Last night’s episode was a good episode although it had a couple of real clunkers. This season of Mad Men kind of makes me want to go back and start over from the beginning to see if there were always as many clunkers. “How’s the city?” “Dirty.” Oh BROTHER. That being said: Megan’s parents were pretty great, and Roger is BACK. The whole plotline with Peggy moving in with her boyfriend feels a little heavy-handed. I mean, the scene where you think he might propose marriage and then he just wants to move in together is a pretty good and tense scene, but then all of the reactions to it, while totally believable in their way, mostly feel like some kind of pedantic reminder that social mores used to be different than they are now. “Isn’t it crazy?” A little. It’s a little crazy. But sure, OK, fine. Pete actually won the night, at least quips-talk-wise when Megan’s father asked him what he did and he flattered him for a couple minutes until the guy was like “you’re so nice!” and then he was like “BOOM, KID, THAT’S WHAT I DO SON, WHAT?!” (He was not like that. But he was a little like that.) But that was a good part. And of course the final scene where they had all just gotten their punches to the stomach and had to regroup at the table. What is Megan’s secret passion? Why was her dad talking to her like she was the sleeper cell in Homeland and Don was tricking her into sleeping with him Claire Danes Manic-Depressive style? We should all get what we want. Which is a shadowy blowjob. ANYWAY, here is the thing that I want to talk about today: what is with this season’s emphasis on vocalizing the character’s on-screen mythologies? I’m thinking in particular of the moment when Peggy was amazed that someone had dumped Joan and Joan had to actually say OUT LOUD that she was just like everyone else. I mean, come ON. This was not the first time that’s happened this season:
We’ve already talked about it a little but in the first couple of episodes there were multiple instances of people casually talking about how ridiculously handsome Don was. It’s like, YEAH, WE KNOW, but YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY IT? It always seemed like Don’s attractiveness, or Roger’s predatory charm, or Pete’s impotence, or Joan’s breasts were artfully drawn for the viewer to decode and interpret at will. But when you have the other characters commenting on these things, it closes off those avenues of interpretation. It limits your engagement by doing half of the work for you. And it makes for bad television. The real life Joan is a particularly hot secretary with a history of domestic violence and a completely unprofessional dalliance with the boss that resulted in a fucking baby. She is not a PORCELAIN SEX GODDESS. And while it can be hard as a viewer to remember, even with a show as carefully written as Mad Men, that the characters you love are supposed to be real people, that is why shows tend to avoid drawing attention to the obvious things that all shows have in common: actors tend to be beautiful, dialog tends to be clever and witty and charming, imaginary lives tend to be dynamic and engaging. That’s the whole point of making a show out of those things. But if you draw attention to how pretty an actor is, or how witty his reparte is, or how unblemished his life, it reminds you that THIS PERSON IS NOT REAL, they are MAKE BELIEVE. If the people within the narrative find them just as larger-than-life as the audience then what are we left with? I will tell you: a pile of Matthew Weiner’s masturbatory fantasies. No thank you.