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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

April 9, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Mad Men Monday: Just a dream . . .

Well, my goodness, I step out for a week and suddenly Sundance Cinema is taking over the Metro (more on that later), “Bully” is suddenly PG-13, and over on “Mad Men,” Joan has done what we’ve all been wanting her to do since Season 2 and kicked Greg’s khaki-covered rear to the curb. Finally! Christina Hendricks, whose uncanny beauty (isn’t she a vision with her hair down?) lets us forget too easily that she’s a marvelous actress, had many great moments in this episode: her face, quavering and hopeful and trying so hard to believe in a happy ending, as Greg came through the door; her hands as she lit a cigarette in the restaurant, trying not to betray that her world had just been shattered; her calm, resolute voice when she said the next morning, “I want you to go.” Joan has long been one of my favorite characters on the show, because of the poignant way Hendricks plays this character’s dilemma: a very, very smart woman who’s believed that she can only get power from her looks, and that her only possible key to happiness was in marriage to a nice, handsome doctor. (He’s a doctor, and he’s handsome, but he certainly isn’t nice.) We all remember, with a sickening feeling, that Greg raped Joan — in the office, no less — in the early days of their engagement; you sense that the two of them never spoke of it again, until now. That final shot, of Joan and baby Kevin and Joan’s mother (what is her name? I keep wanting to call her Martha Huber) lying on the bed on a hot afternoon, was lovely; you can see Joan’s brain ticking away as she thinks about what her next step will be. (Will it involve Roger?) In telling her husband to leave, Joan’s basically abandoning her entire philosophy of life; she’s finally found the strength to move forward without a man. At least for now.
Don, meanwhile, has a cold. (How odd is it to see the perfect man suddenly looking sweaty and clammy? It’s as if he’s turned into Harry.) And a fever, which brings about fever dreams, including one in which he went back to his old womanizing ways — with a gal from his past, whose arrival in the office elevator irrated Megan no end — and then, desperate to escape a downward spiral, killed the woman and stowed her under the bed. (Note the shoe motif in this episode — all we saw of her was her yellow pump.) Did anyone wonder if, perhaps, this wasn’t a dream? (I thought it was, from the beginning of the woman’s arrival in the apartment, at which time I announced to my co-watcher, “This is a dream! How would she know where he lives?” I might not be a lot of fun to watch “Mad Men” with.) By the end, clearly it was all a product of Don’s overheated imagination — but it shook him, as he’s remembering his past as a wildly unfaithful husband, and doesn’t want to repeat that with Megan. Is he a different man now, now that he’s with a woman who knows his secrets? Or does he have a few more secrets that he’s kept from Megan? She may know Dick Whitman, but I still think she doesn’t entirely know Don Draper.
Speaking of sleep, poor Sally’s in a deep one, thanks to half a Seconal supplied — along with the most nightmarish of bedtime stories (a true story of a grisly murder) — by Grandma Pauline. Yikes! Is there no end to the hell that this show intends to put Sally through? And Dawn, Don’s new secretary, got a plotline of her own this week: She’s been sleeping in Don’s office (by herself, which is rare enough at SCDP), afraid to take the subway home to Harlem due to rioting. (Even if she could afford a cab — which she probably can’t, on a secretary’s salary — it’s unlikely one would pick her up.) She and an adorably drunk Peggy tentatively bonded over a sleepover at Peggy’s place — until Peggy wrecked their cautious friendship (“There used to not be anyone who looked like me there, either”) by a sudden, subtle moment of mistrust. Peggy was clearly ashamed of herself — not to mention hungover — the next morning, with all the sparkle from her confident negotiating with Roger gone. (Ha! Roger’s finally on his toes! I love John Slattery.) Anyone have any idea exactly what $400 would have meant in 1966? I’m guessing it might be a month’s salary for her? Does Roger carry around that much money because he always pays his bar tab in cash?
Anyway, nice episode. Subtle — still no foot-cut-off-with-a-lawnmower moment this season — but indicative of interesting things to come. What did you think? Some of you have been saying — and I wouldn’t argue — that this season has been pretty slow. Still thinking that?
MM_MY_504_0920_1120.JPG
Joan plays the accordion too, remember? Samuel Page, Christina Hendricks and Christine Estabrook, in one of “Mad Men’s” exquisitely awkward dinner-party scenes. (Photo by Michael Yarish; courtesy of AMC)

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