Sweater Manifesto

A blog about American zeitgeist and other things.

Month: April, 2013

Tide of Emotion Rises to Flood Levels in Mad Men, Season Six, Episode Five

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The assassination of Martin Luther King is the historical event that takes center stage in this week’s Mad Men, in a way that we’ve never experienced before on the series.   It leads to some of the emotionally richest content the show has ever produced, as the focus on personal relationships and families  (both real and contemplated) causes main and subsidiary characters alike to come to grips with where they are and where they may be headed in the wake of the celebrated civil rights leader’s slaying.

Most of the eruptions and upheavals of the sixties have been hinted at, suggested or integrated seamlessly into the series’ overall narrative.   Even the Kennedy assassination, while deftly portrayed in “The Grown Ups”, still felt a bit of a sideshow to the final dissolution of the Drapers’ marriage.   The King assassination is handled differently.  The announcement–made after actor Paul Newman takes the occasion of the annual advertising awards to make a brazen and politely received plug for his favorite 1968 Democratic nominee for president, Eugene McCarthy–opens some raw wounds and picks at the scab of others.    In a way, the characters find themselves picking at the wallpaper to find what’s underneath, like Bobby Draper in the opening sequence of the episode.

And, in the confusion, sorrow and rage over Dr. King’s death, the Manhattanites cope with a scenario that has them thinking about the fate of their favorite city and whether it will ultimately lie in ruins, as Charlton Heston discovers it in the final scene of “Planet of the Apes” –or at the very least become a bad real estate bet, given Peggy’s nervousness about bidding on a condo a few short blocks from the civic discontent peripheral to but at the psychic heart of the drama.    (The touching “father and son” scene in which Don takes Bobby to see that exercise in ‘60s apocalyptic movie-making drew perhaps a too-obvious parallel to the preoccupations of the Mad Men cast, in particular our hero, but it was affecting and effective nonetheless.)

In a strange way, the King assassination opens what may be one of the most hopeful episodes we’ve seen in a long time, as many of the characters demonstrate real grace, compassion and love in the wake of the desperately tragic event.    Pete in his halting and ultimately ineffective way reaches out to Trudy, a kindred political spirit who had shared his outrage about the Kennedy assassination and is equally stricken about Dr. King.   Megan reminds us of one of the reasons Don fell in love with her, as she is there for Don’s kids in a way that Don is not (at least, until his concerted lapse back into fatherhood with a quietly freaked out Bobby).   Henry has an epiphany about his career and the trajectory he wants his life to take, and Betty is there to support him and, ostensibly, provide some physical comfort at the end of a harrowing day in Harlem.  (And, Betty just might be reconsidering that brunette look, which would be a good thing).   Joan shows real tenderness and feeling toward Dawn, manifested by a very awkward attempt on her part to embrace and console the younger woman when she makes her somewhat disoriented and agitated appearance at the office.

Finally, Abe makes a declaration in a wonderful scene with Peggy that is a reminder what fine work Elisabeth Moss as Peggy has done through the years.    As Abe lets drop that he has been thinking of what part of New York he’d like to raise his and Peggy’s kids, Peggy realizes for the first time that he is in it for the long haul.  The hyper-talented Ms. Moss beautifully renders the play of emotions across Peggy’s face as she realizes that Abe may indeed be her lifelong partner .

To punctuate the almost strange juxtaposition of so much hope with such profound tragedy and fear, the show leaves it to Michael Ginsberg’s father to not only clarify in one sentence why “The Flood” is such an aptly named episode, but also deliver possibly the series’ single funniest line.   The sagacious dad notes that it’s in times of crisis that men and women want to be with each other.  He notes that the animals entered the ark at the time of the flood “two by two”, and wonders if his son intends to hop on board with his father, rather than a woman.

It really is a bit of an ark out there in the wake of the King assassination.  Some characters are pairing off for good (Abe and Peggy), others are taking on water and perhaps trying to bail at the same time(Don and Megan) while still others are on the shore looking on (Pete and Trudy), or wondering which partner to jump on board with (Ginsberg, his choice being between his father and the comely young Jewish schoolteacher he has been awkwardly fixed up with).

