Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Scream Thy Last Scream

Get out your go-go boots and girdles, ladies! It's time for Season 6 of Mad Men! Lest we fear that this season, like the last, will lapse into what Clovis affectionately terms, "The Megan Show," it looks like all of our beloved morally bankrupt characters are back with plenty of angst to go around!

It's the very late 60's on Mad Men. Just a season or so to go, and I can make fun of people for wearing 70's clothes. Don Draper is still a womanizing alcoholic, Roger Sterling is still struggling to adjust to the 60's (as the decade comes to a close -- might want to get on that, Rog), Joan Harris still has huge...tracts of land and Pete Campbell is still a smarmy creep. All is right with the world.

That's right, girls. I slept my way to the top.

Matthew Weiner doesn't straight up come out and tell us what year it is, so those of us who don't have any recollection of the 60's or 70's had to do some Googling. Figuring that the show wouldn't gloss over the tumultuous year that was 1968 -- and going off the growing sideburns and general hirsute appearance of the male characters; remarks about it being close to the new year; and the first human heart transplant having been performed -- we are able to place the season premiere at the end of 1967. 

The advertising gnomes at Sterling Cooper Draper Price have moved on since Lane Price's in-office suicide last season. There are many new underlings working in creative. Price has been most recently reincarnated as General U.S. Grant in the Civil War reenactment porn that is Lincoln. Speaking of identity crises, both Our Hero Don Draper and Silver Fox Roger Sterling are examining themselves and their lives in this episode. Roger has taken somewhat positive action and traded in his dropping acid with Timothy Leary days for psychoanalysis. Don is on his usual regimen of hard drinking, chain smoking and banging the neighbor lady.

We begin this season opener with the troubling image of what we can only assume is Don's POV of staring up at the ceiling, after having what we can only assume is a heart attack. Megan Draper talks in the background and another male voice assures Don that he will be all right. That fades to Megan frolicking around in a bikini on a Hawaiian beach, next to the very alive Don. For some light beach reading, Don has chosen The Inferno.

You do your existential crisis your way and I'll do it mine, capiche?

I'm sure Don is curious about what level of hell he will be assigned to after his early demise from apoplexy. Or cardiac infarction. Or lung cancer. Whatever it is, I'm sure he'll be a few notches above Pete Campbell. 
What should bother you the most about me is how fucking adorable I am in real life.

This vacation is actually work. It's an all-inclusive trip courtesy of a client, Sheraton.  They even get a taste of traditional Hawaiian culture at a luau hosted by a guy who doesn't even look Hawaiian. They're encouraged to eat poi. Ah, commercialized tribalism. Don's made more than a little uncomfortable when some old lady recognizes Megan from her teevee role and calls her Corinne, and asks for her autograph. That must be how Megan feels when some random person walks up to Don and calls him Dick Whitman. Oh, snap.

Then Megan and Don have some hot hotel sex. After which, Don is unable to sleep, so he goes down to the hotel bar and drowns whatever sorrows he has in a highball. He takes out his cigarette lighter and stares at it. It's from his time serving in Korea, and it has his name on it. And remember folks, that lighter says Pvt. Dick Whitman. 

He is soon joined by an intoxicated soldier on leave from Vietnam.  The soldier sees Don's army-issue cigarette lighter from Korea, and he identifies Don as a vet. He drunkenly informs Don that he doesn't like Hawaii because the indigenous population "looks like" Charlie. All righty then. He also tells Don that he's getting married tomorrow, because he's heard that married guys tend to make it out of Nam at a higher rate than non-married guys. He asks Don to give the lucky bride away and Don, who often displays a weird sense of chivalry he lacks in other areas of his life, agrees.

Look at me supporting this institution I utterly fail at upholding. 

In Fat Betty Francis news, Fat Betty Francis can't drive. Betty has gone to see The Nutcracker with Sally, Sally's friend Sandy and Betty's mother-in-law. Afterward, she gets pulled over for running into someone, and her Mother-in-Law From Hell (Fifth Circle; lovely neighborhood) tries to get Betty out of a ticket by telling the state trooper that Betty's husband is Someone Important. Smokey Bear tells Old Lady Francis that he doesn't give a tin damn who Betty's husband is and cites her for reckless driving.

Teen Future Dope Fiend Sally Draper has befriended a wayward violin prodigy named Sandy. Sandy has joined the Francises for the holidays and Little Bobby Draper has a crush on her. The Francis fam discovers Sandy's headed to Juilliard and encourages her to play a piece for them and they're all very impressed with her mad skillz. Betty teases Henry about having Lolita-ish thoughts about Sandy. Henry tells her she takes it a little too far (she does), but she backs off and says she's kidding. Betty later finds Sandy downstairs, getting a jump on that  three-packs-a-day smoking habit. Sandy tells Betty her woes about being a motherless waif, and her dream to go live in New York City with all the bohemians, artists, vagrants, ne'er-do-wells, layabouts and hippies. She also reveals to Betty that she actually did not get into Juilliard. Betty starts to feel maternal -- probably for the first time in her life -- and discourages Sandy from quitting school and moving to the city. Betty tells her about her less-than-glamorous life as a model before she met Don, but this does nothing to discourage Sandy. Betty's own children hate her, so when Sandy disappears from school and tells Sally that she went to Juilliard early, Betty goes on a search for her in the seedier part of the city.

