Monday, May 28, 2012

Mad Men: The Other Woman

"I'm talking about business at a very high level."
I loved that line. Pete says it to Joan when making his pitch that she should have sex with a client to help secure a sale.

Let's start with the bad

This was an exceptionally entertaining episode. Every second was gripping. But hollow. It was morally hollow. Maybe that's okay. Maybe it's because some otherwise good people acted in a morally hollow way. We'll see how they redeem it next two episodes. But for now it feels empty.

Here is what I think the problem is. I think a bunch of people in the entertainment industry foolishly assumed that advertising works just like their business. Last night's big plot twist is something people in the entertainment industry would do quite regularly. (It's pretty clear that Katherine Hepburn, for example, used sex to assure that she could star in a movie version of The Philadelphia Story.) It might happen in advertising but not so easily.  It's not that such things couldn't happen. It's the routine quality of them. The way four partners sat down and discussed and outrageous proposal and approved it.

I loved Pete's line because it was so extreme, so incredibly over the top. It struck me as the sort of thing he would say. It didn't seem right that Roger would go along with this.

Let me put it another way, when Pete puts the proposition it seemed right because Pete is this odd, damaged, shriveled little part of a man trying to pass himself off as an entire human being. I don't have any illusions about Roger, his moral standards are often outrageous, but he is still every inch a man not a little homunculus like Pete.

I'm sure that everyone noticed that as Peggy walks away, Joan looks over and sees. And, hey, here we are back at the beginning with the two of them in their standard roles. Thanks to Don, Peggy didn't become Mimi Alford but Joan is Judith Campbell Exner. (UPDATE: It just occurred to me that the "other woman" in this episode is not a man's other woman but a woman's other woman.)

Okay, the good

The whole thing with Peggy leaving was perfect. I loved the way Don kisses her hand at the end, the hand he wouldn't let her offer him in the first episode.

That's important because it wasn't Don who first saw Peggy's creative ability. It was Freddy Rumsen who saw that. Don was the guy who told Peggy she didn't have to offer herself sexually to make it. And Peggy was more than ready to do it. He told her, as he tries to tell Joan this episode, that she is too good for that. He saw in her what others, including Peggy herself, didn't see.

Can I take you back to a moment everyone forgets? The very first episode, in the bar, Don sees the humanity in Sam, the black man working as a busboy in the bar. Later we find out that he is leading a  double life. Everyone remembers that on their way to condemning him as "a bastard and drunk". But the first thing we see from him is a kind of manly virtue you don't see so much anymore.

Peggy's clinching argument is when she tells Don that he would do the same thing in her shoes. That was her way of saying that she, unlike Lane, wasn't negotiating. That was virtue.

By the way, I called it folks. The tension between Don and Megan is obviously influenced by the Sinatra-Farrow one. It ended in divorce in 1968 by the way.

Final though for now. I suddenly thought,
This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again
That album would be released just the year after the Christmas that the partners will not be getting bonuses for. I thought of it because it popped into my head that Weiner was heavily influenced by the contract negotiations for this year. He knows this could be the last year so he wants to end this season in a  way that will stand as a worthy whole should he never get to make another episode.

Only two more episodes folks!

And I always sleep with my guns when you're gone.

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