Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I'm not there is much more to say than, "Go, watch it. Again!"
Of course there is the fear that they can't keep it up. Every episode has been excellent and a little better than the one before. That can't last can it?
Matt Weiner wrote this one himself too. Where is there left for them to go?
I meant to say a while ago, by the way, that I thought the Emmy voters made absolutely the right choice. The actors are good and sometimes magnificent, John Slattery in particular, but it is the writing that makes this show. That said the heavy use of embarrassment as a device the last two episodes has forced the actors to dig deep and they have delivered. This episode, Elizabeth Moss really comes up with the gold. She makes this whole episode the way only John Slattery has done before in this series.
I do worry about poor Roger though. I heard the bell tolling for him all through this episode.
People don't change. Or do they?
One of the central premises of the show is that people don't change but I see Don changing. Ever so slowly he is changing from episode to episode. He is softening in a very attractive way.
I know, you're thinking, "Jules, you're nuts. How can you possibly see redemption in this character wallowing in alcohol and, now, in his own vomit?" But he is sofetning.
The scenes between he and Peggy were brilliant. We see them becoming equals. There were two magnificent lines this episode.
The first came when Don tells Peggy she doesn't have to explain about Duck. And she shouldn't of course. Don has done just as bad and she knows it. But it's the admission to the club that she has always sought and it matters. There is a lovely moment of gratitude on her face that is beautiful, subtle acting on Elizabeth Moss's part.
The second is when Don tells Peggy that the only person who ever really knew him is dead and she says, "That's not true."
Both statements were declarations of love. It's perfect because we know that Mark doesn't know how to do it but Peggy's alternative—staring into each others' eyes through candlelight—is just a cliché. But showing understanding, that's love.
I worry about poor Roger
He's being replaced. Peggy is more important to Don now. She can do what Roger did and she is a creative partner. Everything about Roger is in the past. That's brave as no other actor on the show who can hold a candle to john Slattery. Trying to make the magic without him will be a real challenge.
Can Elizabeth Moss pick up the baton? So far I think one of the reasons her character has rung true is that her uncertainty as an actor translates well into Peggy's uncertainty as a woman breaking boundaries. But Moss sure was good last night.
This shouldn't matter but did she ever look good walking into Don's office the morning after looking un-made up. (They should do a extra video showing how the creative team makes people up to look unmade up.) The contrast with a scene a while ago where Betty comes in un-made up was something. Betty looked hard Peggy looked magnificent. Regal. Like a true leader slowly being born. I don't know how actors do stuff like that.
The bit where Don puts his hand over Peggy's was lovely of course, echoing Peggy's first day way back when but that scene would have fallen flat without all the at came before it. Moments like that are high wire acts. There is nothing the actors could have done to make that work if the whole thing hadn't been so well set up.
Wednesday Morning 3 AM
Funnily enough, there is another scene that falls flat and it is the death scene. This is also set up when Peggy and Don have a conversation about death in the diner. Don tells Peggy about his Uncle Max always having his suitcase packed and then he suddenly realizes it was a metaphor (a beautiful touch by the way). This leads both of them to talk about their experiences with death.
According to the all-knowing Internet, the Liston-Clay match was on Tuesday, May 25, 1965. Bleecker Street, the Simon and Garfunkel song that ends the episode, is off an album called Wednesday Morning 3 AM.
When Don puts his head on Peggy's lap in the office after he tells her about the phone call he has to make, we can see on Peggy's watch that it is 2 AM.
It's unfortunate, really, that the spectral vision of Anna was the only thing to feel false in this episode because that is the event that happens at 3 Am. And she has her suitcase with her.
What is most moving is not poor Anna's departure but that Don is telling Peggy the truth about himself a little bit at a time. And she may soon learn why he is touchy about getting awards that he doesn't deserve the credit for.
Final, Elizabeth Moss wonder moment. I'm sure everyone will be talking about Hamm's acting after the call but what makes that scene is Moss. At teh very end of the call, Don say's the name "Stephanie". Then we cut to Moss. Here is the face she gives him
That is what makes the scene so credible and moving. Peggy thinks the call is woman trouble, just another one of Don's affairs. That's good acting.
Final note, there was a powerful religion ghost haunting this scene that was much more convincing than the spectral effect ghost.
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Season one begins here.