Meanwhile, tragedy doesn’t blunt ambition, as at least three characters see opportunity in its wake, or at least perform some mental calculus as to how it will serve or deter them.  Abe sees the tragedy as an opportunity for a New York Times byline and Henry decides it’s time to head to Albany as a state senator.  And, Harry Crane, his life essentially consumed by the vagaries of the primetime TV schedule, nearly comes to blows with Pete, who sees vulgarity and racism in Harry’s concern with losing client dollars over “make goods” resulting from preemptions.    It’s a fight that feels very contemporary while at the same time highly appropriate for the period, and it’s a great virtue of the MM staff that the writing results in a scene played right down the middle.

A new character sees opportunity in the ruins, as well.   The mysterious Randall Walsh, a bow-tied cross between Howard Hughes and a New Age shaman, makes his strange appearance (the fine character actor, William Mapother, from Lost).   He channels dead Indian chiefs and thinks he can communicate through telepathy, and he’s believes that Dr. King has come to him in a dream to help him find a different way of communicating about commercial real estate- very different.    Obviously, Roger knows him from a previous life, and takes everything he says with a huge bucket of salt.     Walsh represents a jarring interlude in the show, and it will be interesting to see if his storyline is drawn further, or was simply comic relief.

The penultimate scene in the episode is one of the more remarkable exchanges between Megan and Don throughout their relationship, in which perhaps for the first time Don reveals to another human being what he truly is feeling.   His confession that his sorry childhood had numbed his response to becoming a father, followed by an equally heartrending admission that he’d been transformed into a loving parent gave a glimpse through the dark and foggy window that obscures his tortured soul.   Jessica Pare as Megan makes you truly believe at that point in time that she could squeeze at least a lemon’s worth of real humanity from Don.    It provides a glimmer of hope that while the Draper marriage may be heading for the rocks, but there’s the potential for navigating around them, particularly if the Rosens have to stay in DC for any particularly length of time.    As Don looks out at Manhattan after putting Bobby to bed, perhaps he’s finally trying to come to grips with his life, rather than scheming for his next assignation with Sylvia.   Or perhaps it’s one of many curveballs that Matthew Weiner has thrown at the viewer- difficult to hit and hard to predict.

Author’s Note:  William Mapother’s appearance reminds me of his raging, uncompromising performance as the grieving widower and father of a wife and daughter killed in a vehicular manslaughter and who, in dissolution and despair, unwittingly enters into an affair with the young woman who killed them.   The movie is Another Earth, written and co-starring the indie favorite Brit Marling (Richard Gere’s CFO daughter in the fine 2012 film  Arbitrage), and is not only a stirring depiction of two emotionally damaged people looking for salvation, but a thoughtful rumination on the potential for alternate realities.  It’s well worth a look.

And does anyone think that Don and Megan’s apparent rapprochement in this episode has to do with her being “Megan Draper” the ad copywriter at the New York Advertising Award dinner, rather than the soap opera actress “Megan Calvert”?     Plus, she won the only SCDP award of the night.   Reason enough for that fatherly peck on the forehead from Don on her way out the door with the kids.

Submitted by Harlan R. Teller

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Reality Bites, Illusions Die Hard in Mad Men Season Six, Episode Four

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Editor’s Note: This week, “Mad Men” muser Harlan R. Teller  contemplates the infidelities and illusions the SCDP crew and others live by and the toll it is taking on them.

Before the “Twilight” series reignited America’s strange fascination with vampires, there was the British horror factory, Hammer Studios, which cranked out variations on the “Dracula” theme in the fifties and sixties.    The Hammer entry for 1968 was “Dracula has Risen from the Grave”, featuring the darkly patrician Christopher Lee in the title role.

Invariably, Lee as Drac would be about to put his teeth into the comely neck of the virginal leading lady, when he would notice a discomfiting site- a cross dangling around her neck- a true buzzkill for any enterprising vampire.   Lee as Dracula compels the bewitched beauty into snapping off the cross, and he continues on about his business, making quick work of her neck and consigning her to a grisly immortality, usually terminated by a stake through the heart.

Evidently, Don Draper was a Hammer studio fan- or is symbolically Dracula himself- because of all the cringe inducing, craven behavior he has already exhibited in the first four episodes of Season Six, it’s unutterably sad, disconcerting final scene that leaves the most profound and troubling impression.    Megan’s “fake” seduction on the set of her soap opera somehow gives the hypocritical Draper license to engage in his real infidelity, and as he bends over the enthralled Sylvia to seduce her once again, he spots a cross around her neck.   In homage to Lee, it brings Draper up short.  But what really works like garlic is when she tells him that she prays that his restless and troubled soul finds peace.    Sylvia- her carnality and Catholicism mixing it up like warring tribes in her own morally compromised soul- is one complicated piece of work herself.

