Don't open the box, Peggy, don't open the box! DON'T OPE
Too late. With so much time, cameras and distance between us Peggy didn't hear the shouting from my apartment. Yeah, I was actually shouting. I am generally as quiet with the TV as I am in movie theaters... unless the show calls for raucous participation like, oh, Election Night or Drag Race. And though Mad Men invites gasping and laughter and speculation and veritably lives to provoke responses those responses are generally of the sort that take time to unpack.
Which is, perhaps, why I never write about the show. Or at least not weekly as intended. I'm always still unpacking; the show seems denser than ever what with its ever expanding universe (now bicoastal and double-floored in NYC) and ever growing cast of characters to populate the agency which has tripled (at least) in size since Season 1. That's a lot of baggage to unpack. And not just of the personal damage variety... though there's always been plenty of that in Matthew Weiner's masterwork.
A trip to the movies, intruding showbiz, and a couple of stray observations after the jump...
This seventh season hasn't had much in the way of movie references - the Vietnam war is raging and this world is too unsettled for showbiz. Oddly, the actual fictional presence of showbiz in the series (Megan's career as a rising waiting actress) seems to have also dampened the show's interest in actual showbiz as light touch historical atmosphere. But we did get a shot of Don Draper in a movie theater which hasn't happened since he took his son to The Planet of the Apes last year.
The movie he was watching was the only American feature by French auteur Jacques Demy (of Umbrellas of Cherbourg fame) called Model Shop (1969) and since Don has already been established as a fan of French cinema and Deneuve this connection/trip makes total sense. I had actually never heard of this movie though (oops) so if you'd like to read about it, check out these articles at Gothamist or Film School Rejects.
Stray Observations on the Last Few...
The decision to split this final season into two parts -- the new craze in Hollywood, also famously poisoning the narrative flow of multiple movies -- may well prove destructive. In the past this acclaimed drama has had a very similar trajectory each season. People always seem to grouse about how "slow" it is and how it's lost its mojo for the first few episodes and then somewhere in the middle of the season (or sooner) something clicks into place, the long game revealing itself if you will, and then everyone is excited again. And then the season ends with everyone excited for what's to come. This year that pattern will be cut right in the redemptive middle and my guess is that's going to be way more annoying than stimulating/hype-driving.
"A DAY'S WORK" A
MVP(s): Dawn & Shirley (Teyonnah Paris & Sola Bamis). This episode, involving a misunderstanding about Valentines Day flowers, is my favorite of Season Seven. It was played largely as farce and though Elisabeth Moss did her usual great work as the increasingly lonely and myopic Peggy, there's a reason the internet was demanding a 70s era spinoff sitcom: Dawn & Shirley for the win. And what a masterstroke for the writers to push Joan to see the potential in Dawn as the new Joan.
"FIELD TRIP" A-
MVP: Betty (January Jones) for Mother of the Year again on an unexpected field trip with Bobby where she actually drinks milk direct from a cow's udder instead of liquour. So many many great lines from this eternally unhappy/misunderstood/hilarious bitch-goddess. If only this episode had aired on Mother's Day! I will never in a million years understand why people find it so hard to deal with this character or this actress. She's so crucial to the gallows humor and broken children profundity of this show.
"THE MONOLITH" B
MVP: Roger Sterling (John Slattery). And it's still an embarrassing blight on the Emmys that he's never won gold for this richly layered performance of a character whose charismatic surface would have been so easy to coast on for seven years.
"THE RUNAWAYS" B+
MVP: Don Draper (Jon Hamm). And what I said about Roger/Slattery above, repeat. People grew vastly tired of Don Draper in Season Six [Tangent: It's so weird that my two favorite shows of all time, the other being Buffy The Vampire Slayer, involve a lead character who alienates most of the series fans in an undervalued sixth season with her/his existential suicidal moping and a loss of confidence and drive.]. I for one feel surprised by Don this season. He doesn't seem to be continuing his downward spiral in the expected ways. Don seems, if anything, to be regaining his mojo -- or at least is shown as wanting it back, which is possibly the first step. Comebacks are not the free 'you deserve another shot' lucky gifts they appear to be in our collective mythologies but usually the result of pain, renewed focus and work, work, work.
Anyway I loved the finale cool of Don helping two men (Lou & Jim) who despise him into a taxi while pretending their insults are compliments. He knows he's (possibly brilliantly) spoiled their secretive execution plans by offering himself up as a martyr for the guillotine.
Are you still tuning in? Do you share my concern that cutting season 7 off in the middle will kill the momentum of this portrait of unravelling America circa 1969?