Mad Men 4.13 – No, seriously, who IS Don Draper?

A lot of TV critics spent much of last week trying to work out what would come to pass in this season’s final episode of “Mad Men,” but I can honestly say that I didn’t give it too much thought. The most I did, really, was reflect on how the previous season of “Mad Men” ended, which only served to leave me thinking, “Okay, there’s no way the end of Season 4 is going to leave me as excited about next season as the end of Season 3 did.” And I was right: it didn’t…but that doesn’t mean that Matthew Weiner didn’t still do yet another fine job of setting the stage for the series’ next go-round.

Maybe it’s just the cocktails talking, but since this is the season finale, I don’t think there’s any point in going through the episode scene by scene by scene, so let’s just look at the various events that went down, along with their repercussions:

Don and Fay: I think we all knew they were more or less doomed from the moment Don sexed up Megan in his office, but, man, it just got more and more depressing to watch them interact, especially knowing that Fay had basically betrayed her principles for the sake of their relationship. Her speech to him before she headed off on her flight underlined yet again how much she cared about him. I really do think that Don wanted it to work out between them, but as he proved last week with his letter to The New York Times (and, of course, on probably a hundred more occasions in other episodes), he’s a man who does things on impulse, rarely bothering to concern himself with the possible repercussions. I can’t imagine that their final phone conversation will prove to be the last we see of Fay, but if it is, you can’t say she didn’t get the best possible last word, snapping, “I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things.”

Don and Megan: As soon I saw Don start talking to Megan, I said to my wife, “Oh, God, don’t tell me he’s going to ask her to watch the kids for him…” But, of course, he did. I knew that the fire between them was destined to be rekindled at some point during the trip to California, but, really, did anyone anticipate that it would all go down so fast? Even when Stephanie gave Don the ring, I couldn’t imagine that he and Fay would ever actually make it to the altar, but, Jesus, it never occurred to me that, before episode’s end, the ring would be on Megan’s finger…and, yet, looking back at the episode, it’s very easy to see how Don got so caught up in it all.

First and foremost, Megan loves the kids and the kids love Megan. Don’s initial line when he walks into the room to a French chorus – “You said you didn’t have any experience, but you’re like Maria von Trapp!” – was hilarious, but it still wasn’t as funny as the expressions on the faces of Sally, Bobby, and Don when Megan kept her cool after Sally’s milkshake spillage. On top of that, she’s gorgeous, smart, and respects what Don does, all of which are important qualities. Still, let’s not kid ourselves: it’s the way she handles the kids that seals the deal.

In the midst of post-coital bliss, Megan tells Don, “I know who you are now.” Except she doesn’t. Not really, anyway. But she’ll no doubt find out at some point in the future. Maybe Betty and Fay can fill her in…?

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Mad Men 4.6 – Life? Don’t talk to me about Life…

I’ll bet you thought I was going to entitle this week’s blog “The Cure for the Common…” or something relating to the gag that kicked off tonight’s episode. Believe me, I was tempted: I thought it was pretty hilarious that this young punk – 36-year-old Danny (Strong) claiming to be a 24-year-old – strolled into Sterling Cooper Draper & Pryce with half a dozen ads based around the same general theme, with his only real defense being, “Uh, did you see me shaking hands with Roger Sterling out there?”

Looks like the candidates are pretty slim pickings, which would certainly be enough to bum Don out even if he didn’t have all of this other stuff going on in his life, but, man, he really tried to drag Peggy down to his mood, despite her unabashedly optimistic attitude about how well things are going for her. You’d think he’d be in better spirits, what with his CLIO nomination and all. (By the way, is this the first time we’ve heard mention of the CLIO Awards? It seems like it might be.) Then again, you’d also think he would’ve noticed after all of this time that Peggy isn’t the same shy girl who used to cower every time he raised his voice…although, in fairness to Don, she does tend to fall back into that old pattern when she’s around him.

Huh. I wasn’t expecting a flashback to the first time Don and Roger met. Don was selling furs…? I don’t remember hearing that tidbit of information before, either. Funny how Roger’s first reaction to one of Don’s ad slogans was to disparage it. And, holy cow, look at Joan, would you? She’s a red-headed Marilyn Monroe, especially with her hair done up like that. Man, when she dropped that fur coat, I found myself wishing “Mad Men” was on HBO…and then I laughed out loud when they cut back to Roger reminiscing about what I’m pretty sure I was imagining myself.

I couldn’t begin to guess how many bowls of Life I ate as a child, so I had a smile on my face as soon as I saw the familiar multi-colored letters of the cereal’s name…which is the exact opposite of the expression on Pete Campbell’s face when we first see him. He’s so serious these days, not unlike a li’l Don Draper circa Season 1. (Probably not a coincidence.) I liked Lane’s dismissal of Harry’s attempt at namedropping as well as Joan’s reminder to New Boy that he can get up and get his own damned drink. Peggy’s not going to waste her time drinking, though. Instead, she has to do battle with Stan, the firm’s new art director. What a jerk. Clearly, she’s going to end up sleeping with him…or kill him. One or the other.

And speaking of jerks, here’s Ted Shaw, coming up to Don and Roger in order to be his usual dickish self. As a Marx Brothers fan, I had to laugh at Roger’s description of the purported general as “Rufus T. Bullshit,” which was almost as funny as the expression on Pete’s face when he realized that he might have to work with Ken again. Great guest spot from Mark Moses, getting a chance to play a drunken Duck Phillips. The menage a trois of handholding between Don, Joan, and Roger was too cute, but…wow, they’re really going to go for broke and head straight from the CLIO Awards back to the office to meet with the people from Life? Ballsy, Don, real ballsy…especially when it’s Harry who’s stuck having to entertain the troops until he gets there. Good thing most everyone was a “Peyton Place” fan back then, I guess. That, and it’s a good thing that the SCD&P bar is always well stocked.