In response to Sylvia’s comment, the look of sad, hopeless resignation on Draper’s face- fighting with his inflamed libido for primacy- reminds us once again that Jon Hamm is arguably the finest television actor never to win an Emmy.  And it sets up a Hammer-like variation on a theme, as Hamm as Draper gently moves the cross to Sylvia’s back, and he continues his seduction.  Fade to black– and the darkness that has enveloped the production like a plague the entire season.

Infidelities and illusions are the themes of choice in this week’s entry.    Joan’s friend comes to New York to bask in the reflected glory of Joan’s life as a carefree career girl and advertising agency partner, tries her hand at a clumsy seduction in the bargain, and sees that life as Joan may not be all it’s cracked up to be.    Scarlett, the increasingly emboldened Harry Crane’s secretary, uses stalwart Dawn to make it look like she was working for the five hours she wasn’t.    Timmy, the full-of-it Heinz ketchup guy, creates the illusion that Draper and his adversary, Ted Chaough, really have a shot at his business, only to award it to J. Walter Thompson.   And in return for Don betraying his own motto of “dancing with the one who brought you” (an ironic statement if there ever was one), Raymond the Heinz beans guy fires SCDP without even giving them the traditional ninety days’ notice.   Meanwhile, Peggy is disabused of any illusion that her friendship with Stan is still intact, as he flips her a middle finger during an encounter at a local bar after the pitch.

Then there’s the illusion of the soap opera world, in which Megan continues to thrive, witness a new story line that has her taking on a lover while getting to know the husband and wife producing team perhaps a bit too well.   Which leads to a rare bit of levity, when at dinner the husband and wife invite the Drapers back to their apartment to smoke some grass and perhaps do some swinging (might be my imagination, but it appeared to me that both partners were more interested in Don than in Megan).     The good humor ends in the back of the cab, when Megan tells Don that the couple had been married for eighteen years; clearly both have the same thought, namely, if their lives are going to be as sad as the soap opera couple eighteen years down the road.

In an attempt to assuage Ken Cosgrove’s frustrated father-in-law and Dow Chemical senior executive (the reliably compelling Ray Wise), Harry Crane peddles the illusion that Dow could turn around its corporate image- sullied at the time by antiwar protests over the dropping of Dow-produced napalm in Vietnam) by sponsoring an hour-long variety special hosted by the original sportsman/celebrity himself, Joe Namath.   The idea that a one-hour show featuring vamp-of-the-moment Joey Heatherton gyrating around a stage with “Broadway Joe” would do anything to burnish a company’s corporate reputation is one of the stranger conceits of the show’s history.  Even stranger is Harry’s claim that he deserves a partnership because of the idea (a partnership bid that the two original partners, Sterling and Cooper, defuse in an amusing scene where they give Harry money as opposed to what he truly wants, which is respect.  Meanwhile, Harry is faced with the indignity of having to stare at Bert Cooper’s argyle socks throughout the exchange).

The saddest illusion to be shattered is that Joan’s status as firm partner- while largely deserved and perhaps overdue- was earned in the clear light of day in the office, as opposed to the darkened hotel suite of a prospective client.    Her liaison with Herb the Jaguar guy continues to haunt her, and is casting a pall over the agency.   It’s hard for the leadership of an organization to have moral authority, when they’ve colluded in an immoral act that is at the root of their success.    Which is why when Harry calls them out on this in his awkward bid for partnership, everyone in the room looks at one another and has literally nothing to say.

Meanwhile, Dawn, Draper’s highly efficient, even more highly principled African American secretary, takes center stage, or at least a side stage, as her scenes with her engaged friend represent a Shakespearean interlude, with Dawn commenting on the goings on at SCDP as if she were from a distant planet here to analyze the strange behavior of earthlings.  Her comment about throwing out the empty liquor bottles as if every day was New Year’s Eve at the firm is priceless.    And her observation that so much of the office behavior is fueled by fear is particularly trenchant.

By the end of the episode, Dawn allies herself with Joan, at the risk of her relationship with the other secretaries, as she sees something innately dignified and principled in the older woman’s demeanor that she’d like to emulate- and of course, there certainly is, which makes the compromise that Joan forged even more heartbreaking.    Given the premise on which Joan reached her high perch in the pecking order, it’s entirely possible that Dawn has set herself up for even more disillusionment.

