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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

March 26, 2012 at 10:13 AM

And finally — it’s ‘Mad Men’ Monday!

So — the winner of the Best Line of the Night competition goes, hands-down, to Jane Sterling. After watching Megan croon a twitchy French tune to Don at his birthday party, Roger turned to his young wife (who is, now that I think of it, kind of the prototype for Megan) and said, “Why can’t you sing like her?” Jane, no fool she, replied swiftly, “Why don’t you look like him?” Ha! Maybe living with the ever-witty Roger has rubbed off.
And the saddest line of the night came from Joan: “No one came to visit me.”
Yes, “Mad Men” is back, with a two-hour episode that eased us back into life at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. By my calcuations, roughly eight months or so have passed since the last episode, and some key conversations took place in that time that we weren’t shown: Don’s explanation to Megan about his Dick Whitman past (she knows!); Bert Cooper’s return to SCDP (last we saw of him, he’d quit in a huff — hadn’t he?); Pete’s decision to move to the suburbs with his wife and daughter (to a house eerily reminiscent of Don and Betty’s); Joan’s transition into motherhood (she diapers her tiny son with the same cool competence she brings to the office); Sally’s acceptance (or not) of a new young stepmother; Roger’s adjustment (or not) to doing even less work than he did back when he had an account (Lucky Strikes is long gone). And Don — what’s happened to Don? He’s cheerful around the office, doesn’t seem to drink as much, leaves early hand-in-hand with Megan — who’s now a copywriter, as Joan predicted last season, causing some tensions with Peggy. He’s left last season’s dank, cramped apartment for a luxurious, airy pad with a view (and plenty of room for the three kids). He looks happy — for once, his wife and mistress are the same woman — as long as Megan doesn’t cross him. Which she does.
I’ve noticed that “Mad Men” seasons tend to start out slowly; Matthew Weiner’s season openers don’t usually have high drama or big surprises, but just catch us up on what’s happened since time passed. Likewise, I kept watching “A Little Kiss” waiting for something major to happen, and nothing really did: Don and Megan had a fight but made up (sort of); Peggy said something bitchy (sort of) but then apologized; Pete got all Pete-ish — I love ya, Pete, don’t ever change — about needing a bigger office, and he got one (sort of); Joan got tearful in Lane’s office (aww), but recovered — and, in typical “Mad Men” fashion, people failed to understand each other. And we were reminded of the civil rights movement, which generally seems to be out of the radar of most SDCP employees: The episode began with a protest march and a prank (a true story, I hear), and ended with something we’ve never seen on this show: a SCDP lobby full of African-Americans, there to apply for the jobs seemingly promised by a joke ad. Will SCCP finally hire a black employee? My guess is no, not yet, but we shall see.
A few random impressions:
— Think something might finally happen this season between Joan and Don? There’s an unmistakeable chemistry between them (and note how Don kissed her not once, but twice — could that have been the kiss referenced in the episode title?), not going unnoticed by Megan. I’ve always thought that, of all the women on this show, Joan had the most in common with Don (and meeting her mother this week reminded us that Joan has many secrets of her own), and that the two of them could potentially be electric together. And you can tell, from Hamm and Hendricks’ performances, that Don and Joan know that.
— Speaking of Megan, the anti-Betty, anyone else having a problem with Jessica Pare’s performance? Maybe it’s just unfair to compare her to Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks (who embody their characters with a breathtaking honesty and ease), but sometimes Pare just seems to be reciting lines. Maybe that’s who Megan is — an unformed young woman who’s found that it’s helpful to be a beautiful blank slate — but I’m finding myself not very interested in her; that Pare (or Weiner’s script) isn’t giving her enough depth. Then again, maybe I’m just annoyed because that “Zooby zooby zu” song is stuck in my head.
— Did it seem as if we’d seen that sequence with the beans account already? Yet another moment in which SCDP pitches something “daring,” and some old-school client says he wants something traditional. Surely this happened a lot in advertising in the ’60s, but the scene felt awfully familiar.
— What exactly is it that Harry does all day? Does he even know? And why does his office have such weird furniture?
— How many of you wish we could have seen Roger on the Staten Island Ferry?
And what did you think? Were you satisfied, after a 17 month wait? I think, overall, I was; it’s just nice to have these people back again. But I hope we have some fireworks coming soon.
“That’s my baby!” Indeed, it is. Do you think that baby has a little cigarette in his mouth? (Photo by Michael Yarish; courtesy of AMC.)



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