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Monday, November 9, 2009

"Mad Men," the morning after

There are so many thoughts running through my mind as I cope with my own sense of loss this morning. That's right: "Mad Men" won't be back until late summer 2010. Yeah, it's still 60 degrees in Green Bay ... in freakin' November ... but man, that's a long way off.

Now, let the mourning begin after the shockwaves from last night's Season 3 "Mad Men" finale, "Shut the Door, Have a Seat."

* Divorce was used both literally and figuratively in last night's magnificent closer: Free from Don, Betty is off to Reno with new beau (not in a scandalous way, of course) Henry Francis. Meanwhile, the backbone of Sterling Cooper pulls a Baltimore Colts sneak-off-in-the-middle-of-the-night maneuver to completely sever ties with its new corporate overlords.

* Jon Hamm usually steals the show with his acting (see his bedside Dick Whitman breakdown to Betty), but January Jones really killed it last night in two scenes. First, her assertive calm while handling a drunken Don (who angrily throttled Betty while calling her a "whore") made me feel serious compassion for the stone cold housewife. When she cradled Gene and gave Don the dead-eye stare, there was no turning back.

Second, her resolute, but heartbreaking reaction while Don said good-bye to Bobby was beyond gut-wrenching. All the scenes from Don's "Carousel" pitch in Season 1 kept flooding back to me ... how everything you once knew in life can be so close, yet so far away. Finally though, we see some real emotion from Betty, which begs the bigger question, will she get what she wants from Henry Francis? They look happy now, but I couldn't help but feel that Henry's proposal to "take care" of her will put Betty right back to square one -- beholden to a breadwinner while her children suffer. In TV land, we call this the "Carmella Soprano corollary."

* Speaking of the above scenes, "Mad Men" viewers certainly hold Don to a higher standard (or at least I do.) Why this is the case can be confusing since Don is a full-time philanderer and fails to appreciate the relationships of those around him -- as Roger and Peggy astutely pointed out last night. Maybe it's Jon Hamm's likeability, I dunno. Personally, I tend to side with Don because he's a good father (or at least, a more relaxed parent than Betty) who is always informed by his beleaguered past. And while the "whore" comment shouldn't be condoned, last night's incensed reaction toward Betty stemmed from the blindsided nature of the Henry Francis revelation. Until that moment, Don never thought Betty would be able to move on from him, not when he provided her with everything. Everything except emotional support and stability, which for the first time, Don seems to understand as he makes that dispiriting phone call, sending her off to Reno.

* Hated Pete Campbell in Season 1. Love him now. The difference? Pete finally stopped feeling sorry for himself and stepped up. Pete and Peggy are both tremendously talented individuals, but obviously still insecure -- which is what you'd expect of younger employees trying to prove themselves. But last night showed how important Don's approval means to everyone -- including Roger, who always seemed to know that their friendship could still be salvaged.

* So many wonderful moments: Layne happily getting fired while engaging in the ol' switcheroo; Joan re-entering confidently as office savior; Kinsey opening Peggy's office and realizing he's been shunned; Pete putting out his hand and saying "I'm not really sick"; Bert threatening to lock Harry in the storage room; Harry unable to remember the suite number; Don finally calling out Conrad Hilton, and Connie having the perfect rebuttal; Don recalling his childhood and the lessons of his father about selling out; practically every line out of Roger's mouth; and of course, Don humbly reaching out to Peggy by saying the immortal line, "I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you." Tear!

* Sweet, sweet Joanie. So glad to have her back with renewed purpose.

* Gotta love that jai alai account, eh?

* Loved the pacing of the episode, which really played out like a fun-filled caper. Will Lane help Roger, Don and Bert? Will the gang get locked out of Sterling Cooper before it's too late? Will Peggy forgive Don and join the crew? Same "Mad Men" time, same "Mad Men" channel!

* Sally is gonna have some rage as a teenager. The counterculture is a-callin'.

* And the post-Kennedy era begins with a sense of renewal, second chances. Fitting.

* Where does "Mad Men" go from here? That seems like too much to digest now, but personally, I'm happy with the resolution to the Draper marriage. Part of me wishes that "Mad Men" would follow "The Wire" and know that when a storyline is complete, they can make due without a central character for three seasons (ala Stringer Bell) staying along for the ride. But "Mad Men" probably won't follow "The Wire's" lead even though the magnitude (and sense of closure) to both third seasons feels very similar. Betty will certainly return to the fold, quite possibly in the arms of Don, but as for Duck, Connie Hilton, Ken Cosgrove, Miss Farrell, Sal, Smitty, Lois and others left behind ... I'm not sure I need any of them to be in the big picture anymore.

