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Hunka Hunka Blog, Part 1: "Mad Men"

By admin Published: October 27, 2008

MM

Lots of things to catch up with, because of other obligations and some technical difficulties yesterday. But let's start in, with "Mad Men," which completed its second season on Sunday night...

I watched both last week's episode and last night's this morning, and remain impressed. So impressed that I do have this longing for more than 13 episodes a season. But a lot of great dramas in recent years have done limited-length seasons. And if they hadn't, they probably would have ended up like "Heroes" -- struggling to fill their complement of episodes, and just getting worse and worse as they do.

"Mad Men," meanwhile, leaves us tantalized, agonized, beset with worries about the characters and questions about where the plot will go. About the only thing we know for sure is that Duck will not be running the sold Sterling Cooper. But will Don? Will Peggy and Pete rise under Don's reign? Will Don tell Betty about his California life? Will Roger's new love last? What of the nightmare life Joan has entered, not with Peggy showing there was another way to prosper, and Joan's fiance not only humiliating her but taking away her last sanctuary, the last place where she held power?

And, on the larger stage, what will the events of the next two years -- since the show is expected to jump ahead -- do to these characters? Just think of how a dream factory might operate in the wake of the Kennedy assassination.

I was marginally more impressed by the episode a week ago, "The Mountain King," because it let us deeper inside Don's old world. And because Jon Hamm was so nuanced in acting a little differently as Dick than he does as Don. Dick is less cool, a little scruffier, more easily frightened, more seduced by dreams, and Hamm moved effortlessly along the fault line of the two identities. (When the Tarot cards come out, so does Don -- the enclosed man not wanting to give away any secrets.)

But the season finale had many merits of its own. Don coming to Betty at the stables, recalling Michael Corleone returning to Kay in "The Godfather."

(There's a long essay to be written by someone smarter than me about "Mad Men" and "The Godfather." Think of Anna as Don's Apollonia, Bert Cooper as Don Corleone, Don/Duck as Michael/Sonny. For that matter, put Don's love of cars in the context of what happens to people in cars in "The Godfather" -- and, for that matter, in "Mad Men.")

And for some reason Don's return to the office in a wet raincoat made me think of Howard Beale in "Network," rain-soaked, going to make his witness, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. After all, when he learns Duck is in charge, Don's declaration is not mad as hell, but surely about not taking it.

More to love: Peggy's ego-exploding speech to Pete. The new owners' reaction to Duck's tantrum, which made apparent what we all reasonably supposed, that Duck's future with the company was not long term. The many ways Betty holds a cigarette. Peggy becoming Don for the Popsicle pitch. Anna Draper. Roger's reaction to Peggy's pitch for an office, and the guys' reactions when she gets it. Bert Cooper and his sister.

I may be rewatching this season soon. And you may want to check out Alan Sepinwall's epic interview with "Mad Men" mastermind Matthew Weiner. I read it after writing the post above, so you can see ways I was right, ways I was wrong and places I may be going that Weiner didn't.

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