Monday, June 11, 2012

No More Men

I watched some of the Tonys but I don't have much to say, not having seen any of the productions (though I must ask: does Mike Nichols really need another Tony?).  Anyway, I missed the last hour to watch the season's finale of Mad Men, "The Phantom," so let's talk about that.

There's always been a certain amount of sadness in the show, but it suffused the surroundings this episode.  And perhaps that's because, consciously or otherwise, everyone's reacting to Lane's suicide.

We start with Don who's trying to ignore a toothache. He says it'll go away, it always does, but ignoring pain doesn't make it go away.  Megan's mom Marie (played by Julia Ormond) is there for Easter, away from her atheist husband.  Her daughter has her own pain--Megan paid for a screen test but has learned it's just a company trying to get as much of her money as possible.  Meanwhile, mom doesn't think much of her daughter's talent.

On the commuter train there's Howard and Beth, Pete's train friend and the wife he slept with.  She's going to stay with her sister but avoids talking to Pete.  Clearly something's going on.

At work, Harry gets on the elevator with Joan.  He notes she hit the wrong button.  He suspects they're getting new office space, but she won't walk about it.  Clearly something's going on.

Meanwhile, Don thinks he's sees his half-brother Adam.  Don drove him to suicide, as he sort of did to Lane.

Ginsberg is failing at a pitch (due to stupid clients, it seems) and Don comes into help, but can't do much.  Ginsberg and Don don't seem to have the greatest relationship, and it's worth without Peggy to moderate (and the client wishes there were a woman there).

Pete gets what he literally dreamt about earlier--Beth calls and wants to meet him at a hotel.  He's stand-offish but she says it may be his last chance, whatever that means.

We see Peggy at work.  This is good because some thought she'd be completely out of the show. (We'll know a lot more about that next season.)  She's in charge of people here but work is still tough.  There's a new account with a nameless cigarette for women that's definitely going to be Virginia Slims.  Wow, if Peggy gets that she'll go far.

At the partners' meeting, we've got the empty chair of Lane.  The numbers are great, and will continue to be great--presumably thanks to Jaguar and other new business following that.  The partners wonder if they should buy office space upstairs. (When they first moved into the new office they pretended they had space upstairs). Pete leaves early (for the affair) and gives Don his proxy. Don is surprised to find you can leave the meeting early that way.

At the hotel Pete embraces Beth and she explains her situation. The sister thing is a cover story.  She suffers from depression (we might have guessed) and is going in the electroshock.  And not for the first time.  So she wants to be with Pete one more time since she might forget about him afterward.  There's an interesting situation.  Pete is a bit put off, but, just as he came to her, he's not going to leave her behind.

At Don's place Megan commiserates with a fellow actress friend--a continental type who tells Megan about a "Beauty and the Beast" type commercial that Don is associated with. She wants an audition and asks Megan for to put in a good word.  (She starts by saying she'd help Megan if she could.)  Megan says Don doesn't really do this but she'll try.  Meanwhile, some guy keeps calling and hanging up.  Clearly that means something.

After sex, Pete and Beth loll around, talking about what's coming up.  Aren't you happy now, he asks?  But Pete himself isn't happy. He'd be glad to run away with her.  Sound like Don about five years ago.  Anyway, she believes she needs the therapy, and can't go on without it.  Do they have the same problem?  Perhaps not.  She's seriously depressed, while Pete--is he just whiny and moody, or is it more?

Don comes home, tooth still hurting.  Megan has a favor to ask--can he get her an audition for this commercial.  Now that's a real actress.  Don says he can't be helping his wife, that's not how it works.  Besides, she wants to make it on her talent, and do artful things (he's still stung about her feelings on advertising)--what she doesn't need is the money. It is a bit odd, though--he was happy to help her out at the agency, but now if she rejects that, she might as well just be his wife.