Tell me about it, stud!

Betty confesses to Sandy that she's on a diet, and Sandy tells Betty to forget the diet because she looks fine the way she is. We see that this the kind of mother/daughter relationship Betty definitely doesn't have with Sally  and that she would probably like to have. Now that Betty's started to figure out what she wants in life, she's realizing what she doesn't have and what she wants to change.  Maybe at this point in her life, she actually wants to be a mother, instead of having children because that was what was expected of her. As a sidebar,
anyone who's seen the stalkerazzi photos of J-Jones knows she's lost her baby weight, but it's interesting, unique and kind of brave for the show to feature a woman who is struggling with her weight, yet who remains attractive. 

Returning home, Don and Megan run into their bellman and he drops dead in front of them. Oops. Actually, that was a flashback to a heart attack he'd had several months ago, and Don and Megan are surprised to see him back at work. Again, we see Don reminded of his own mortality.

In living in sin news, Peggy returns home from dinner with Abe and gets a call from her boss, Bert Peterson. Apparently, some comedian went on Carson and joked about American soldiers cutting off the ears of Viet Cong soldiers. This causes issues for Peggy's Super Bowl ad campaign, which is for headphones. Their ad is a Jim Belushi-looking guy in a toga, with the tag line of "Lend Me Your Ears." The headphone company now wants to pull the ad, and Peggy has to "call Ted." Peggy meets with the client and she tries to appease him with a new campaign. Peggy has difficulty getting in touch with Ted, and she ends up having an awkward conversation with a pastor at Ted's retreat. 

Diamonds, daisies, snowflakes...That Girl!

Back at the office, Don runs into Dr. Rosen in the elevator. Rosen's office is in the same building as SCDP. They shoot the breeze, and Don mentions he's got a stockroom full of Lika cameras. He offers to give Rosen a free camera if he stops in after work, and Rosen agrees. In other awkward elevator conversation news, Bob Benson from accounts "bumps into" Don in the elevator and offers him a coffee. Bob's been to the Pete Campbell School of Smarm, and he almost gets to bribe Don with tickets to the Cotton Bowl. Creative is hoping for some inspiration from Don because of his Hawaii trip, but he's got nothin'. 

A professional photog is on hand to take pictures of the partners and senior execs. Not much of Our Mrs. Reynolds in this episode, but I'm sure there will be a lot awaiting Joanie in the coming weeks. Joan has a nose for weed, and she thinks it smells like reefer in the office, but doesn't know if it's the photographers or creative. (I bet it's Roger.) Rosen stops by to get his camera, and he reminds Don that Megan and Mrs. Rosen are putting together something for New Year's.

Roger's on the phone with his flavor of the month when his histrionic secretary enters. She gives Roger the news that his mother has passed away at the age of 90. Roger appears unmoved, but comforts his secretary and instructs her to ask Joan what to do about the arrangements. One awkward hug later, and she's on her way to plan a memorial.

Hour Two begins with Megan informing Don that her role on the telenovela she's on is getting bigger. This leaves Don to attend the memorial service on his own. 

Over at Betty's, Sally is indifferent about Sandy leaving school. Sally's a little jealous of Sandy's talent and Betty's interest in her, so she tells Betty she doesn't like Sandy and is glad she's gone.

Some guy named Wes Anderson keeps calling me.

Betty's worried so she goes in search of Sandy. She stands outside a decrepit-looking building in some really bad neighborhood, presumably somewhere in the Village. Betty does manage to find herself at a building that Sandy has been in, because she finds her violin there. 

At the memorial service, Roger has to confront both of his ex-wives, first Jane and then Mona.  Some folks arrive with food, and Roger's perplexed because he didn't order it. There's a card from some guys in accounting (one of whom is named Bob), but Ken Cosgrove takes credit for it. Harry Crane wants to bang Roger's married daughter, and Don arrives shitfaced.  

This old lady, who had been insisting that she be allowed to speak first, waxes philosophic on the departed's love for her one and only son, Roger. This makes Don puke. Funniest. Funeral. Ever.

As if things weren't bad enough, Mona shows up with her new (husband? fuckbuddy? boyfriend? sugar daddy?). Roger doesn't want him there, and yells at his neglected daughter, Margaret. Then Roger tells everyone to GTFO. Upstairs, Roger tries to bang his old, old lady (Mona) and she refuses. WTF is wrong with her? I'd fuck Roger. Maybe the whole leaving her for a woman half her age thing... Downstairs, Roger decides to have some family bonding time with Margaret, at Mona's urging. He gives Margaret a jar of Jordan water, and promises to help her husband with his new business venture. Aww. Dad of the Year right there.

