Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mad Men Recap - The Monolith

This episode was so fraught with metaphor and drenched in foreboding that I won't even attempt to get to it all, because much more brilliant people will talk about it. 

Let's get to it.

Firstly, I had so much personal expectation, or rather personal preferences, for Don going back to work. I wanted him to metaphorically punch Lou with a smart witticism, tell Peggy he respects her and she's a genius, and generally kick creative ass. Did any of that happen? No, of course not, because it's Mad Men. Don doesn't really attempt to work, drinks coke, then vodka, ends up drunk dialling Freddy Rumsen. We've all seen it before. And as much as I love Don Draper and everything that is Mad Men, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD PLEASE START TO SHAPE UP DON! 

Don being assigned Lane's old office was a fairly heavy-handed symbol of the collective desire of SC&P for Don's death since it's too expensive to buy him out of the company. Burt eschews Don's attempt to bag a new account with the computer company that is setting up a behemoth computer in what was previously the writer's lounge. Don is frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement of his business foresight. The literal metaphor of the computer killing the creative side of the company doesn't sit well with Don, or Peggy, or all of creative for that matter either. It's becoming a battle between the integrity and personal aspect of the creative work of advertising versus the number crunching, computer-using, mediocrity that is becoming the calling card for the agency now.

I especially like the idea of the computer making these people, mainly Peggy and Don, wonder about the future of their jobs in the workplace. For people who's sole identity is found in their work and status in the business environment dealing with something completely unknown with unknown power would be intimidating. Don brushes it off in his trademark philosophical want when Computer Guy notes the computers ability to count stars in minutes compared to a lifetime of human effort, "But who looks at the stars and thinks of a number?" Don, in a way, is standing up for the personal and human over the giant digital revolution. Creativity is one thing computers will never be able to take over, and Don realizes it in 1969.

Meanwhile, Peggy is dumped with Don by Lou, who is both a cowardly weasel and a plotting general hoping his two thorns in his sides will somehow destroy each other. Any grand illusions we had of Peggy being Don's boss, asserting herself as a competent and gifted creative director, are dashed as she snidely grins when doling out Don's assignment. Peggy is miserable and realizes she's caught between two pompous jerks both of whom don't care a fig about her work. Which isn't such a new situation for her, let's be honest, but this season she's coming off as bitter and mean. If we're forced to watch Don endlessly never change and Peggy be bitter everyday at work it's going to force us to head to the commune!

Speaking of commune, just as we all thought, Roger's daughter has joined a cult/commune and left her family for upstate New York where the showers are few but the joints are a-plenty. I was thrilled that Mona found a way back into the story because she's one of my all-time favourite Mad Men characters. She just oozes mid-century glamour with the big hair and furs and gold jewelry, and her chemistry with Roger is unmatched.

The conflict comes down to Margaret walking out on her 4 year old son. Mona refuses to even consider Margaret's response that she's found happiness at the expense of her son and leaves Roger at the commune. Roger seems at first enticed, because he's spent his whole life looking for a place where there are no consequences, no standards, the ability to freely pursue each and every passion to the fullest. His daughter is right in thinking they can somehow relate to one another because they find apparent happiness in a world with no morality or constraints. But Roger is changed at the sight of his own daughter's sexual behaviour that isn't all the different from his own. Be it hypocrisy or twinges of conscience, Roger insists it's time for her to leave. Marigold's response to his pleading for her to be a mother to her son, that she is needed, is that he'll be fine because she's just fine for having grown up with a very absent father and a mother who hid her unhappiness in the bathroom alongside a pint of gin. It's a horrible cycle of unhappiness, poor parenting decisions, and the inability to deal with one's own issues come back again in a different guise. Roger is punched in the stomach with the consequences to his own careless disregard for his daughter. I'm not sure if this will change anything in Roger who seems so unmoved and unwilling to see his own weaknesses. He operates on a base level that there is no point in correcting himself, or seeking a higher good than his own whims and passions. The damage he has done to his daughter may not be salvageable, and now the effects of his actions are reaching another innocent generation.

Some short snippets:

  • Pete showing concern for his father-in-law's death? What?! I love seeing a glimmer of a heart beneath the slimy-Pete exterior. The acting is so good. I wonder how this information will play out, not just for the Vicks account but for Pete's marriage and family.
  • Jim and Harry were two peas in a pod - loving the construction/destruction of creative. 
  • Could I love Meredith anymore? I don't think so. 
  • Joan letting Peggy know that there were stipulations on Don's coming back may bring about some difference in how Peggy deals with Don? 
  • Freddy Rumsen is pretty awesome.
  • I wish Don broke the window when he threw the typewriter. 
  • How funny was Pregnant Hippie?! 
Ok, what did I miss? Let me know, because we make all decisions together around here.

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  1. Pregnant hippie was the funniest!!!!!!! I wish I could pull off the bare belly while balancing a toddler and gathering wildflowers but sadly, I'll always need to cover up ;)

  2. Love Freddy. When I first started watching Madmen, I once Googled, "Why is Don Draper such an A-hole" there were tons of hits... He's growing on me, ...but, still.

  3. I agree, Im starting to like Peggy less, and Joan. Freddy was great, and the commune scenes were the best! What a great glimpse into the hippie world! Watching Mona standing against the backdrop of the commune was such a great image!


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