Or is that a good thing?

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Mad Men 4.2 – A Glass of Gin, A Box of Velveeta

I’d like to start this week’s “Mad Men” blog out with an apology: I’m out at the TCA Press Tour in Los Angeles (as you probably already know if you’ve been reading Premium Hollywood this week), and I’ve been at the mercy of my schedule, which has been decidedly hectic. I was sent an advance screener of the episode…more about that in just a moment…but since it was mailed to my home, I wasn’t able to watch it until my wife, God bless her, brought it to me when she flew in from Norfolk, VA, late Friday night. I was finally able to watch it on Saturday afternoon, taking notes as I did so, but then I had to find time to actually compose the blog entry…and, well, here it is 11:57 PM PST, and I’m only just now getting the opportunity to do so.

Yeah, it’s been that kind of week…and I think it’s probably going to show in the blog, so let me go ahead and apologize for that up front.

Of course, I guess I should just be happy that I had an advance screener, since lord knows I won’t be getting any more this season…and nor, for that matter, will anyone else. When my wife handed me Episode 4.2 upon her arrival, it was folded inside a piece of paper which read as follows:

July 26, 2010

Dear friend:

With a new season of “Mad Men” underway, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your incredible and unprecedented support of the series since its debut four seasons ago. I’ve enjoyed our relationship over the years and your insightful reviews and features.

It has been a privilege to be associated with such an extraordinary group of actors, crew, craftsmen and executives – all of whom are committed to the care of our show.

As we provide you a with a copy of our second episode (airing August 1), we wanted to make you aware of a new development in terms of our DVD distribution moving forward.

In an effort to avoid inevitable spoilers and preserve the experience of watching live for our fans, we have chosen to make this the last review copy we send out.

We ask that in the weeks ahead you continue to write on the progression of our show, and I look forward to your thoughts and commentary along the way.

Here’s to an amazing season.

With sincere thanks,

Matthew Weiner

This is, one can reasonably presume, the direct result of Weiner’s annoyance with The New York Times over their piece which was written in advance of the premiere and offered up ostensible spoilers, and I can feel the man’s pain, but, man, I am just not a happy camper about this situation. I mean, God love you, Matthew, but you try having to stay up late on a Sunday night to blog a show…or, worse, two shows, since Alan Ball fucked me over by declaring a moratorium on “True Blood” screeners, too.

I never spoiled nothing for nobody, and this is the thanks I get…?

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Mad Men 4.1 – Ladies and Gentlemen, The Scrappy Upstarts!

“Who is Don Draper?”

Those are the first words we hear when “Mad Men” returns for its fourth season, but it’s certainly not the first time we’ve heard the question asked. This time, though, it’s coming from a journalist who’s interviewing Don and trying to wrap his head around his subject. The question, as you would expect, thoroughly flummoxes Don, but he recovers nicely, turning his instinctual expression of concern about the query into one of mild annoyance, then firing back, “What do men say when you ask that?” As it turns out, he actually is kind of annoyed by the question, though it quickly becomes evident that it’s mostly because he just plain doesn’t like talking about himself. He’s not used to being on a firing line like this one, and if he had his way, he’d clearly avoid it altogether. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be an option in this new scenario in which he finds himself. The members of this new firm have to promote both the company and themselves…and, yes, that includes you, too, Don.

In a moment of perfect timing, the interview wraps up just as Roger Sterling and Pete Campbell walk up to the table. Pete’s clearly just as obsequious as ever (“We’re grateful for your sacrifice”), and Roger, it seems, has been spending some time on a book. His memoirs…? He doesn’t clarify. He does, however, offer up a trademark zinger within the first three minutes of the episode, so it’s clear that this is, at least to a certain extent, the same old Sterling that we left at the end of Season 3. It does appear that he may be drinking a bit more, however. This is a slightly impressive accomplishment, given that his alcohol intake was rather heroic to begin with, but it’s never a good thing to use booze as a crutch, so I’d expect that we’ll see more of this development sooner than later. Is Roger on track to become this year’s Freddie Rumsen?

Don, Roger, and Pete meet with a new client: Jantzen, who – according to the stats they cite during the meeting – maintain 25% of the bathing suit market. They’ve got some concerns that need addressing, and once again, we see Don’s limited tolerance for current goings-on. You know, when a client says, “I’m getting tired of saying this today,” you’d think most people would have the tact not to respond, “Next time, just have one meeting.” They also probably wouldn’t openly mock the client’s delicate sensibilities and their position that the inherent sexiness of a bikini is somehow diminished if you simply refer to it as a two-piece bathing suit. But, then, Don didn’t get where he is in the ad game by keeping his opinions to himself, now, did he?

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Mad Men: Season 4 – A Preview

God love you, Matthew Weiner.

Everyone in the free world is chomping at the bit to find out what’s going to happen when your show, “Mad Men,” returns to AMC on July 25th to kick off its 4th season, and all you’re willing to leak to the press is this nine-word description:

Don makes a mistake that jeopardizes the new agency.

Give the man credit: he’s dedicated to keeping as many surprises under wraps as he possibly can…and, as regular readers of Premium Hollywood know by now, I’m not going to be the one who breaks his trust by giving you the scoop on what happens during the season premiere. I will, however, say this: yes, I’ve seen it, and, yes, you will very much feel that it’s been worth waiting for.

If you weren’t watching “Mad Men” during its third season…well, the statute of limitations has probably expired on us giving you crap for that, but since Season 3 has been out on DVD since March 23rd, you really have no excuse for not having played catch-up by now. Still, for those of you who’ve been busy and feel as though you could do with a refresher course, I suppose we could help you out on that front.

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