Tuesday, October 12, 2010

'Mad Men' -- Blowing Smoke

Image credit: AMC
*Warning – Spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Mad Men.*

Addiction. Addiction to tobacco. Addiction to heroin. Addiction to lies, to false facades, to impulsive actions, to getting involved with the wrong people. Mad Men was awash in bad-for-you addiction in its second-to-last season four episode and not just Don “I’m falling off the wagon” Draper.

First of all, seeing Midge return was a surprise and kind of refreshing, until of course we saw the sorry state into which her life has fallen, courtesy of her addiction to heroin as she and her husband offered to prostitute herself for the sake of more money for the next score.

While he himself had hired prostitutes in the last year to feed his addiction to his self-loathing, Don surveyed the wreckage that is Midge’s life and was stunned. It was impossible not to think of his life. During the last episode he slept with his secretary, jeopardizing his budding, healthy relationship with Faye. He’s started drinking again and his company’s on the brink.

But Don attempted to redeem himself for some of his bad behavior, paid Pete’s portion of the mandated partner contributions in order to keep the company afloat, a nod to Pete’s discretion when it came to the Dick Whitman matter.

Don also sought to cleanse himself of his company’s “addiction” to Lucky Strike -- the loss of which could wind up destroying Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce -- by unilaterally composing and then purchasing a full-page ad in the New York Times telling the world, “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco” and vowed that the agency wouldn’t accept tobacco companies as clients any longer. (Don was shown swimming as you heard his voice-over reading his open letter. Water and cleansing . . . which led to a scene where Don come face to face with Megan.)

Don experienced a Jerry Maguire moment of sorts, although Don’s open letter wasn’t a heartfelt opus, ‘twas but a mere marketing ploy to save his sinking agency. (Loved Peggy’s wry smile when she called Don out on the fact that this was a stunt as much as Peggy’s staged mall over the ham in the market was.)

Bert’s response to Don’s stunningly narcissist act – “We’ve created a monster” – was an equally stunning one, quitting. Certainly Bert isn’t really gone, he can’t be, can he?

Maybe he really can be, given what Robert Morse, who plays Bert Cooper, told AMC’s Mad Men blogger that:

"You never know with Matt [Weiner] what is going to happen, and you never know what the future will bring, whether I'll be going to the unemployment line looking for another job or whether I'll be coming back or anything. So all I do is pick up my shoes and say good-bye to everybody and I'm out of the office. What happens next year I don't know. I hope I get a phone call. I think it's the best show in the world. . . Maybe we'll have to get a thing going: bring Robert Morse back.”

Meanwhile, back in the awkward, uncomfortable and emotionally withholding Francis home, Sally had been sneaking around and hanging out with creepy Glen – the one who ransacked the house for Sally earlier in the season -- though it should be noted that Sally took a pass on his offer of cigarettes, unlike in season two when Sally stole Betty’s cigarettes and, when Betty found her smoking, shoved her in a closet. Sally’s truly the product of the duplicitous Betty and Don, telling her therapist that Betty doesn’t really care how Sally feels because Betty just wants compliance.

About Betty . . . the fact that once she realized Sally was hanging out with Glen – a haunted kind of boy who’d previously show an interest in Betty in season two, when Betty dressed him in one of Don's T-shirts and watched cartoons with him – was what prompted Betty to announce that they’d be moving out of the house, when her own husband’s pleas fell on deaf ears, is disturbing. On so many levels.

All of this, plus laying off Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce employees, made me wonder: How will this play in the season finale next week, called, “Tomorrowland?” The AMC Mad Men web site only says this of the season finale: “Opportunity arises for Don and Peggy.”

If you had the ear of the Mad Men writers, what would you hope to see in the season four finale?

Image credit: Michael Yarish/AMC.

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