Author’s Note: “Mad Men” showrunner Matt Weiner prides himself on the truthfulness of even the smallest details on the show, which makes the Heinz ketchup pitch particularly perplexing.  It’s true that Doyle Dane Bernbach had the business for a long time, but they didn’t lose it to J Walter Thompson.  In fact, DDB kept the account until 1973, when it was turned over to Leo Burnett, which ultimately created the famous, Carly Simon-inspired “Anticipation” campaign.   It’s a mystery why Weiner fabricated something that could so easily be fact checked, but then again, all those SCDP clients really weren’t serviced by Don Draper, were they?

Submitted by Harlan R. Teller

The Three Faces of Betrayal: Sliding Down a Slippery Slope in Mad Men, Season Six, Episode Three

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Editor’s Note: Our “Mad Men” critic, Harlan R. Teller, ventures further into the heart of a darkening Midtown Manhattan, circa 1968, in his musings about the third episode of the series’ sixth season.

Pete Campbell is the “mad man” we love to hate- a formerly upper-crust street hustler who takes amorality and unscrupulousness in both his professional and personal life to rarified heights.  We’ve always held out hope that Pete would find his kinder, gentler nature, and while he has had his moments, he always seems to revert to into the slippery persona that has marked most of his time at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Pete has spent virtually his entire marriage in betrayal of his wife Trudy, starting with his impulsive and consequential liaison with the impressionable Peggy Olsen in the series’ first episode.  After tempting fate for years, Pete’s penchant for having affairs with his suburban neighbors results in the break-up of his marriage in this episode, as Trudy, reconciled to Pete’s infidelities as long as he kept his straying limited to Manhattan, finally gives him what he richly deserves (and has probably secretly craved all these years)—his walking papers.

Betrayals large and small are in the DNA of “Mad Men”, but in this episode Pete demonstrates his mastery of the practice, not only leaving Trudy with the indignity of comforting his latest conquest after the lovelorn woman has been beaten up by her cuckolded husband, but also happily betraying whatever business scruples he may have left in a desperate effort to yet again satisfy Herb, the smarmy, overstuffed New Jersey Jaguar dealer whose agency-sanctioned tryst with Joan last season led to the firm’s landing its coveted car account.

Meanwhile, Don continues his remarkable ability to compartmentalize, spending his evenings with Megan and his mornings with Dr. Rosen’s comely wife Sylvia, with both the good doctor and Megan continuing in blissful ignorance of their spouses’ infidelity.   The wife (37-year old Linda Cardellini, in a revelatory and career-defining performance, light years away from her work in  “ER” and “Freaks and Geeks”) seems to demonstrate some lingering amount of scruples when left alone with Don at an Italian restaurant, although Don very easily- perhaps too easily- breaks down her willpower and ends up the night in her bed once again.  Meanwhile, Megan lays distraught upstairs, wracked by guilt over a miscarriage that she secretly hoped would happen, so as not to interfere with her burgeoning soap opera career.

Don’s betrayals are so casual and numerous, it is surprising how this last one feels so sad and tragic.   He and Megan continue to drift apart, his ardor burned away and redirected to the cardiologist’s wife, while Megan struggles vainly to keep him interested and engaged (while becoming paler and more vampiric-looking as the episode wears on).   Don has already moved on- moving forward, as he always calls it- and while he and Megan are still together, they are moving further apart with each assignation that takes place in the apartment one floor down.

Herb’s manipulation of the SCDP team is inevitable- the team’s decision (with Joan’s consent) to essentially turn Joan into a “loaner” for a night in return for the car dealer’s deciding vote in the Jaguar pitch is the beginning of a slippery slope heading right toward the firm’s “Munich”, as Don calls it- a reference that essentially brands the episode (entitled “Collaborators”).  Once principles are betrayed, it’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be betrayed once again, and again, with feeling (see Neville Chamberlain, Don’s lodestar on the subject).

Interestingly, the only partner not scathed by moral compromise in this particular instance, is the man who eats moral compromise for breakfast, Don Draper.    He uses his moral authority in this instance to essentially to torpedo Herb’s plans for more “traffic building” radio spots, in the process preserving Don’s vision for a major corporate image campaign.   A hysterical Pete, his prerogatives overridden by the older man’s rhetorical jujitsu in an exercise in reverse psychology that results in the Jaguar clients reaffirming Don’s original vision for the campaign, is outraged at being outmaneuvered.  But it’s the rage of a hollow man, his own plans for betrayal thwarted by someone else’s better judgment.    As someone who has dealt with clients for more than 35 years, I can say there is no greater betrayal in this business than advising a client on a course of action that is antithetical to their best interests in the name of your own self-interest.   Advisors who engage in this form of betrayal tend to have brief careers.

