Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mad Men Recap - Lost Horizon

Ahh!! Guys! This episode was so great. On so many levels. If these last two episodes are of this calibre we are in for such a satisfying conclusion, and I am in for so many tears come May 18th.

Let's dive right in.

Don's entering McCann and is being celebrated by Jim Hobart as his white whale, but Don is chaffing with having to declare his newly beholden status to McCann Ericsson. Don is getting comfortable in his office, freshly furnished by my fave Meredith, and as he peers out the window of the high-rise -- what's that we see below?? Oh, only ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL!!! I honestly had to pause the episode so I could audibly squeal in delight at such a crafty touch of brilliance as we see that the One calling to Don, the answer to his many questions regarding his purpose, is waiting for him outside the legendary high rise of the opening credits. Simply brilliant.

We go on to see that all of Don's individualist instincts are being suffocated as he is one face among the crowd of creatives in a research meeting with Miller Beer. Don glances out the window and sees a plane flying across the sky and his desire to escape is palpable. First Don goes to take Sally back to school, but upon finding she's already left and that Betty is knee-deep in her new BFF Freud, he decides to drive not back to New York but to Racine, Wisconsin home of the infamous Diana.

Don's encounter with Diana's ex-husband and his wife is excellently paced and directed so that at once it seems cautionary yet jarring. Diana's ex-husband doesn't fall for Don's smooth rouse as a representative giving away a fridge, nor a collections agent, but sniffs out that he is another piece of collateral damage left in the wake of Diana and her life now sadly condemned to emotional destruction. The ex-husband's declaration to Don "I lost my daughter to God and my wife to the devil." and his direct appeal for Jesus' mercy is reminiscent to me of Flannery O'Connor. A jarringly blunt telling of spiritual truth. Finally this dramatic moment of Don confronted with the fact of Christ directly dealt with in the dialogue of the show.

Don gets back in his car and we see him driving in the middle of America not knowing in which direction he is going until he stops to pick up a hitchhiker. When the the hitchhiker asks to go to St. Paul with Don responding that he could do that, the imagery of possible conversion on the road is complete.

Will the scales finally fall off Don's eyes? Will he finally recognize his need for redemption that cannot be found on earth through money, success, and women?

Kathryn and I discussed the possibility of Don staying on the road until he returns to his beloved California, the place where he so often finds renewal and epiphanies of one sort or another, but he has never found true conversion in California. We both think that for Don to find that essential knowledge of himself and the meaning of love that he needs to find his way back to Sally. Maybe his roadside conversion like St. Paul could bring him back to Sally with a stable and real love to offer her, and guidance as she reaches adulthood. The possibilities become so tantalizing in this episode for Don's final redemption that I couldn't be more pleased with the direction the plot seems to be going.

But while Don is still travelling to his destination, it appears that Joan has reached the end of the road for her career. McCann has turned out to be completely disrespectful to her position, capabilities, and role she had at SC&P. The complete douche-bag Ferg Connolly makes continuing to work accounts impossible for Joan. She threatens Jim Hobart with legal action in a marvellous scene in his office. She threatens him with the ACLU, and the fact that all the woman of his staff are likely to want to have legal help in dealing with the myriad sexual harassments that happen in the office. Hobart is so loathsome as to offer Joan 50 cents on the dollar to pay her off out of the company. She is owed half a million, she cannot garner the respect to deserve to be paid off in full. It is all so deeply humiliating to her who has worked her way up from the bottom with tenacity, perseverance, hard work, and even the selling of her body. Her rise to the top hasn't been easy, it's required every part of her, and yet she is faced with being pushed out because of the same ill treatment she has risen above time and time again. Roger is the one to finally convince her that she isn't in it for the politics, which is true, she's in it for the respect, so she decides to walk out with the deal. It's tough to watch someone we've seen work so hard to get to where she is be so callously defeated by such reprehensible characters.

This of course doesn't bode well for Peggy who also is a woman in a senior position from SC&P transferring to McCann. Peggy is already getting short shift by not having an office ready for her by the time they have to clear out of the SC&P offices. She hangs around the office for a few days trying to get things done as best she can alone, until she hears Roger woefully playing an organ in the empty offices. (Where the organ came from I still haven't figured out, but it's pretty awesome that it was there, and that Roger is going all Phantom of the Opera on it!)

And here we see Roger showing Peggy how to get day-drunk on sweet vermouth at the office with all the pluck and humour we love him for. He also is of course saying that business doesn't care about feelings, when he very clearly does feel disappointment and sadness at the dissolution of his company and the loss of his employees. Roger does have a heart no matter how much he likes to ignore it and make a good joke about it. It's in this strange interlude of the two characters together that Roger in a way mentors Peggy in the art of exuding the confidence of not caring, while at the same time making sure you're good at your job. Roger has also mentored Joan along the way and it's touching here that in a storyline where women in the workplace are taking such a beating at McCann where systemic, company wide harassment is the norm, that one man can offer kindness, respect, and mentorship to a woman and clearly make an impact.

Because Roger does make an impact on Peggy-- which we see as she finally struts into McCann. A complete badass, Peggy looks like she's ready to go to war at McCann, or at least stand up for herself because she knows how things work, and she's got an erotic octopus painting to prove that she's ready for the challenge. It was one of the show's best moments, and we all hope that Peggy will prove with confidence and smarts, that she's a force to be reckoned with at McCann.

There's so much to say! The roller skating was one of those fabulous moments you want to watch again and again. Shirley-I just love Shirley, and she's obviously a smart cookie who's moving to a different industry where she'll be afforded a bit more respect than advertising. Meredith's an interior designer?! Yay! And I wanted to jump through the screen at how awful Ferg and Jim Hobart awful...

Ok, I'm making myself stop. Tell me what you thought!

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  1. I don't drink coffee, but I am eating a Toblerone bar. One of my thoughts about this episode is that Diana's daughter looked kind of ghost like, and the stepmother didn't seem to acknowledge her. Was she really there, or a figment of Don's imagination? Did Diana's ex mean that he lost his daughter, as in she had died? Or was he talking about another child. The whole thing is kind of mystifying or maybe I am just reading too much into it. I think the boardroom scene spooked Don. I didn't like the guy describing the sales pitch. And I think Don is realizing it's time to do something else. He's a much smaller fish is a bigger pond now, and he won't be getting much attention, except as a "white whale".

    I hate what happened to Joan, but I'm know things were like that too often back in that time period. Peggy might have grown a lot in her work, so she is ready to take it on at the new place. Maybe she can avoid some of that fallout. We shall see. I wonder where she got the roller skates, and the scene with her and Roger was very funny. The song, "Hi Lily" reminds me of French actress Leslie Caron, and Roger is seeing Megan's mother, who is French.

    Someone mentioned that the hitchhiker looked like a younger version of Don. It would be interesting if the hitchhiker was the young Dick Whitman, if he had not gone into the army and changed his identity to Don Draper. I don't know how they would play it out, but it's something to think about. I had to go back and look at the hitchhiker, and the resemblance to Don is striking.

    I hope they give us some more Sally time. I wonder if Betty will be successful at psychology.

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