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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

August 9, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Monday morning “Mad Men”

Oh, that look. You know the one I mean: on the face of the great Jon Hamm, as Don Draper a.k.a Dick Whitman, as he gazed at Anna Draper, his ex-wife but not. (In case anyone’s confused by this — as well you might be if you’re joining “Mad Men” just this season — the real Don Draper was killed in Korea. The man we now know as Don Draper was born Dick Whitman; in Korea, he changed dog tags with the dead man and assumed a new identity. This was complicated by the appearance of Draper’s wife, Anna, who lives in California — and with whom the new Don quickly developed an affectionate friendship.) What Don said, looking at Anna, was, “I’ve got to go.” What he said, without the words, “I love you, and when I’m with you I’m more relaxed and happy than I am anywhere else, and I’m horrified and scared that you have cancer and that I may never see you again, but I don’t want to be the one to tell you this because I just can’t look you in the eye and tell you such news, but it’s killing me because you’re the one person I can’t bear to not be honest with.” It was a look we’ve never seen before on Don’s face — he’s a different person when he’s with Anna, more open and hopeful and younger-seeming. Beautiful scene.
Great episode last night, as the fourth season finally seems to be hopping. The episode focused on just three characters (will Pete ever get a plotline this season?), but in the juiciest of ways. Don visited Anna — his past — and then returned to his present, drinking in the New Year with Lane in a wistfully hilarious evening of Godzilla, steaks and prostitutes at his Greenwich Village man-cave. These two men have a fascinating relationship — very formal at work, yet respectful (I loved Lane’s quietly majestic statement “We’ve had a magnificent year”). Lane knows they’re not equals, that he doesn’t fit in at the office, and that he lacks Don’s ability to float above the chaos: How telling was it that Lane, one of the few men in the office who isn’t having (or has had) an affair, got suspected of infidelity simply because of a secretary’s mix-up with flowers? This guy can’t get away with anything. There was something oddly touching about the way he solemnly tucked his glasses away before kissing his “date” (who surely didn’t go to Barnard), and the way he emerged on the morning after looking perfectly buttoned-up, quietly thanking Don for “a very welcome distraction” (I think those were his words). Will we ever see his wife again? Will we ever see what’s behind his very formal mask, the way we see what’s behind Don’s from time to time?
Speaking of masks and marriages, Joan finally got some screen time this week, demonstrating her unparalleled competence at the office (nobody on this show is quicker than Joan when it comes to reading a situation, and nobody puts a more sinister lilt into the word “egregious”) and her continued earnest struggle to find success in her marriage. As Greg stitched up her cut hand, I realized it was one of the few genuinely sweet scenes we’ve seen between the two of them — generally they’re at cross-purposes, with him never seeming to understand who she is and what she wants — and wondered about her tears. We so rarely see Joan cry (and she assured Greg that it wasn’t because of her hand) — is she seeing the end of her marriage in Greg’s upcoming departure to Vietnam? Worried that she won’t be able to have a child, due to “procedures” that surely Greg doesn’t know about? Guilty that she doesn’t love the man so tenderly stitching her hand, or overwhelmed because she’s realizing that she does? Or just crying, again, for the end of a dream, letting her perfect-wife mask slip away?
I need to start writing down the episode’s best lines, because I never remember them the next morning. (And no, I wasn’t matching Don and Lane drink for drink — who could?) But I remember a funny one about smoking a dress (which Don repeated back home, to Lane’s sure confusion), and Lane’s drunken comment about a “Texas belt buckle.” What were your favorite moments? Who else on this show is wearing a mask? Do you agree that suddenly, with this third episode, the season started to come into focus?

Jared Harris as Lane Pryce, the man with the tweed vest and tweedy diction. (Photo courtesy AMC)

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