The secret caller rings up.  It's Emil, Megan's father, for Marie.  But actually it's Roger Sterling doing an impression.  Last time he and Marie hooked up and he wants to see her again.  He's now living at a hotel and she should come over.  He's his very charming self and she, being French (or at least French-Canadian) seems willing to consider it.  Meanwhile, Megan goes into the bathroom and cries.

Back at the office it's quite crowded.  More business, more workers. There are even a bunch of people in Lane's office.  Don gets to his office and Joan is waiting.  She tabled the conversation last time because she worried about the money for new space.  But she admits more and more money keeps coming in, including a check for $175,000 from Lane's death benefit.  (It's still good if he kills himself?) Joan is pretty broken up about Lane.  She figures, understandably, if she's slept with him maybe he'd still be around.  He did throw himself at her, after all.  Don knows better (or more, anyway).  He decides they'll cut a secret check for $50,000 to give Lane's wife.

At Don's place Megan just lies in bed, depressed. Lot of that going around.  His mom tries to help, but she just wants her to stop chasing her dream.  It's a phantom (yes) when you don't have the talent.  Megan isn't thrilled to here this and Marie is just happy she doesn't live her life through her kids.  Off to Roger, I guess.

Don drops by apartment of Lane's wife, Rebecca (played by Embeth Davidtz--along with Julia Ormond some fine casting).  She's not thrilled will SCDP at all.  They filled him with false hopes (a lot of that going on).  She even found that photo he picked up from the waller in the cab.  She says a frosty goodbye to Don.  I'm guessing we won't see her again, but who knows?

Pete comes home.  Trudy is building a kidney-shaped pool.  And there's Tammy, crying. It's a lovely domestic scene, but Pete isn't happy.  Trudy isn't thrilled with his attitude either.

Marie meets Roger.  They jump onto the bed, but he, believe it or not, wants more than sex.  He wants her to take LSD with him.  The last trip seems to have worn off and he wants to try it again, especially after Lane has left them.  She's willing to try some things, but that's a little outre even for her.  Besides, the last thing she wants from Roger is any sort of commitment.

Don comes home and Megan is drunk.  She's pitying herself.  Don just wants her to be home waiting for him, and besides, she has no talent anyway.  Don wonders how it got this bad, and tells her to sleep it off.  Marie returns and tells Don the best thing he could do for her is to nurse her through her failure.  After that, he'll have what he wants.  But is this what the new Don wants?

Don't tooth is really killing him.  This is not the sort of plot point I like--it annoys us just as it annoys Don. So I'm happy he finally goes to a dentist.  While under, he sees Adam again, who says (a bit on the nose, perhaps, but it is Don talking to himself) that it's not just his tooth that's rotten.  He asks Adam not to leave him.  Don's lost a lot of people along the way.

At the hospital, Pete comes to see Beth.  He hopes they can start from where they left off, but is saddened to discover she really doesn't remember him. So he starts talking about his own situation to her. Once again, a bit on the nose, but he is talking to himself, in a way. Pete has gotten the life he expected but it's not really what he wants. (It's a good scene, but not as memorable as Don meeting Peggy in the hospital). Beth figures a little electroshock would do him a world of good.

Don, being Don, goes to the movies in the middle of the day. Who should he meet there but Peggy.  She did learn from the best, after all.  They talk about their jobs.  She's there because she needs time to think.  Don admits he's sad she's gone, but he's proud of her.  She's getting all that great cigarette money which Don blacklisted himself from. She's flying to Virginia soon, then the lights go down and the music for Casino Royale starts.

On the train, Howard wants to go wild with Pete--he's free, after all.  Pete is disgusted, so Howard knows she's the one he slept with.  They fight and after they're separated he gets into a fight with the conductor, who punches him and orders him off the train.  Pete can always make a bad scene worse.

When he finally gets home, he's got a split lip.  Trudy diagnoses the problem.  He needs that apartment in the city Pete had talked about earlier.  She may be right, if for the wrong reason.

