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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

October 11, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Monday morning “Mad Men”

Hi everyone! Do you want to hear about my vacation? No, you want to talk about “Mad Men,” and I don’t blame you a bit. Last night’s episode, though mesmerizing (and nicely directed by John Slattery), was pretty grim, and I’m hoping it was laying the groundwork to end the season next week (just one episode left! what will we do on Monday mornings afterwards?) on an up note. At this point I can’t imagine winding up Season 4 with anything comparing to last season’s wonderful, Ocean’s-11-style caper, but Matthew Weiner constantly surprises. We’ll see.
Last night seemed to be about desperate times and desperate measures. Midge, formerly the charming bohemian (for those who don’t remember: she was one of Don’s Season 1 mistresses, from the very first episode), returned to stalk Don in his lobby, strung-out and pathetic (“I lost my purse”). She’s now a heroin addict, desperate to sell a painting for cash, and Don kindly gave her all he had in his pocket ($120 — a lot to walk around with in 1965, no?) but seemed haunted by the encounter. Betty was desperate to get Sally away from the nefarious influences of Strange Glen — who’s undeniably strange, but really just reminds Betty of her own strange behavior — and has announced that the family will move, to Sally’s despair. Pete, desperate to keep SCDP and his independent dreams afloat, tried to borrow $50,000 (his share of what the partners need to kick in to keep the company alive) from a bank, but Trudy nipped that in the bud — and Pete, nervously asking Lane for an extension, learned that Don had paid his share for him. (Decent of Don, to be sure — but let’s not forget that Pete holds a secret Don doesn’t want shared.)
And Don, tense and jittery as he contemplates the prospect of the SCDP adventure ending in failure, did what I believe sports fans call a Hail Mary pass — a desperate, dramatic attempt for attention that just might have worked. Puffing away at a cigarette (ha!) he wrote “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco,” a full-page ad in the New York Times explaining that SCDP was taking the moral high ground and no longer accepting cigarette accounts. (Of course, there’s nothing moral about it; it’s advertising, and it’s a game.) The partners are furious, and Bertram quit in hugh dudgeon (“Get me my shoes!” — ha!), but the rest of the SCDP staff admired the move, even as they waited to get sacked. (No worries; most of the people leaving are staffers we rarely see, with the exception of sight-gag Danny.) At the end of the episode, we learned that the American Cancer Society is interested in SCDP doing an ad campaign for them — hilariously discussed in a meeting while everyone chain-smoked — which just might be the start of a recovery. I don’t know much about how ad agencies work — would this really be unpaid? Or just perhaps a lesser commission than usual?
So, the stage is set for the final episode — of which AMC, you’ll notice, didn’t even show us a sneak-preview second. I can’t wait. Here are my biggest questions, and some speculation:
— Obviously: Will the company survive? Will the phone keep ringing the day after Don’s ad ran? I think yes, because I can’t imagine “Mad Men” having Don starting over yet again. But the entire direction of the company might change — and, if Bert’s really gone and Roger’s on the way out (hasn’t this season kind of seemed like a valedictory for him?), a new generation will have taken over — with Don as the elder statesman.
— Will Don and Faye continue as a couple, or will the spark between them vanish now that they’re no longer co-workers? Poor Megan is, I think, yesterday’s news. (Nice shot, early in the episode, of Don and Faye talking in his office while Megan could be seen in the background at her desk; the sharp point of a triangle.)
— How will Sally, praised by her therapist this week for getting control of her behavior (even though she’s still angry), react to Betty’s announcement that they will be moving out of the house Sally’s known her entire life? Will she run to Don? Will he be there to run to?
— Did Joan, who was in the background this week, really have that abortion? I’m now thinking maybe she did. If not, we’ll be getting a bombshell next week — or next season. It would be fascinating to see how the show handles the business of an unwed mother (as, surely, she would be — unless Greg is killed in Vietnam and she is able to pass off the baby as his), but it does seem like she couldn’t continue at SCDP and so might go the way of Betty, who was a very secondary figure this season.
— Will Harry justify his existence at SCDP, other than uttering one funny line per episode? (I think “My mother made that!” is my favorite of the season.)
And what did you think, of this oh-so-desperate episode?

Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, and Robert Morse (without shoes, surely) — take a bow. (Photo courtesy AMC.)

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