Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 12): Lost Horizon

Will Peggy be able to "skate" her way to success at McCann?  If she can find a decent office, she might have a chance.

Why Mad Men Episode 12 (Season 7) Worked:

  • The McCann-SCDP merger....which rivals the Time Warner-AOL union as the worst corporate merger ever.  Some razor-sharp observations and writing made the agony of this pairing especially compelling to watch.  For the SCDP executives, it looked like the first day of school at a snooty private school where you're not sure if you're going to fit in.  Almost every one of the SCDP executives had some uncomfortable moments (especially Joan).  And they're all on different floors, which creates the impression of McCann as this vast faceless and impersonal corporation.  
  • Joan's ongoing problems with men.  Yes....Mad Men plays the "Joan's so hot that men can't help but keep hitting on her" note too often but it really paid off in this episode.  The scene with McCann CEO Jim Hobart featured a fine piece of blistering writing as the two adversaries dueled fearlessly with each other.  Joan never backed down and arrived the meeting fully prepared.  The only let down was later in the episode it seemed apparent that Joan was going to settle with McCann for fifty cents on the dollar of her contract.  
  • Peggy alone on her own floor waiting (existentially) for her McCann office to be ready.  These scenes had a Seinfeldian feel to them echoing the Seinfeld episodes in a parking garage and waiting at a Chinese restaurant.  Peggy winds up getting drunk with Roger as he plays the organ and she roller skates in the empty room.  (Maybe this way a bit too broad....) And the coolest scene of the episode (in a show with a lot of strong scenes) had Peggy coming to work the next day in shades and smoking a cigarette.  Finally, Peggy gets to be hip.  And bonus points to Peggy for snaring Bert Cooper's racy picture of an octopus "pleasuring" a lady.  
  • Don goes Jack Kerouac on us.  He's driving aimlessly around the farmlands of the midwest in his giant Caddy with great read leather seats (in a scene with the feel of Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" except there was no crop duster), picking up a shady hitchhiker.  Very existential but Hamm pulled it off.  All he needed was some speedballs to keep him up and some Allen Ginsburg poetry.  

Why Mad Men Episode 12 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • The organ in the office.  Huh?  How did that get there?  Didn't make sense.
  • Don's visit to Betty.  Not needed.  January Jones' agent probably demanded that she get some more scenes before the show ends.  Elisabeth Moss is sucking the oxygen out of her career.
  • Don's visit to Diana Bauer's home in Racine, WI.  Felt implausible. 

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 12 (Season 7): A-.  This riveting episode really belonged to Joan and Jim Hobart.  The dysfunction meshing the two companies also elevated "Lost Horizon" and produced many fascinating cringe-worthy scenes.  Don barely had a presence in the show except for his strange trip to Wisconsin and his abrupt departure from the Miller Beer meeting.  But his fascination with his not-quite-airtight office window (is that where he makes his final exit?),  his dangerous behavior picking up a scruffy hitchhiker (is this one of Charlie Manson's lost souls who will turn Don into a piñata?) and his ongoing obsession with the waitress Diana Bauer will have us eagerly awaiting next week's episode.

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