At the office, Don watches Megan's screen test.  (He's smoking. I hope it's 24 hours after the abscess was dealt with.  That's how long his dentist told him to wait.  Speaking of which, I assume anyone watching the screen test would say "this girl's really got a mouthful of teeth.")  It's a "Carousel" moment, but there's no pitch.  Or is it?  Is Don trying to convince himself of something?

The next day, the five living partners look at the upstairs space.  We get a nice tableaux, and a preview, I suppose, of where next season may take us.

Next (some time later, I assume), they're shooting a commercial and Megan plays the part.  So Don interceded.  He's a big man, probably no trouble getting his wife work.  We have a long tracking shot as Don walks away from the set.  He's helping his wife, but is this how he imagined things, or has he turned a corner.

Nancy Sinatra sings "You Only Live Twice," the great theme to the other James Bond film of 1967, and we get one final look at the cast. Don is at a part, smoking and drinking, by himself.  Peggy comes out the shower (in a hotel in Virginia?) and sees one dog humping another outside the window.  It's her new life.  Pete listens to music on headphones--in his new Manhattan pad?  Roger looks out the window at the city.  He's taking another trip, and is naked.  Back at the bar, some women hope to pick up Don.  If his marriage is different from what he'd hoped, is he ready to be the old Don Draper?  We'll find out next season.

So what happened this season?  We went from 1966 to 1967, and there were changes aplenty.

First there's Megan.  A lot of people thought she'd be a quickie marriage, over before the season began. Instead, she was a central character (if not exactly a favorite one) and Don seemed to be trying to make things work this time.  We've never gone a whole season before with his having an affair.  Now she's getting help from him for her career--one he's not thrilled with.  So things'll likely be changing. (Now that Matt Weiner has established her character, I can almost imagine him getting rid of her between seasons.)

Which brings us to Don. He turned 40 and seemed to have turned over a new leaf. He's at least back to work and SCDP (will they change that soon) is expanding, but he's seemed more mature.  We'll find out if that's so next season.

Peggy was probably the biggest change. She's gone elsewhere.  She always seemed like the second lead of the show, and we don't even know if she'll be back.

Pete is still his unsatisfied self. No matter what he gets it's never enough. Will his Manhattan place help?

Ken seems to want to do well and even beat Pete at his own game. Interesting, in that he's actually a reasonable talented writer (or at least a decent hack) who can make a living at it.  I guess his pact with Peggy is now inoperable.

Harry didn't have much to do, but always seems to be the clueless guy who stumbles upward. Who knows, maybe next season he'll become a partner. At least he'll be getting a better office.

Joan lost her husband (good riddance) but is a divorcee with a baby.  She also recognizes she's losing her allure.  So becoming a partner, she may believe, was worth the sacrifice.

Betty we hardly saw.  She's still with Henry, and he still seems to love her, but if she were out of the show I don't think anyone would care.  Sally, meanwhile, shuttles back and forth, and seems poised to be a very screwed-up teenager. Will she be old enough to go to Woodstock?

Roger has lost his second wife, but drugs seem to have opened him up.  Maybe he'll meet the 60s halfway.  He just has to remember not to carry around so much cash.

Bert is just Bert.  He there for the memories as much as anything.  At least now he'll have an office to sit in.

Ginsberg is a dynamic talent, but not quite the legend that Don Draper was.  Give him a few more years.

And poor Lane.  He could have weathered the storm, but that wasn't his way.  His stiff sense of honor mixed with hopeless ambition and a feeling of being cheated did him in, it seems.  Too bad he couldn't have figured out how to stick around for the good years.  But this is a show where people fall by the wayside on a regular basis.

And we say goodbye to Sunday as the TV highlight of the week, at least until Breaking Bad starts up again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This season all the main characters were living in a fantasy that they hoped could work, such as Don's marriage with Megan, Roger with Jane, Peggy in Don's agency, etc. They all woke up in one way or another and are moving on, though if this new territory will work is still quite open.

12:39 AM, June 11, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor Pete. He finally gets to have an affair, just like Don and Roger, and now she doesn't even remember him.

8:57 AM, June 11, 2012  

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