May 29, 2014

Mad Men: Thoughts on the mid-season finale

A new post! I know the fans (both of you!) are crying out, "Tiger Shroff! Make fun of Tiger Shroff!", and to that I say... in a bit. 

Let's depart from usual programming today, to discuss Mad Men. Specifically, the mid-season finale of Mad Men that was so gobsmackingly good that I can't not write about it (and I also don't know anyone who wants to talk about it).

(This post is full of spoilers, so if you intend to watch it, quit reading.)

The series, set in a 1960s advertising agency, has always been about so much more than the advertising. Recurrent and tangential themes include self-awareness, feminism, race, depression, conformity, greed, marriage, change (and how it affects us), violence, homosexuality, changing perceptions, death, and completely random events (for want of a better expression).

The only pattern you can possibly see in each season is that there's usually a death, a gruesome accident (Ginsberg this year, dear God), an affair of some kind and the highlight of whichever year the season is based in (JFK's assassination, the counterculture movement, and most recently, the moon landing.)

Almost every season so far has ended on a somewhat cliffhanger note. But now that the makers have decided to split the last season into 2, one in 2014 and one in 2015 (I hope they rot in hell), it was almost surprising how the mid-season finale could even actually be... a finale. Things ended on a positive, almost unreal note on a show which is known for rather unsettling finales to each season.

And that's why, it's not so bad to wait another year. Next year is largely going to be about tying up loose ends. Maybe no one will even die next year. Actually, maybe Megan will die next year and the fans will finally get the long-awaited Charles Manson reference.

In the meanwhile, major props to:

Don Draper - Who managed to go a whole season (okay, half-season) without alcoholism or an affair. Must've been tough. Well, except for that hilarious moment where his secretary tried to put the moves on him when she thought he was "so vulnerable". But then, can anyone really blame her, given he looks like this:
Much handsome. Such smart. Many intense. Waow. 

Pete Campbell - With every passing season, he manages to look more and more like a schoolboy and a villain; but he did get some of the most memorable lines this season. Always fun to watch him spit out words in a rage ("Marriage is a racket!"), always fun to watch him go after women who tell him, soon enough, to GTFO.

Betty Draper - As she becomes more and more the frustrated housewife and fading beauty queen, you can't help but sympathize. Sure she's evil, but she's evil in a fun way. (Nothing beats the episode with the pigeons, though.)

Joan Holloway - Whose decision-making abilities are finally improving.

Bert Cooper - Who will be missed, but not for long I think. The character had run his course.

Bob Benson - How can someone simultaneously be so positive and so creepy?

Jim Cutler - Who is just getting everyone's flak, but really seems like a straight-talking mercenary (and there are worse things than that). His volte-face on the McCann deal is hilariously typical ("It's a lot of money.")

Ted Chaough - Another character who has now been rendered obsolete by where the story is going.

Peggy Olson - Who's finally beginning to get her own. But not without a "having-it-all" crisis.

Megan - The moment had passed with Zou Bisou Bisou and is not coming back. The breakdown of their marriage lasted 7 episodes, and I'm just glad it didn't take longer.

Sally Draper - From a fairly peripheral character, she's now one of the highlights, simply because she has begun to embody the best and the worst of each of her parents.

And finally, Roger Sterling - Easily the most likeable character on the show, because he's basically a hippie in a suit. From finding out that his daughter has defected to a commune, to dealing with his oldest friend's death, to bribing Harry in this hilarious scene just to change his office, to strange orgies in his apartment, to trying LSD with his wife, to... "And he'd just gotten it in the door". Eternal slacker-off who has a way of coming through when (and only when) he is really needed to.
Roger: I'm about to do some awesome shit.
Don: Sure. It'll save my ass but I will not thank you.