Finally, there’s Peggy, who as the episode wraps up, is about to betray perhaps the one real friend she has left in the business, the guileless Stan, with whom she has engaged in a series of nocturnal calls that are helping to reconcile herself to her life at the new agency.   Stan, in a bit of idle gossip, lets Peggy in on the dissatisfaction of the manager running the Heinz catsup ad business- which could only have been gleaned from knowing about the ad manager’s clandestine visit to SCDP.   All is fair in love and advertising, as she finds out when her boss announces the next day that she’ll be going after Heinz catsup, all because of his overhearing a stray conversation between two confidants.   Peggy clearly is tortured over the decision, but as she takes the file from her boss’ hand, it’s clear that her ambition will win out over her scruples.

Perhaps the collective weight of all his betrayals is catching up to our antihero, as the episode closes with him approaching the door to his apartment after yet another assignation downstairs with Sylvia, and literally crumpling onto the floor, unable to bring himself to unlock the key that would bring him face to face with the contours of his betrayed life.   It is a haunting image, and perhaps one that best encapsulates the sheer physical exhaustion that moral decay can cause.    While the episode’s flashbacks showing Dick Whitman’s young life in a bordello with his own morally compromised stepmother as perhaps the predicate for his life of philandering, it is the choices that Draper himself has made in adulthood that has brought him to this dark corner on the polished floor of a New York high rise.  That final, lingering shot is very much true to form for this dark, troubling episode that continues the noir-esque strain established last week.

Author’s Note: While I called Dr. Rosen last week perhaps the noblest character in the show’s history, one friend of mine is not so sure.   He claims that it’s entirely possible that the good doctor is making his own house calls, and not at the hospital, but in fact involving an amour of his own.   It does seem to the casual viewer that even with the millions of people living in New York City, there is a lot of heart disease going on in the cardiologist’s neighborhood.   I’d really like to think better of the good doctor, but perhaps my friend is right.  We shall see.

Submitted by Harlan R. Teller

A Dark, Lonely Walk Through The Doorway in The Season Six Premiere of Mad Men

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Editor’s Note: What follows is Harlan R. Teller’s belated blog post about Mad Men, Season Six, Episodes One and Two. The author thanks so many of his friends for asking when this would be available. So, due to popular demand, here it is, just in time for the next episode.

The sixties are in full bloom in the season six premiere of Mad Men, and the good news is that thus far we are spared the sight of Don Draper in a leisure suit. The bad news is that our melancholic hero, thinking of death and becoming more dour and contemplative the higher that wife Megan climbs the dubious ladder of soap opera stardom, is back to his philandering ways.

Even worse news is that the woman he chooses to bed is the wife of perhaps the noblest character in the show’s history- a Jewish cardiologist who literally brings the Drapers’ doorman back to life following a heart attack (and who is last seen skiing up a snow-locked New York street in answer to an emergency call after toasting the New Year with the Drapers. As he skis off, Don repairs to the cardiologist’s apartment- and into his wife’s bed.  It is perhaps the saddest and disappointing entrance through a doorway in this very appropriately named episode that we viewers have ever experienced.   For the first time, we see Don wrestling with his demons even during the course of his betrayal.

But the most surprising news is that the estimable John Slattery’s Roger Sterling character- he of the glib one liners, the multiple wives and lovers and incorrigible manners- has become the emotional core of the show. Slattery is the Hank Aaron of character actors- someone who is so good at what he does that he makes it look not only easy but like he’s not even trying. In a lesser actor’s hands, Roger would have been just a wisecracking foil to our dark and deeply disturbed hero over the past five years. But Slattery (and creator Matthew Weiner) are up to bigger things here, as one of the oldest and potentially most hidebound of MM characters spends a good deal of airtime in this episode chasing his inner demons and trying to make sense of a life that he finds increasingly meaningless.

Don contemplates death while Roger confronts it. Roger’s aged mother, who idolized him, dies, and while her death first looks like an excuse for a sustained Henny Youngman act, he uses her funeral to issue an angry rant, triggered by an unwanted visitor (ex-wife Mona’s amour) and an untimely bout of nausea by an obviously sick (and half in the bag) Don. Roger’s hissy fit masks his deep fear that he really has no feeling whatsoever about his life and the people around him- people who, as Mona points out after Roger makes a half-hearted (and easily rejected) pass at her, all love him, despite knowing better.

