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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira:

August 24, 2009 at 9:13 AM

Last night’s “Mad Men”

It’s Monday morning again, and the hell with the movies (at least for the moment): “Mad Men” is what I want to talk about. First of all, ouch — way too many commercials last night, awkwardly interrupting the action. Couldn’t they get a sponsor for the “limited commercial interruption” thing they had last week (and in previous seasons)? This show glides along so smoothly, any interruption feels as harsh as . . . well, Roger Sterling, not grasping at all why his daughter’s uncomfortable with his barely-out-of-her-teens new bride (despite an offer to shop at Dior!). And yet the wonderfully shallow Roger, played to rakish perfection by John Slattery, continued to win my heart, as he does every episode, with some hilarious off-the-wall comment. This time, gazing at the suit of armor in Pryce’s office: “Do you ever get three sheets to the wind and try that thing on?” (Am I remembering the line right? It killed me.) Anyone else think, based on the look they exchanged last night, that the Roger-and-Joan story isn’t over?
Not too into the subplot with Betty’s family; somehow the tension feels like overkill, and I’m wondering what precisely will be accomplished by Betty’s father moving in with the Drapers, other than Don feeling even more claustrophobic (though it was his idea!). This episode buzzed more at the office, where a few mysteries were solved: Yes, Joan did marry the horrible doctor (I guess last week’s “I don’t ride the subway any more” was code, as so many lines are on this show); yes, Paul is still a pompous twit; yes, Pete’s back to his bright-blue suits.
But this episode belonged to Peggy, who’s slowly but surely transforming herself into Don — and finding that being a young female Don doesn’t help much on lonely nights. At the office, she’s gained confidence, though the guys still don’t take her particularly seriously. Peggy’s right about the diet soda ad (why pitch the ad to men, when it’s women who will buy the product?), but the men are too busy ogling Ann-Margret in “Bye Bye Birdie” (!) to listen. And then we get the most touching moment of the hour: Peggy, in her modest apartment, stands before the mirror in an angelic bow-trimmed nightgown and belts out “Bye Bye Birdie,” giving it her best Ann-Margret, giving voice to a side of herself that the office doesn’t know. And then another side was revealed, at the neighborhood bar: a still very young woman who’s uncomfortable around men, yet knows how to get attention. The episode’s final shot, beautifully framed through a door, was of Peggy and Don, discussing Pampers. Nothing on this show ever happens by accident, including the choice of that particular account.
What did you think of the episode? Are you, like me, aching for more Joan? Do you think Peggy and Pete will ever discuss the baby again, or is that buried, as deep as Don’s past? Are you finding that these characters have a life for you, as the best TV or movie characters do — you start thinking about what they’re doing when they’re not on screen? And who else loves Roger?

Even Peggy’s physical transformation is subtle; this season, she’s wearing a little more makeup and dressing a little more fashionably, but is still girlish. (Photo by Frank Ockenfels, courtesy of AMC)



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