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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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May 14, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Mad Men Mondays: Jealousy lurks in the shadows

You have to hand it to Matthew Weiner: He timed an episode called “Dark Shadows,” in which Megan and an actress friend (I didn’t catch her name; did you?) discuss an audition for a new “scary” soap opera (“Dark Shadows” did, indeed, premiere in 1966), for the same week as the “Dark Shadows” movie. Nice synergy, Matthew! How about a cameo from Johnny Depp next time?
In any case, this episode wasn’t so much about things that go bump in the night as about things that shine green in the daytime: i.e. jealousy. Betty, who I almost felt sorry for in this episode until she did something lousy to Sally, was jealous of Megan; on a visit to the Draper penthouse to pick up the kids, she caught a glimpse of the slender, lovely Mrs. Don Draper changing clothes, and later saw a brief, affectionate note Don had left for Megan. (Seeing Betty, who’s lost some weight on a new diet program — Weight Watchers, still in its infancy in the mid’60s — but is still far heavier than usual, sadly gazing at herself in the hallway mirror before entering Don’s apartment, briefly put me on her side. But not for long.) Don was jealous of Michael Ginsberg, who’s got that effortless knack for a catchphrase that’s reminiscent of . . . hmm, young Don himself. Unlike Betty, who channeled her frustration with Don and Megan by upsetting Sally (who later expertly flung it back in her mother’s face, showing that she’s learning quite a lot from both of her parents), Don directed war right at the person he envied: Ginsberg himself. Don declined to pitch the younger man’s ideas to the client (he left his sketches, deliberately, in a taxi), and later coolly lied to him, “I don’t think about you at all.” The gentleman doth protest too much.
Meanwhile, Roger’s envious of Jane’s attraction to a client’s son; so much so that he promptly seduced his unhappy soon-to-be-ex wife. (“Already?” said Bert Cooper, upon hearing of Roger’s upcoming divorce.) Peggy’s jealous of the attention Ginsberg is getting, smiling like a Cheshire cat when she hears that Don’s idea was the one accepted. Pete’s upset because he spent a lot of time being flattered by a New York Times reporter, only to be left out of the subsequent story about “hip” (“hep,” says Bert — ha!) ad agencies. And Stan unexpectedly revealed himself as a fan of Percy Bysshe Shelley . . . or at least as the only one in the office who’s read the entire text of “Ozymandias.” (Which had nothing to do with jealously, but as a former English major, I like to note such things.)
And I continue to be frustrated with this season, just a bit: not because I want this show to race along like a rollercoaster (that’s not what “Mad Men” is, or ever will be; the occasional sawed-off foot notwithstanding), but because Season 5 seems to be emphasizing, to me, the wrong stories. Is anyone out there really interested in Betty and Henry’s marriage? Hasn’t the Betty-as-bad-mother plotline already played out? Doesn’t it seem like Peggy’s storylines this season are exactly as they’ve been before? How can this show give perhaps the most dramatic life change of any character this season to Joan — who bravely kicked out her no-good husband back on April 9, thus becoming a single working mother — and then give her virtually no screen time for five whole episodes? Likewise, why did Lane punch out Pete, kiss Joan — and then seemingly vanish into thin air? (There’s something wrong when Baby Gene — modelling the latest in 1960s toddler fashion — gets more screen time than Lane.) Don’t get me wrong; I’m still thoroughly enjoying the show, but things seem a bit off-balance to me. You?
(And why does Roger carry around so much cash? What would be the equivalent today of walking around with $200 in your pocket in 1966? Wouldn’t he be broke by now, what with two ex-wives and numerous SCDP employees on the take? Funny running gag, though.)
The present and former Mrs. Drapers, having an uneasy meeting. Love Gene’s blue coat! (Photo by Michael Yarish; courtesy of AMC.)



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