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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

April 23, 2012 at 9:57 AM

Mad Men Monday: Roger and Don take trips

OK, let’s just pause to consider Jane’s outfit before we descend into the depths of this intricately interwoven episode: Did anyone else think, seeing Jane and Roger in the elevator, that Roger had somehow hooked up with a Vegas showgirl? The nearly-as-big-as-her-head earrings, the bare midriff, the sparkle, the flowy pants, the towering hairdo complete with a long tendril over the shoulder — it was insanely over-the-top for a quiet dinner at someone’s apartment, and it was, just maybe, a cry for help from a character who’s terribly, terribly bored. And who’s about to get a little less bored, but we’ll get to that. (There are plenty of thoughtful analyses of “Mad Men” fashion online — I like Tom & Lorenzo — so I won’t really go into it, but hasn’t it been fun this season to watch Megan and Jane expertly playing with mod fashion? And to see poor Peggy occasionally experimenting with an up-to-date-style — in this episode, blue eyeshadow — and failing miserably?)
Anyway. Interesting episode; like many this season, a little slow to get started, but mesmerizing once it reached full steam. Interesting that last week’s major player, Pete, barely appeared at all (and we saw nothing of Joan and Lane) — this was all about Don/Megan, Roger/Jane, and Peggy/Abe. All three couples went through a crisis in their relationship; all emerged in a different place. I’m not quite as invested in Peggy’s story, as we haven’t been given much of a chance to meet Abe, and because Peggy’s frustrations at work, while true to life, feel like a song that the show’s been singing for a while. (Interesting, though, that her blow-up in front of the clients seemed very similar to Don’s with the Jantzen bathing-suit people last season — and while Don got respect for it, Peggy just got in trouble.) Peggy’s exploring her own power, both in and out of the office (note the movie scene), and trying to find a balance in her relationship with Abe — who, on a late night after hearing a story that profoundly upset her, she’s finding that she needs. Not sure where these two are going, but it might be somewhere interesting, eventually.
Roger and Jane, it seems, are the prototype for Don and Megan: a powerful man who marries a much-younger secretary, and then struggles to adapt to life in the generation gap. There’s been trouble in paradise for Roger and Jane for a long time — in Jane’s words, all he wants to do after work is open his vest and yell at the TV (ha!), while she wants to go out and experience life in the big city. In this episode, they went to a party and tried LSD, which resulted in experiences both comic (loved the music Roger heard from the vodka bottle) and profound. “You don’t even like me,” a high yet heartbroken Jane told Roger, as the last notes of their marriage played out. “I did,” replies Roger quietly; note that he can’t say that he loves her, or even loved her. Though Jane didn’t remember the conversation the next morning, she couldn’t argue with Roger that their marriage was over. Though facing yet another expensive divorce, Roger was unusually chipper in the office the next morning, thinking about his future. (With Joan? Or someone younger? Stay tuned.)
Don and Megan have always seemed, to me, liked a doomed marriage. Even though she knows him better than Betty ever did, she seems to misunderstand something basic about him: He wants a wife, not a co-worker. Though he’s sufficiently smitten with Megan to give her what she wants at the office, he seems unable to see that he’s put her in an untenable position: she can’t be a team player when he’s constantly whisking her away from her work to play Mrs. Draper. The trip to the Howard Johnson’s seemed to reflect back to their trip to California last season, which also had a pivotal scene in a diner. Remember how Megan seemed to win Don over in that scene, simply by not behaving as Betty would have? But now, turning petulant over orange “sherbert,” she seemed suddenly Betty-like, and Don’s fury rose quickly, leading to a long night of regret and fear — where had she gone? At the end, they seemed to paper over their differences. But what will happen when — not if — Megan decides one day to focus on her work, rather than on Don? Roger could probably tell them. And will Don really bring his own focus back to the office, as Bert reminded him, in the episode’s coda, that he must? Lovely photography through this episode, and a moving final shot, as Don seemed trapped in a glass-walled prison.
Line in this episode that made me most wish for a flashback: “I remember twins, and a hospital.”
And what did you think?
MM_JA_EP506_1012_2011_0103.jpg
This might be the last we see of Jane Sterling (played by Peyton List) — but what a way to go. (Photo by Jordin Althaus, courtesy of AMC)

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