gets kicked in the ass:  "Going down?"  Oh yeah...Don is going down for the count.

Why Mad Men Episode 13 (Season 6) Didn't Work:

  • Pete.  Too shrill, like he's been all year.   His mother falling off the cruise ship to her death just seemed like a lazy way to write her out of the script.  
  • Ted's seduction scene with Peggy.  The writing and acting wasn't solid, especially Elisabeth Moss. She needed to show more ambiguity.  Instead, she was cold and angry, and then she was suddenly hot.
  • Joan.  Not sure what she's been doing the last few episodes.

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 13 (Season 6):  B+.  If this wasn't the last episode, it would have received an A.  However, it ended more with question marks then exclamation marks....and that's not how a season finale should be.  We'll have to wonder if Don and Megan split, if Don gets his job back, if Pete gets his mojo back, and if Bob Benson reveals his game (do we really care about this last point?).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mad Men Recap Season 6 (Episode 12): The Quality of Mercy

Why Mad Men Episode 12 (Season 6) Worked:

  • The Ted/Don conflict.  This has been a fascinating, well-played chess match all season and it continued brilliantly with this episode.  Don is wise to Ted's infatuation with Peggy and he can't let it go.  He knows Ted wants to spend more money on the St. Joseph's aspirin commercial so Peggy can get a Clio award.  And it culminates in the awkward meeting with the client where viewers think for 10 endlessly long seconds that Don is going to tell the client that Ted wants to spend the additional funds for Peggy.  In the end, Don gets most of the money and doesn't publicly reveal what he knows.
  • Jim Cutler pushing Bob Benson to work with Pete.  Harry Hamlin (as Butler) steals every scene where he utters a line including this one.  He's been great this season.
  • Pete uncovering secret information about Bob Benson.  Finally, Pete has a cause this season.  And finally, we're getting to see what Bob is all about.  (Although it was somewhat confusing about how Pete is going to deal with Bob going forward.)
  • Betty offering Sally a cigarette.  Naturally.  That's what blonde Republican moms did back in 1968.  But did you catch that Sally didn't really inhale?

Why Mad Men Episode 12 (Season 6) Didn't Work:

  • Don being sick and weak.  It's like Superman without his cape or Zorro without his sword.  He's just not that interesting when he's not a shark.  And it's becoming a mystery what he actually does at work besides napping, going home early and fighting with Ted.  
  • Ted's infatuation with Peggy.  Too heavy-handed especially in this episode.  Taking her to the movie in the middle of the day....come on!
  • Pete's anger at his mother in the office and other over-the-top behavior in the office.  He's become a one-note instrument and the sound is shrill.
  • Peggy's visit to the prep school dorm.  Some of the worst scenes of the season.  It felt like a dress rehearsal for a camp play.  The staging -- especially the fight -- was poorly staged.  The acting was completely wooden. 

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 12 (Season 6):  B-.  Some decent office scenes but overall this episode felt slow and lacked the punch of the previous few shows.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mad Men Recap Season 6 (Episode 11): Favors

Why Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 6) Worked:

  • The entire subplot about Arnold and Sylvia's son trying to get out of the draft.    It was brilliantly conceived and had many different aspects to it.  First, there was Don's indifference ("Not our problem," he huffed to Megan.) but then Don slowly began to think of ways he could help.  And he clumsily reached out to GM clients at a dinner annoying Ted in an uncomfortably but strong scene.  Finally, he gave up his pursuit of Sunkist so Ted could land Ocean Spray but only if Ted helped Arnold and Sylvia's son get into the National Guard.  This led to a conversation with a grateful Sylvia and we know where this led to.  But the power punch of the night -- no, the whole season -- was Sally walking in on Don and Sylvia.  She truly saw the Emperor without his clothes.  But what happens next?  We'll have to tune in next week.
  • Peggy and Pete sharing boozy confidences at a restaurant while out with Ted.  There is a real connection there.  Good dialogue.  
Why Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 6) Didn't Work:

  • Pete's mother's relationship with her home health care worker.  Were they really physically intimate?  Do we care?
  • Bad acting from the teenagers, especially Sally, her friend and Mitchell.  Like lousy summer stock theater.  
  • Domestic blahs.  Everyone's home life is suffering:  Ted's, Don's, Peggy's, Betty's, and Pete's.  But it's not all that interesting.
  • Peggy's rats in her home.  Seriously, what was the point of that?  Just bite the bullet Peggy and move to the Upper East Side already.  
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 6):  B+.  A lot didn't happen for much of this episode.  But the pay-off of Sally catching Don and Sylvia was so strong that it changed the entire tone of the episode.  Bravo.  Can't wait until next Sunday.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 10): A Tale of Two Cities

Why Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 6) Worked:

  • The two conversations about the ridiculously long name of the firm.  Extremely believable situation.  Well written.  And very tight.
  • Roger's tips to Don on the airplane about how to deal with the LA-base clients.  Razor-sharp and funny.  And a lot of truth in what he said.
  • Jim (Harry Hamlin).  His droll character is making us (almost) forget Lane.  His looks (from the sleek dark suits to the oh-so-retro-cool black glasses) and lines are absolutely  perfect.
  • Joan's attempt to land Avon.  Wow.  This is a great plot development and very risky on Joan's part.  It's nice to see her character develop professionally.
  • The groovy clothes in LA.  Harry is really turning into a peacock.  And Roger really looks ready to swing in his red ascot.  Only Don looks out of it, like he just came from a Bethesda, Maryland, meeting for the election of Richard Nixon.
  • The use of the 1968 riots at the Democratic convention as a backdrop for many scenes in this episode.  We saw Megan's rising political consciousness (pro-demonstrators), which is very unusual for a prime time tv show.  And the riots surfaced in Roger and Don's meeting with Carnation when the boss dressed everyone down for even discussing the riots.
  • The Peggy-Joan smackdown....and then Peggy's rescue of Joan.  Joan really did hang Peggy out to dry bringing her into the unauthorized pitch meeting with Avon and Peggy was right to be angry.  So the scene with Peggy helping Joan later really paid off nicely.  And now we're left wondering and worrying if Joan will land Avon.  She and Peggy are joined at the hip on this one.
  • The LA party.  It was a bit cartoonish, but, hey, the times were a bit cartoonish.  Still, you could tell the wardrobe department and set decorators had a ball on this scene.
  • Pete puffing a joint in the office in  exasperation in the last scene of the night.  Great music ("Piece of My Heart") and an amazing shot from the waist down of a woman in a short yellow mini-dress and white boots gliding by Pete.  A brilliant ending to a brilliant episode.

Why Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 6) Didn't Work:

  • Roger insulting the short man continuously at the LA party. It wore thin very quickly.
  • Ginsberg.  Too shrill and over-the-top.  Weiner has trouble portraying Jews in more moderate colors.  

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 6):  A+.  The best so far this season.  Great office scenes.  Vicious office politics.  Piercing dialogue.  Great clothes.  Imaginative use of music.  It all came together in one seamless hour-long package.