Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 13): The Milk and Honey Route

In this episode Pete got blindsided with a surprising job offer and Don finds himself stranded at a midwestern motel.

Why Mad Men Episode 13 (Season 7) Worked:

  • Betty's cancer.  This plot development was a bold step for the show but it worked.  Betty faces death like meeting a neighbor --with her usual cold, distance demeanor.  It didn't feel realistic given her grim prognosis but for the first time in years, we can actually care about Betty.  When Sally comes home to see Betty, Betty walks toward her and then right past her.  (She was pissed that Henry told Sally.)  Heartbreaking. 
  • Some of the small details such as the peace sign on the pay phone at Sally's dorm and the college students calling Betty "Mrs. Robinson" (the saucy mom from "The Graduate").  
  • Don adrift in the middle of the country.  The producers hit this note a bit too hard in this episode but it was interesting to see Don shedding the last vestiges of his former life and identity.  He even gives away his car in the last shot.  Where is Don going? How will he get there?  Is he going to kill himself?  The only way to find out is to tune in next week, folks.

Why Mad Men Episode 13 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • Don stuck at the motel.  This felt too much like a writer's gimmick than a riveting plot development.  This was Don's purgatory.....a place with no room service, no bar, no working television, no hot water (probably) or hot waitresses (for sure).  Enough with the existentialism Matt Weiner.  
  • Pete's career dilemma.  Do we care about him taking the job in Witchita? Not really. It felt like a hasty plot device written in  to get him to leave McCann.  There's no way Pete and his spouse are going to settle down in Kansas.  
  • Duck's scenes.  He used to be one of the show's more interesting characters.  Tonight's episodes had him drinking first thing in the morning, barging into Pete's hotel room late at night, and telling Pete to enjoy the peak of his career (because it goes downhill quickly, kiddo, lemme tell you!).  
  • Betty talking to Sally about the end of her life she was discussing a lawn that needed to be reseeded in the spring.  Nobody is that cold.  
  • The VFW scene.  This scene didn't work for a number of reasons.  Primarily, it seemed like the show needed to create an incident that would allow the busboy to steal $500 from the VFW so everyone had to get drunk.  But Mad Men portrayed all the men (except Don) as a bunch of flag-waving, poorly dressed, hayseed drunks that bordered on offensive.  Don's revelation that he killed his commanding officer was slipped in there but it didn't register with the Vets....and it really didn't create any kind of big dramatic moment for the show either.  

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 13 (Season 7): C+.  Have to give the show credit for throwing in Betty's cancer (although someone had to get lung cancer after seven seasons of nonstop puffing).  That was a surprising twist.  Don's "journey" has its moments but his "trip," like the show, seems to be sputtering to an end.

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