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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

September 28, 2009 at 10:14 AM

Monday morning “Mad Men” musings

So, this weekend I sat in a Victorian drawing room and listened to Cloris Leachman play the piano, very well. But more on that later. Let’s get back to our regularly scheduled “Mad Men” musings. Anyone who complains that nothing happens on this show (not me) has gotten their wish over the past two weeks. I’m still recovering from last week’s bloodbath, and the immortal wisdom of Joan’s line, “One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower.” Where are you, Joan? Are you coming back? Is Matthew Weiner busily crafting a way to get you back into Sterling Cooper? No sign of Christina Hendricks in this week’s show, or in next week’s previews, but her name’s still in the opening credits so let’s just be patient.
So — last night’s episode, in which Don’s borrowed identity returns to haunt him. First, because his drivers’ license has been stolen, reminding him and us that the whole idea of “Don Draper” was stolen as well; and second, because Bertram Cooper — who’s known his secret since Season 1 — reminded Don that he knows, and used it as leverage to get Don to sign a contract. Cooper did it in a not unkind way (the great Robert Morse, a former Broadway star, is one of the show’s treasures; everything about his line readings seems spontaneous and fresh), but the result had Don looking like — well, like somebody just ran over his foot with a lawn mower. He signed, but he’s mad. And can he really avoid Roger from here on? Particularly since we don’t want him to? (Roger’s line of the day, when asked how the sunrise was: “Average.”)
And, hmm — Peggy and Duck. How much of their tryst was Peggy’s naivete (she’s still very young, and may be confusing sexual power with actual power), and how much of it was deliberately plotted by a woman carefully planning her career climb? Peggy’s scene with Don, earlier, was beautifully played (as all their scenes are) and not quite what it seemed: Though Don lashed out at Peggy (and Elisabeth Moss did a bang-up job of showing us Peggy trying desperately not to cry), he wasn’t really angry at her — he was giving her some valuable advice. Slow down, kid, he’s saying. You want too much too fast. You need to prove your value. He’s right, though he could have been nicer about it, but off Peggy flew into Duck’s arms. Will she keep that Hermes scarf now?
As Don and Peggy ponder their identities, Betty changed hers too; stepping into community politics, or at least using it as an excuse to have lunch with the guy who weirdly rubbed her pregnant belly a few episodes back. But while Don ended up bloodied and beaten, and Peggy woke up in bed with somebody she has very ambiguous feelings about, Betty emerged with a new couch, a Victorian chaise which would have looked ever so much better in MY living room. Not a very compelling storyline yet — though I loved how Don silenced both Betty and the decorator with one comment — but we’ll see.
The flash-forward structure seemed to be a new one for “Mad Men,” and I thought it worked well; another way to keep the series creatively fresh. And what do you think? Do you think Don will end up entangled with Sally’s teacher, Suzanne Farrell (and why do you think she’s named for the great Balanchine ballerina)? Likewise Betty and Henry Francis? (Note how Betty jiggled that locked desk drawer, right after her phone conversations with Henry.) And how meaningful was it that Archie Whitman appeared to Don, just before his identity was stolen? The man who keeps trying to push his past away keeps being confronted with it; meanwhile, Betty, who wallows in her little-girl past, seems to be looking toward the future. I can’t believe the season’s half over already.



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