Roger’s self reflection, brought on by his dabbling in LSD in Season Five, continues on a psychiatrist’s couch in this episode, featuring a perhaps more interactive Freudian than the loose lipped sourpuss who treated Betty in season one, and one whose primary value to Roger seems to be that he finds our newly self-aware ad man funny. Roger prattles on about walking through doors and over bridges only to find that there is no real destination to life, only more doors and bridges. And to prove it, his mother ups and dies and then, in an exquisite nod to the utter randomness that terrifies him so much, the shoeshine man to whom he has been typically and offhandedly kind to over the years leaves him his shoeshine box after his death. That seems to take the emotional cake for Roger, as he retreats to his office, contemplates the box for a moment and then breaks down in a torrent of tears, obviously more for himself than for the unfortunate donor.

I toyed with calling this posting “Trouble in Paradise”, as the opening scenes are of Don and Megan’s working vacation in Hawaii, featuring a widening emotional gap between a enraptured (and continually toasted) Megan and a distant Don. There’s a certain ominous and almost surreal quality to these scenes that make it clear that something is no longer right in their world, and that his time for being emotionally and sexually dominated by his younger partner—along with his determination to mend his ways for good— is long gone. Megan spends most of her Hawaiian vacation in an alcoholic and drug induced sex coma, pretty much oblivious to Don’s increasing ennui and disinterest. The gap is increasingly generational, as Megan appears to be embracing the liberation of the sixties, while Don still is still a quintessential man of the fifties, taking an offhand hit of an offered joint just to placate his younger and much more “with it” wife.

Perhaps the most intriguing segment of the Hawaii scenes is Don’s encounter with a GI on leave to marry a Mexican girl from San Diego—an encounter taking place at the hotel bar, the type of place that throughout the series has seemed to be Don’s default option for initiating human contact, both male and female. Both the drunken GI and Don discover that they have the same government-issued cigarette lighters, and in homage to the case of mistaken identity through which Dick Whitman became Don Draper, Don somehow ends up with the GI’s lighter instead of his own. As further irony, when asked whether he was married when serving in Korea, Don tells the GI that he wasn’t- although we of course know that the real Don Draper was very married during his ill-fated Korean tour of duty. Don plays impromptu best man for the GI the next morning, leaving his own wife alone all night in their own marital bed- clearly a foreshadowing of many lonely and/or disengaged nights to come.

Walking through another equally gloomy and darkened doorway is Betty, who visits a hovel down in the Soho district in an attempt to retrieve and potentially save the young life of a violinist friend of Sally’s who seems intent on throwing her life away after being rejected by Julliard. Besides being treated to the surprise of the generally self-absorbed Betty taking an active– and potentially dangerous–interest in another human being, the scenes at the dilapidated apartment building take the Aquarian romance out of the sixties, depicting the young rabble in residence there as being feral, frightening and utterly unlikeable. Betty’s violin-less departure resigns her to the child’s fate, and is a heartbreaking moment.

The merging of the personal and professional in the creation of ads has always been a hallmark of Mad Men in general and Don in particular, and for the most part Don’s personal life has been the fuel that has led to his most creative work. In these episodes, what’s most personal is his obsession with death, which, rather than leading to great creative, leads to a truly creepy campaign for a Hawaiian resort that looks more like the advocacy of suicide than an enticement to visiting an island paradise. While most Mad Men clients tend to be depicted as retrograde boors, these clients had very good reason to be horrified.

This time around, it is Peggy who is saddled with who she considers the blockhead client, the ad manager for Koss headphones.  He proposes that the way around a problematic tagline is simply to eliminate the tagline and not replace it, destroying the sense of the ad and leaving the reader with essentially a spec sheet describing the product. Peggy, never the one to play the diplomat, is her typical tactless self, leaving no doubt that she thinks the client and his idea are both moronic, and offering up a rather elevated and Draper-like opinion of her own role in making “great ads”. In “Mad Men” land, the account guys are still there to humor the clients and take them out drinking and for other nocturnal activities, while the frustrated creatives are left to barely mask their contempt. It shows that some things haven’t changed with the clothes styles and lengthening sideburns, providing some comforting continuity for those of us discomfited by the darkness of this stylish and stylized set of opening episodes.

What did you think?