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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

August 17, 2009 at 10:02 AM

Let’s talk “Mad Men”

OK, so it isn’t a movie. But “Mad Men,” which had its season 3 premiere last night on AMC, has all the qualities of great cinema: smart, subtle writing; beautifully burnished camerawork; memorable characters; addictive storylines. So if you, like me, have been anxiously awaiting the new season, let’s talk about the episode, titled “Out of Town.” Spoiler alert: Stop reading here if you haven’t watched it yet and want to be surprised . . .
This show’s great strength is the way creator Matthew Weiner (who wrote last night’s episode) understands the power of what isn’t said, and a couple of close-ups last night said more than any words could. Think of Pete, realizing that his longed-for promotion comes with unwanted strings, looking shocked and bitter and entitled and petulant and just a little bit hurt and betrayed; Vincent Kartheiser showed us all of that and more. Or Sal, quaking on the plane ride home from Baltimore because Don has learned his secret — and then realizing that Don (who is, himself, the master of the double life) is telling him, in that ad code in which Don so often speaks, that he won’t tell, and that it didn’t happen.
One question quickly answered is whether Don has truly changed: Though he’s playing the role of the solicitous husband at home with Betty, his life elsewhere remains a hall of mirrors, with different faces at every turn. And more questions remain: Peggy and Joan, despite a wonderful scene as they arrive at the office (Joan, so coolly you could pour Scotch over her: “I’m not at work yet.”), were minor characters this week, so we don’t know the fallout of Peggy’s confession to Pete last season, or of Joan’s engagement (though it’s obviously still on) to the creep. Or how Roger’s marriage to Jane is going, or whether we’ll ever see Duck or Freddy or Anna or Rachel again . . . but time will tell. This show knows how to take its time, and that’s much of its unique appeal.
And what did you think? Did this episode satisfy?

Well, at least they look perfect. (Photo courtesy of AMC)

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