Monday, September 21, 2009

‘Mad Men’ Monday: Guy Walks Into an Advertisting Agency

*Warning, spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Mad Men.*

“I’m afraid of what’s going to happen when you turn off the lights.”
-- Sally to Don.

This episode opened and closed with Don and Sally, in the shadows of Sally’s bedroom, with Don trying to comfort Sally who is actively mourning Grandpa Gene, who recently died. And Sally’s unable and unwilling to embrace Baby Gene, who has just come into the world.

From the dimly lit Draper bedrooms the bright light of the overhead projector in Sterling Cooper’s conference room was also used as a metaphor, projecting the new Sterling Cooper flow chart graphically demonstrating just how much the wreckage that is Roger Sterling’s personal life has extinguished the light of his career.

Then there was Joan, asleep on the sofa, cloaked in darkness, waiting for her drunk husband Greg to come home after spending all afternoon and evening sulking in a bar, mourning what he thinks is the death of his surgical career, at the same time telling Joan that she has to either get back her old job, which she just left, or get a new one, putting Joan in the uncomfortable position of being powerless and having to grovel to the Brits to get her job back.

While the episode was heavy in its use of the word "light," as well as the physical presence or absence of it, “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” seemed to use light as a mechanism to address how the characters are handling the oftentimes abrupt and unexpected detours life throws their way.

Sally: She wanted a nightlight to cut through the darkness that’s hovering over her like a cloud. But, as much as she wanted the light, it provided her with no solace. Neither did Betty’s transparent attempts to get Sally to warm to her baby brother by saying that “Baby Gene” conned some fairies into buying Sally a Barbie doll, which Don later found in the shrubs in front of the house. The final scene had Sally shrieking in the middle of the night after seeing that Gene’s Barbie had returned to her room. As she cried into her father’s shoulder, she told him, “Grandpa Gene, he’s not supposed to be here anymore. He’s called Gene. He sleeps in his room. He looks like just like him and I bet when he starts talking he’s gonna sound just like him too.” To which Don said, “He’s a baby . . . There’s no such thing as ghosts.” Don brought her with him into Gene’s room and, while holding them both, said, “We don’t know who he is yet or who he’s going to be. And that is a wonderful thing.” (This makes two weeks in a row for a tender, heartwarming Don-Sally scene.)

Sterling Cooper: The British “invaded” on the eve of July 4 to gum up the works of Sterling Cooper some more. “We took their money and we have to do what they say,” Bert Cooper said resignedly to Roger after Roger complained he wasn’t on Putnam Powell and Lowe’s new Sterling Cooper flow chart. And, how sad was it that poor Lane Pryce got “promoted” to Bombay (much to his horror) and then, in the wake of the John Deere riding lawn mower accident, got his job back? “I feel like I just went to my own funeral. I didn’t like the eulogy,” Pryce said.

Loved the quote from Pete Campbell on the new “reorganization,” “One more ‘promotion’ and we’re going to be answering phones.”

Meanwhile, Don trod carefully when he was summoned to the Waldorf-Astoria by the head of the Hilton Hotels, the same man for whom Don had mixed a drink at Roger’s horrifying Kentucky Derby soiree, and who was now soliciting Don’s opinion on a Hilton ad campaign. I found it interesting that Don didn’t seem to flinch when Hilton pressed him for free advertising advice, particularly after Don said that this was his profession and that Hilton wouldn’t be in the presidential suite if he gave his work away for free. When Hilton said, “What do you want?” and Don said “a chance for your business,” Hilton told him to “think bigger.” Don’s reply was in the form of an adage about not being suffocated by the opportunity that he can’t see the clear picture, “One opportunity at a time.”

Joan: Once the sage woman who wielded power in Sterling Cooper with her wisdom and powerful use of her own sex appeal, on paper Joan now has “everything,” the wife of a doctor who quit her job to be a full-time wife, something she once described as the lucky dividend of women’s work, as Peggy aptly reminded her. (“I’m really happy that you got what you wanted,” Peggy said. Just, not so coincidentally, like Roger Sterling’s new bride, Jane Sterling, who was a secretary for a blink of an eye before landing a married man, the one Joan couldn’t quite get.) In her dark living room, Joan saw that her transformation from being a full-time working woman to being a full-time wife wasn’t exactly what she thought it’d be. “I wish you caviar and children and all that is good in your new life,” Sterling Cooper’s short-lived chief operating officer Guy MacKendrick said to her in front of the staff, bringing her, uncharacteristically, to tears.

Other noteworthy moments:

-- The lawn mower incident was gory, theatrical and ballsy. To have the shiny new penny of a PPL chief operating officer lose his foot (and his job?) via Ken Cosgrove’s trophy? The subsequent scene where blood was squeegee-ed off of Harry Krane’s office window, to his great consternation, was brilliant. Sterling Cooperites did have a base urge to spill some of the imperialist British blood (though not literally), didn’t they?

-- Notice how warm Betty and Don have been with one another lately? The argument over “THAT” name notwithstanding, the two of them have seemed cozier, more comfortable. The scene where Betty gave Don a can of beer, a bowl of chicken salad and a sleeve of Ritz crackers while Don let her see that he was excited about the prospects of a potential London-based promotion, had a much different feel to it than any of the scenes between them in season two.

-- This exchange:

“I’m bored,” Bobby said to Betty who was holding Gene while lying on her bed.

“Go bang your head against a wall,” she said.


“Only boring people are bored.”

-- It’s becoming clear that Betty’s going to favor Gene, as a way to mourn her father (and, by extension, her mother?). How will that affect the increasingly belligerent Sally?

What’d you think of “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency?”

Image credit: AMC.

1 comment:

Max H said...

Working my way through the series Netflix Style. I watched this last night. This is an astute write up, like your writing style as well.