Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Throne Men

Only one more week of Game Of Thrones and two of Mad Men, and both are coming to a boil.

Game Of Thrones, "Blackwater":

Fan reaction seems to rate this episode highly, but I don't know. I guess they were thrilled that the long-promised big battle finally happened (thanks to HBO kicking in a little more money), but we can see much better action in movies. I like Game Of Thrones for the plotting and dialogue, not the slicing and dicing.  Furthermore, most of it took place in the dark so it was often hard to tell what was going on.

Anyway, this was a different sort of episode.  Since the beginning of season two, Stannis has been threatening to attack King's Landing, and with one episode left, he finally does.  And that's it, that's the show.  Jon, Daenerys, Robb, Bran, Theon, Baelish, Jorah, Arya, Samwell, Jaime, Brienne, Gendry, Hot Pie, Catelyn, Balon, Yara, Ygritte, Rickon, Luwin, Osha, Hodor, Xaro and Jaqen can go hang.  If you weren't at King's Landing in this episode, you were nowhere.

So we start with Davos and son sailing into Blackwater Bay to lead an attack on the Mud Gate.  Meanwhile, Tyrion lies with Shae, aware he may not make it out of this day alive.  Also, Pycelle brings poison to Cersei--for whom?  And Bronn and the men celebrate with ale and whores while the Hound comes in and there's some tension.

The bells ring and it's time for battle. Halfman suits up--he'll be leading the way today, since we all know Joffrey is worthless.  But that doesn't stop the cowardly king from naming his new sword Hearteater and demanding Sansa (who'd like to cut him) kiss it.

The fighters (and Joffrey) stand at the battlements while the women hide in the Holdfast.  Cersei taunts Sansa (and forces her to drink, but no poison), revealing what a nasty character she can be.  But she knows the likely outcome.  Stannis is not known for his mercy.  If Joffrey loses--quite likely, since he's outnumbered 10-1 and has low-morale troops--Cersei will probably be burned to death, and possibly raped first.  That's why Sir Ilyn is there.  Not to protect them, but to kill the women before worse happens. Cersei always said in the game of thrones, you win or you die, and she's leaving nothing to chance.

The Imp has not told Joffrey of his plans--a smart move.  The fleet is not going out, except for one ghost ship leaving a trail of wildfire.  When Tyrion gives the signal, Bronn shoots a burning arrow and a lot of Stannis's fleet goes up in a green explosion.  It looks like Davos buys the farm, and certainly his son does.  Stannis is grimly amused at the tactic.  It's not enough to stop him and his men prepare to scale the walls, even if it means thousands will die.

The Hound (who sure doesn't want any more fire in his life) and Bronn go down to the shore to do some of that killing they're so good at.  But Stannis has too many men.

Not too much action in the Holdfast, though it looks like Cersei will discover who Shae is when news comes that Stannis will breach the city walls.  She demands Joffrey be brought back.

Back on the wall, the Hound quits the battle and tells Joffrey to take a flying leap. So much for loyalty, but why be loyal to someone so unfit?  When Joffrey's told he's needed in the castle, he, predictably, leaves.  So it's left to Tyrion to inspire the men, which he does with a fine speech.  He also knows secret passageways so they can get down to the shore and attack Stannis's men from behind.

Cersei goes off the see her youngest, so it's up to Sansa to inspire the women.  After a bit of that, Shae shows her a way out and she runs back to her room to hide. She's got a shot at surviving, since Stannis's problem is with the Lannisters, not the Starks. The Hound, who's sweet on her (in his own fashion), is waiting there.  He offers her a way out, back to Winterfell. (Hey, isn't Theon in charge there?) He'll protect her.  But Sansa finds it hard to trust such a killer, though he points out every man who'll protect her is a killer.

Tyrion isn't bad on the battlefield, and the men chear him on.  But it's not long before his head gets sliced a bit (by one of his own?).  Not clear if it's fatal, but they wouldn't kill the single most popular character the show has, would they?  It's not even like killing Ned.

Cersei is with her young son and tells him a fairy tale.  Believing the day lost (the tale is intercut with the battle), she's preparing to poison him, when the door bursts open.  Tywin has saved the day (with Loras--he hates Stannis as much as anyone). I don't know what took him so long.  He should have gone to King's Landing as soon as he discovered Stannis was sailing, rather than hang out at Harrenhal and trade quips with Arya.

Anyway, decent episode, but I'm not sure I'd call it a highlight.  But for the fans complaining nothing was happening, I guess they finally got some action.  Though it never seemed to me that Stannis could win. He's a cold character we barely know--it would be bad drama to let him take over. Still, with his considerable advantages, I'm a bit surprised he was repelled so easily.  (Will he be back?)

Meanwhile, I guess it'll be next season when Robb finally makes his big move.  And after that, I guess, are the dragons and the wildlings waiting in the wings.

