Such a weasel ...
I've seen this week's episode and next week's season finale, so I'm tiptoeing around spoilers, after the jump. Some spoilerish material in the comments. ...
Tonight's telecast is set on the night of the Kennedy-Nixon election, with the agency having put its power behind Nixon. We all know how that election turns out, but the result is less significant than how the characters feel about it.
Both this week and in the season finale, we're going to see a thread that has been underlying a lot of the series: As cynical and manipulative as these ad men may be, they are not immune to their own BS. Don's accumulation of a perfect home, a perfect job, a perfect wife and, finally, a perfect Don is testimony to the power of the dreams created in advertising. That so much of Don's life is also false, laden with hypocrisy and infidelity and misery, shows what a total illusion the "Mad men" create.
One of the best things about the episode, though, may be the drunk-laden office party that takes up a good chunk of it. Under more obvious circumstances -- for some reason, the play "That Championship Season" comes to mind -- the party would be full of revelations and confrontations. Pete would confront Don, Don would say something foolish, Peggy would become hysterical. ... But "Mad Men" is more intelligently written than that, its characters far smarter than such a scenario would allow.
That said, tonight does at last explain Don's magical reinvention. And, with Don elevated to partner and his old post up for grabs, that little weasel Pete has to decide how much hardball he's going to play.
What Pete does, and what Don does in response, both provide marvelous moments. The payoff, too, is quite apt. And that's not even the end of the season (or the show, which has been picked up for a second round). Next week's episode presents some recurring themes and tests characters' wills.
It also has a plot turn that we may do some arguing about. Not "Friday Night Lights" level arguing, maybe, but one that I'm not convinced is a good idea.
More about that later. For now, though, I'm thinking of all the letters and e-mails I get during long cable hiatuses -- when we've gone a year between "Closers" or "Nip/Tucks" or even longer between "Sopranos," and people are wondering if the shows will ever be back. I'm getting the same feeling about "Mad Men." I'm not at all happy about waiting for its return. I want it back now, to see where it's going next, and any wait seems too long.