For those of you waiting for the DVD to watch season four, to those of you watching the next day on iTunes or a pirate TV site, you can always head down to McMenamins Backstage Bar at 3702 SE Hawthorne Boulevard (behind the Bagdad Theater) to catch screenings at 10 p.m. They also have a prediction contests and a season long raffle! Any other hot Mad Men viewing spots you know about?
Onto episode three, The Good News...
Which turns out to be not much, though two weeks later Don has calmed down a *little* bit. I mean, he's still drinking and whoring, hitting on teenagers and corrupting stodgy Englishmen, but he's not an all out trainwreck like last episode. Guess Christmas was a little hard on him.
This was an old school episode of Mad Men with a little office drama, a little Don Draper history, and a lot of male partying. What struck me throughout the hour was the more pronounced conflict of Don's generation and the emerging youth with their folk music and student protests. Not since his memorable argument with the beatnik holdovers from season one have I seen Don so clearly contrasted with the world changing around him. It's changing into something where he's maybe not as cool and attractive. In the last three weeks we've seen Don turned down by four different women, each of them stronger or younger than he's used to. I always want Don to change, always think he's right on the verge of it, but he's implacable. He's so good with his artifice that he forgets something articulated in this episode by the young Gwen. "Nobody knows what's wrong with themselves. And everybody else can see it right away."
As for office intrigue we got a good glimpse of Joan's life (a passing reference to two abortions with her friendly gynecologist. Is this really what it's like?) including her husband who showed some likable qualities for the first time. The show is usually good about showing multiple sides of conflicted characters, making us understand them even as we despise them, but since he date raped her in Don's office it's only gotten worse with Greg until now. Helping her with a cut at home he is warm, comforting, confidant, and funny. (But when he took her bleeding hand in his, knowing what he know about his failed residency as a surgeon, did anyone else think he was going to human centipede her hand to his leg?) I have a feeling they're just trying to warm us up to him before they kill him or ruin him in Vietnam.
At the office we got a look at angry alpha-bitch Joan. Her spat with Lane with enjoyable, allowing both of them to show off their characters. Who here does not want to be fired by the two of them, pissed off at each other but taking it out simultaneously on you?
And poor Lane. After being a joke for most of season three it's nice to see him humanized a little, and cutting loose with Don on the town was hilarious, if a little tragic. Whether laughing through Gammera (thanks rival Mad Men blog) or SLAPPING A STEAK ON HIS CROTCH, Lane exhibited estimable charm, though I think maybe stepped out of his comfort zone a little bit when Don got him that whore. He's one of the boys now, that's for sure.
It's good that Lane carried most of the hijinks too. With Don an emotional wreck after receiving devastating news in California I thought for sure he would head to Acapulco and go batshit crazy. Instead he flew back to New York and did his thing, allowing Lane to blow off some steam. Don's relationship with Anna Draper is interesting. It's hard to reconcile Dick Whitman in California with Don Draper in New York. He's more relaxed, though still ready to fuck-up at a moment's notice.
The theme of fixing small problems ran through the episode. Greg can't fix his life with Joan, but he can sew up her hand. Don can't do anything about Anna's cancer, but he can paint over the stain on her wall. He can't fix Lane's marriage, but he can distract him for a night with movies, steak, and hookers. Still this felt like a set-up episode, laying plot ground for the future. Once Anna dies, there will be no one in Don's life who knows him as Dick Whitman. Even those in on his secret don't really know the real him. It's threatening for him, and you see it in his baleful closing looks the staff gets ready for 1965.
Oh and it looks like next week is a Pete Campbell episode! Can't wait.