Mad Men, "The Other Woman":

It's getting predictable with Mad Men.  Fans complain nothing is happening, and then you get an episode like this and all is forgiven.

A lot of episodes could have been called "The Other Woman," but in this case, it most obviously refers to the Jaguar, which is sold as a mistress that you can buy, even if she's a lot of trouble.

We start with what Don promised last week--the agency is working overtime to come up with a presentation for Jaguar.  Don puts Peggy in charge of everything else. (The boys all get a nice lobster lunch from deep-pockets Roger and Peggy looks on.)

Ken and Pete dine with Herb, who's in charge of dealerships and has to say okay for the account to come through. He makes it clear what he wants--Joan. A night with her and he'll look positively upon them, but no Joan, no go.  He's married, by the way, but why would he let that get in the way?  After all, he knows Joan is married, too.  As Ken notes, this is what you get when you're in the car business.

At Don's pad, Joan is preparing for an audition tomorrow.  It's a dark comedy, Little Murders.  (She better hope she doesn't get it, since it'll flop badly on Broadway.  Then it'll do well in London and the Alan Arkin-directed off-Broadway production will be a hit.)  Don wishes she could help with Jaguar, though she seems turned off by the whole mistress angle.  Hey, that's why men, not women, buy Jags.

Next morning, Pete comes into Joan's office.  It's an amazing scene, letting us know this episode will be something different. Sure, Roger regularly gets call girls for clients, and Joan has slept around plenty (including with Roger), but pimping out Joan?  Yet Pete, who may not be lovable but knows what the company needs, is willing to broach the subject.  He tells Joan about Herb's proposition and says it's unfortunate this means the company won't get Jaguar.  He goes on trying to sell it.  It's not prostitution, it's business. You're like Cleopatra, you could be a queen.  (Not unlike Cersei's advice to Sansa in this week's Game Of Thrones, where she explains the power women have.)

At a phone call in Harry's office, Peggy, on the spot, comes up with a new campaign for Chevalier Blanc and saves the day.  She's still got it, even if Don doesn't seem to appreciate it.

Meanwhile, Pete meets with the partners.  It was odd enough to discuss it with Joan, but here they have a whole business meeting about it.  Don is disgusted (he wants to work to win them over) and walks out. (So Don, who for four seasons slept around more than anyone, is the nobel one know--actually, he always was the purist when it came to their work.) The others are outraged, but they don't leave.  Pete explains this is how it must be if they want Jaguar.  Perhaps they could offer Joan that $50,000 extra they've got, as a finder's fee, which especially bothers Lane, who's already taken his cut.  The others don't want to get soiled by the deal, but they don't say no.

Meanwhile, Don and the gang are still failing at the Jaguar pitch.  Peggy, Harry and Ken come in and discuss her great work, but Don is testy, and even throws money at her in contempt. Ken follows Peggy to her office and tries to explain about Jaguar.  She's still not happy.

Lane drops in on Joan.  She's disgusted to discover there was a partner's meeting about the situation.  He's there to talk her out of it.  Especially the part about paying her $50,000.  (She says that's four times her salary, so she makes 12.5--not a bad amount in 1967, though not enough to make, a single mom, rich, especially in Manhattan.)  He says she should ask for a 5% stake in the company.  Hey, I thought you didn't want her to do it at all, but right now Lane just wants that bonus.

At home, Pete reads Goodnight Moon to his baby while Trudy watches.  A regular domestic scene, but we knows he's not happy.  A bit later, he complains about this life in the country. He wants an apartment in the city if they get Jaguar.  He's tired of the commute and likes Manhattan, but she wants to raise her kid in the country.  Is this marriage unhappy, or is Pete taking his problems home with him?

At the office, they're still working, and Megan comes in with her friend Joy to say hello.  Don and Megan go into the office and before the audition she wants a little confidence and sex (or is it confidential sex?).  Meanwhile, Joy, a game girl, crawls on the table in the conference room like a jaguar.  Ginsberg watches and thinks.

Joan goes home. She and her mom don't get along and certainly she and her baby Kevin would be a lot better if she made the sacrifice Pete has suggested.  She's already done the same thing in the past for much less.

In the morning, Megan notes she's made callbacks.  She explains if she gets it she'll have to go to Boston for about three months for previews.  Don says forget it. I guess it's possible as as adman he didn't think about how Broadway works, but Megan figures he figured she wouldn't be cast.  Has there been an episode yet where these two didn't fight?

At the office, Joan meets with Pete and demands to get a percentage of the firm, just like Lane suggested. They're treading on new ground here, and it's both funny and horrifying.

So Mike has had an idea.  In Don's office, he tells his boss that he's going back to the mistress idea, even after Don scotched it.  Ginsberg kept at it and came up with a good line--"Jaguar.  At last, something beautiful you can truly own." It's a hit.