Back in the Village, life isn't all incense and peppermints here at the homeless youth hostel. They don't have water, heat, electricity or food. They dislike Betty and her cornball lifestyle, because she has things like warm clothes and a running toilet. Betty finds some of the counterculture youths have stolen the ingredients to make goulash. Betty asks if they've seen Sandy, and one of them claims that Sandy sold the violin to him. Betty doesn't believe him. She helps the flower children make some far out goulash, and waits around for Sandy to show up. One of them lets Betty know the Summer of Love is over and she has to leave. She is about to leave and take the violin with her, but she hesitates as she's heading out the door and leaves the violin behind with the gutter punks and their squalor. Then Betty dyes her hair. 

Don makes it back to work and gives Miss Chambers the lighter, with some story about how he picked it up by mistake and asks her to send it back to the army. The execs from Sheraton arrive, and they're not thrilled with Don's proposal. They feel his art, which shows a man's discarded clothes next to footprints that lead into the ocean, reminds them of someone's suicide. Don doesn't see it, but the Sheraton execs want to see something else for their ad. Roger's secretary informs  him that the reason he's been unable to reach his shoeshiner is because his shoeshiner died. His family brought over his shoeshine kit, and Roger takes it into his office and breaks down crying.

Don and Megan have a New Year's Eve party -- with fondu! Their guests are the Rosens and Don and Megan's neighbors (the wife of which is hot for Don). Nothing really happens until Dr. Rosen gets called into work and has to head to the hospital on cross-country skis. Can you still do that in Manhattan? Inquiring minds want to know.

The mysterious Ted shows up at the office. Peggy's able to come up with a solution to her Carson issue through going through her commercial outtakes. I really hope Peggy starts sleeping with Ted. He's way better-looking, way less annoying and way less hairy than Abe. Ted gives her the praise she never got from Don, and she's pleased. Ted seems intrigued and we all know Peggy's a sucker for an unavailable man. Have an affair, Peggy! Because why not?

After Dr. Rosen's off on his skis, we see Don sneaking into an apartment. There's a woman waiting for him there -- and why, yes, that's Mrs. Rosen! Don sleeps with her, and then he makes some comment about how he "doesn't want to do this" anymore. Then...stop. He goes home afterward to the sleeping Megan.

Like...what the hell, Don? Seriously. So, we see that the free camera was (an apology? payment? restitution?) for Don sleeping with his wife. Whatever it is, it's a pretty pathetic one, I must say. It's like Don tries sometimes to be a good person, but then he just fails. 

Really not certain why Don is cheating on Megan. Once again, we see Don married to a beautiful, sexually confident woman, but having an affair. We can only believe that's Don's own sense of self-loathing that leads him to cheat. Is it his fear that he didn't deserve the beautiful model Betty or the talented and smart Megan? As far was we saw on the show, he was faithful to Megan until her acting career took off, but I'm uncertain if he was ever faithful to bored hausfrau Betty, so the true reason for Don's infidelity is still a matter of speculation.

Say what you want about Megan, but once she finds out he's cheating, she's going to cut off his balls with a switchblade. Perhaps Don's fears of dying of a heart attack are unfounded.

A solid start to Season 6. My only real complaint is the commercials. I know this is a show about advertising and all, but the show ran eight minutes into a third hour, and I can only presume that was to make room for all the ads. I think I'm going to watch it on the DVR from here on out so I can fast forward. 

Overall, the filming, lighting and coloring of the show have taken a darker tone. The production has heightened the use of reds and browns so the effect seems like they're filming on late 60's era film. Not really sure what's happening in episode 2, because as per usual, the Mad Men previews are so poorly edited that I have to believe their haphazard and out-of-context organization is on purpose. So, I guess what we have to look forward to next week is that some people say some things and other people react.

Mad Men airs at 10 p.m. Sundays on AMC. 


Maggie Cats said...

What a great season opener! Random thoughts:

--Betty's "rape" comment shocked the hell out of me. I think I yelled WTF at my tv.

--Don's cheating again...but this time he feels really bad about it? So, baby steps?

--I love Sally's snotty attitude, so spot-on for a teenager.

--Someone will die this season. My money is (unfortunately) on Roger. But it's true, he does not actually appear to age.


--Agree about Peggy and her boss. A little after hours lovin is in their future!

--anyone and everyone should check out Tom and Lorenzo's Mad Style posts over on their blog. You will get such an appreciation for the costuming in the show which tells its own story (this episode's post should go up today or tomorrow, archive here http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/tag/mad-style)

Arsenic Pie said...

You know. I watched the very beginning again. And that's Dr. Rosen above whoever is there in medical distress. We just assume it's Don, but what if it's Roger?

I really like Roger, but I think Mona foreshadowed something happening to Roger when she asked him what Margaret would say at his funeral. I like Roger, but can we really sit through all of season 6 and a likely season 7 watching Roger unable to deal with the new world order? He really can't deal with the modern world and I think the premiere showed that very clearly.