As always, leave your own thoughts, questions or words of praise for Matthew Weiner's brilliance.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski, trozwado@greenbaypressgazette.com

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7 Comments:

As much as I feel sorry for Don and admire him for who he is, I think you're perhaps a little too forgiving of his many faults. I think his near-throttling of Betty last night put me firmly in her camp for the first time in a long time. I mean, how utterly reprehensible is it to get upset with your wife for NOT EVEN CHEATING on you, when you've basically spent half the seasons schtupping your kid's teacher? Sorry, Don, that's one too many times for me.

I think the three people who stood up to Don in this episode -- Roger, Peggy and Betty -- all will hopefully cut his ego down. He can't continue to use people for his own ends, and expect them to remain at his beck an call. I think a more humble Don is in order for Season 4.

Also, can I get a job at Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce?

--Malavika

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At November 9, 2009 at 3:28 PM  

I was sick to my stomach watching that scene. But you're probably right -- I can write that off as drunken Don, even though he's been tremendously callous in sober moments this season. I admitted to feeling sympathy for Betty, but I still don't see the good in her, which is why she'll never be a martyr. But yeah, I've never been down with Don's infidelity. I just found his reaction to be very "real" given the alcohol-soaked conditions and the gut punch it provided. But of course, the man is the essence of a hypocrite. Then again, he's a guy! What do you expect?

Really though, this totally parallels the Soprano marriage, except Tony was a far biggest beast and man-whore than Don, yet Carmella held a lot of responsibility for not being stronger until it was too late. I guess that's a lot to ask for sometimes, especially from Betty knowing the times.

And of course Carmella took Tony back so ...

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At November 9, 2009 at 3:46 PM  

And, again, I'm not excusing Betty's behavior -- especially her enduring childishness, either. I just don't think it's fair for Don to hold himself to one standard, but his wife to another.

I do think I feel for Betty because in many ways she is a victim of the times and the society. Everything about her fits into what Betty Friedan wrote about in the Feminine Mystique (which, btw, was released in 1963), that there's this inherent social norm that women -- especially middle-class suburban women -- are defined by marriage and children. Of course, clearly we have many examples in the show of where that's not true -- ie. Peggy -- but even Joan, who is in many ways a non-traditional gal, quits her job to be with her husband and have babies. I don't think we can fault Betty for wanting stability in that. I mean, if Don cut her off, what would she have? A modeling career?

-- Malavika

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At November 9, 2009 at 4:11 PM  

Yeah, I don't think we disagree here. It just sounds like we do.

And I totally agree about your last point regarding Betty. "Mad Men" handles that fear beautifully -- especially as you pointed out in the previous "MM" post regarding the Season 1 divorcee and the social stigma attached to her.

Betty's privileged background certainly doesn't help matters, though. Her snide comment about how Don "doesn't know how to handle money" a few episodes ago, to me at least, showed her pampered side. Plus, Gene hated Don, and I'm guessing it's because his football hero good looks didn't hide the fact that he wasn't from the country club. Even if Betty wanted to fend for herself, I'm not sure she would know how. Miss Farrell, meanwhile, seemed to have a pretty independent -- if naive -- personality, one Don was certainly attracted to.

Someone else pointed out a few weeks ago that Betty was the woman that Don always dreamed of being with and probably thought he could never have, but Miss Farrell (or at least her type) is the one that better suits his own desires, creative impulses and background.

- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At November 9, 2009 at 4:20 PM  

you'll have to remember that don doesn't know that betty isn't sleeping with henry. he only hears that she's with another man so i'd probably assume the same thing in his shoes. it goes without saying that don is a hypocrite for that reaction, but he also seems aware of his flaw as a man who can't stay faithful. he likely propped betty up past that point of betrayal and finally feeling the pain, resorted to name calling in the ugliest fashion.

By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 9, 2009 at 6:47 PM  

And, to be fair, he does keep giving away enormous chunks of money ($5000 to his little brother, $3000 to that chick in season 1) without telling Betty. Which might qualify as being weird about money.

I thought January Jones was especially good too in the short phone call between Betty and Don when he tells her he's not going to fight her.

All in all, awesome episode. So happy to see Joan back bantering with Roger.

By Blogger Eileen, At November 10, 2009 at 4:11 AM  

Finally though, we see some real emotion from Betty, which begs the bigger question, will she get what she wants from Henry Francis?


We've finally seen some real emotion from Betty???? Are you serious? Where have you been for the past three seasons? Watching another show?

By Blogger Juanita's Journal, At December 16, 2009 at 11:09 AM  

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