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"Mad Men": Self-Awareness and Reinvention

By admin Published: October 13, 2008

Laura Ramsey, Jon Hamm on "Mad Men"

I've been lax about posting about "Mad Men" the last few weeks, but I haven't stopped watching. And when, a week ago, we saw Don on the airplane to L.A., heading toward sunshine, I was thinking that -- having no satisfaction with his current life -- Don was preparing for another reinvention of himself. And what better place to do that than California in the '60s.

But "Mad Men" is a lot smarter than I am ...

Oh, the idea of Don reinventing himself was there. In fact, a lot of the episode was about characters making themselves new: Roger's marriage plans, Duck's career-saving business scheme, Peggy's new hair, what Paul is facing in the South, Kurt coming out (and immediately creating a different perception in the others). Only Pete seems incapable of change; poolside he's the same old Pete, and women -- especially California women -- can see it.

Don seemed to be right on his way to a new world when he walked away from the conference to join Joy (Laura Ramsey, above) in an adventurous life with people who live in a more or less constant state of redefinition shaped by their location and their needs. But -- and here's one of the places where the show is smart -- as much fun as Don (briefly) had in Palm Springs, he is not only the same old Don, he is the same old Dick Whitman. He still has that longing for family -- sees the consequences of the "nomads'" life on children. So, instead of creating a new Don, the "Dick Whitman" call suggested that he may try to get in touch with his old self; as we know, life as Don has not turned out the way he dreamed -- hasn't been that way all this season, especially in the context of "The Wheel," at the end of the first season. As Don says of the slide carousel in that episode, “It goes backwards and forwards, and it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. ... It lets us travel around and around and back home again."

And now we are on the wheel.

By the way, "Jeopardy!" is doing a "Mad Men" tie-in. You can read more about that here

A later, added thought: Anyone think that Duck's scheming is doomed? If the Brits succeed in taking over Sterling Cooper, they don't need Duck -- and it was clear in the restaurant scene that they have reservations about him, brushing off his first request for a job. No one is going to put in writing that Duck will be president of SC after it's sold, so he only has the vague assurances (if he even has those) of people who don't especially like him.
Oh, they'll use him as an emissary. They may even throw him a finder's fee. But given Duck's decline and desperation, I can't help but think of William H. Macy in "Fargo," coming up with a great idea but only getting a bone for a payoff.

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