Meanwhile, Joan lunches with Freddy Rumsen, of all people. He's still around?  She puts her toes in the water and considers looking elsewhere. He eggs her on.  Say it ain't so, Peggy. Freddy will even set up a meeting (and then ask Don if he can fill the vacancy left by Peggy).

That night, Pete tells Don he loves the campaign.  He also notes he's taken care of all other problems.  Don thought the subject was finished, but Pete explains it's not over when he leaves the room.  Don is very unhappy.  He goes to visit Joan and tell her it's not worth it, and that he walked out of that meeting.  (Last week we had more great Don/Joan stuff.  They don't get that many scenes together, but they make them count.)

Next morning, at Jaguar, the Sterling Cooper men march in as another agency walks out, like a scene out of Anchorman or something.  Don's at his salesman best, like the old days (though in the old days he came up with the slogans).  He sells them the idea and it goes over great.  And there seated at the board is Herb, grinning.  See, we intercut Don's speech with his gruesome "date" with Joan.

It's a bit obvious.  We got from the start that Joan is like the Jaguar--beautiful, out of control, something you can't have (unless you're willing to pay a lot).  We got that Joan, as much as the Jaguar, is the Other Woman.  Still, it's effective.  And if you're complaining that you saw it coming, the punchline makes it work.  We're seeing what happened last night, and we end with Don coming to see Joan, in fact, after she's already done it, and wanting to take a shower to feel clean. (Second time this season we've had the time switch.)

Next day at the office, they're feeling good about the pitch.  Joan is feeling a bit removed.  She did what she felt she had to do, but it's hard to celebrate.

Meanwhile, Megan doesn't do well at her callback.  At lunch, Peggy meets with Don's arch-enemy Ted Chaough.  Ted wants Peggy, so she writes down a number on a pad. Thank goodness they let us see it. She wants $18,000.  A very good salary in 1967.  But does she really want to go?  Does she even know?  He offers her $19,000.

At home, Don and Megan compare notes.  She mentions at least she wants him to get it.  (Hey, Megan, when you don't get into Little Murders check out this off-Broadway musical called Hair starting later in the year--it'll move to Broadway a be huge.)

Next morning at the office, they're excited. Then they get the call.  All the partners gather in Roger's office and get the good news.  Don is surprised to see Joan there.  So she did what it took to become a partner. (He probably figures it was after his pep talk, too.)  Meanwhile, Lane is still worried about the bonuses. He's got two more episodes this season to pay for it.

Everyone pulls out the champagne but Peggy wants to talk to Don privately.  Peggy thanks him for spotting her, and being his mentor, but she's leaving.  Don figures he can apologize, pay her more and get her back (he's done this before when they were starting a new firm).  No.  It's time to move on.  (To work with Ted Chaough.)  Okay, no need to wait two weeks, you can leave now.  Good luck.

Wow.  This may be even bigger than hiring out Joan.  The single biggest relationship throughout the show, bigger than even, say, Don and Betty, has been Don and Peggy.  Peggy leaving changes the dynamics in profound ways.  (And Elisabeth Moss is a lead.  She can't be leaving the show, can she?)  As everyone else celebrate, Joan watches as Peggy walks out of the office. Could it be Peggy is the Other Woman? She gets on the elevator and the Kinks sing "You Really Got Me."

I think it was the best episode of the season.  Not only did a lot happen, but we saw stuff we've never seen before, and probably thought we never would.  I especially like how they didn't back away.  While I'm not thrilled as a fan to see Peggy leave, they didn't wimp out. Even better was Joan.  Most shows (especially on the networks) wouldn't even consider letting Joan do what she did.

The only question is what's left in the next two episodes.  With Peggy gone for good (I assume) and Joan a partne (as Don explained to Peggy, she's been there 13 years--he still lies pretty well), there are still a lot of unanswered questions.  How will SCDP respond to being in the big leagues?  What will Betty and Henry do?  What happens with Don and Megan, especially if she gets a major role?  Will Ginsberg step up and take Peggy's place (as he practically has).  Will Lane 1) get fired 2) go to jail 3) be deported?

A lot of possibilities before the season ends.  And two more seasons to go after that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe that's the big arc. Peggy eats Don's lunch at a different firm. Sort of fits in with the launch of MTM.

3:12 AM, May 29, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Other Woman was a test of all the women in the show, including Megan, to see if they were in control and how much they'd sell themselves for. Megan told Don that she was her own woman though I wonder how much she'd be her own woman if her life wasn't being paid for by her huaband. Peggy left because it was about more than money, it was about control over her life, even though she did have a number. Joan, who's getting older and has a kid, sold out, but only after discovering even Roger wasn't speaking up for her. Of course, years before she had regular sex with Roger and received many gifts for it, but that was presumably of her own free will.

10:58 AM, May 29, 2012  

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