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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

August 31, 2009 at 10:24 AM

Joan sings! Pete dances! Just a regular Saturday at “Mad Men”

Oh my. After a couple of shows that I found compelling but a bit disjointed, last night’s episode was just right. I’m just going to throw out a few favorite moments; do chime in with yours:
— The brief, electric Joan-and-Jane confrontation in the office – and haven’t we all been waiting for that? Christina Hendricks can do more with a puff of cigarette smoke than some actors can do with Shakespeare; it was as if she was coolly creating a wall with it, so as not to view Jane (whose simpering “I just keep losing weight!” was oh-so-catty).
— Peggy and her new, motherly secretary Olive. If Olive sticks around (Lola certainly disappeared quickly), this could be a fascinating relationship. I love how Peggy, high on both pot and confidence, blithely told Olive “I’m not scared of any of it,” as if she were telling her own disapproving mother. And then she flounced into her office, on a cloud of creativity. She’s becoming one of the boys, in her own way; rewriting the Sterling-Cooper script, a line at a time.
— Roger’s party was full of let-me-watch-that-again moments: The blackface performance (and which was more squirm-inducing; Roger himself or the delight of the audience watching him?). Pete’s wife’s elaborate kissing-up to Betty, while subtly dissing Harry’s wife (whose name I don’t remember) – has the office hierarchy ever been clearer? Don’s discomfort at the party, until he met a fellow non-upper-cruster at the bar. Pete and Trudy’s remarkably accomplished Charleston – but should we be surprised, since everything Pete does is a performance? Don and Betty’s sweet, unexpected moment of romance, on a dark lawn late in the evening. Rarely does “Mad Men” get sentimental, but it felt oddly earned.
— Joan, realizing at her (horribly dull) party, surely not for the first time, that she’s married the wrong man. Greg, it turns out, may well not be Chief Resident – he botched a surgery – and financial stability may be a long time coming. Hendricks’ rendition of a French song (about, I think, love and marriage) was sweet, breathy, and more than a little frightened. Who knew that Joan would become the most vulnerable character on the show? She and Peggy have traded places in time.
— The drama back home at the Draper’s, where Grandpa Gene accused Carla (who had more lines this episode than ever; is she about to really enter the show?) of stealing $5. Sally, who’s acting out because she’s so starved for attention, took it and elaborately pretended to find it again, but nobody’s fooled. Kiernan Shipka is quietly becoming a fine little actress; watch her when Betty dismisses her, as she so frequently does. The contempt with which Betty treats her children (how telling, when asked about what pregnancy is like, was her response: “I don’t really think about it”) is one of the show’s more heartbreaking aspects.
— Paul remains, as always, insufferable.
And what did you think?

(Love those autumn colors on Joan. Photo credit: Frank Ockenfels; courtesy AMC)

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