This Week on ‘Mad Men’: The Summer Man

Posted by Jon Wiener on September 12, 2010

Let’s start at the tippy-top…before we see any actual content in this week’s Mad Men, the screen warns of brief nudity.  Before you get excited (Joan?) or grossed out (Glen?!?!), settle down…it’s just a pressed ham that is neither tantalizing nor disturbing (GLEN?!?!?!?).

Brief nudity aside, I want to stress how taken I was by this week’s episode.  We saw some stylistic changes that don’t make for a normal episode of Mad Men.  Instead, we were presented with Don Draper voice-over and a few interesting camera moves.  I think that I actually liked the change.  Here’s why it worked:

Don Draper: After several years of increased drinking, Don has realized that he has a problem.  He even gives all of his reasons in voice-over.  This tees off Don’s stint in not-drinking.  That’s right, it seems as if Don is attempting to put the bottle down.  Also, as summer approaches, Don attempts to swim laps at an indoor pool, as he is outswam by everybody in the pool.  As Don finishes, he huffs and puffs.  Too much smoking!  He also gets blown in a taxi.

Betty: Betty runs into Don while she is out with her new husband, Henry, and one of his business associates.  After seeing him on a date (with his taxi-cab friend, mentioned earlier), Betty heads to the bar and drinks up, thoroughly embarrassing Henry.  After realizing that she needs to get over how much she hates Don, he [surprisingly] shows up at his son’s 2nd Birthday party.  Betty has reformed and lets Don hold his toddling son.

Peggy: Peggy is faced with a dilemma as one of her creative pals continuously berate Joan and her overly sexual appearance.  Once one of them takes it too far with Joan, Peggy fires him, only causing more problems.  In a heated elevator scene, Joan tells Peggy that by firing him, she only confirms that Joan is a glorified secretary and that Peggy is a stone-cold bitch (Joan’s words, not mine).

Dynamite episode.  I didn’t cover half of what went on.  I hope that the style continues to mature and that the next time the screen warns “brief nudity”, it puts its money where its mouth is.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Facebook User September 15, 2010 at 7:06 am

I agree with the earlier sentiment that a bad Mad Men episode doesn’t exist. (Especially since it was said at a party and I believe I said the same thing at a part this weekend as well.) That being said, I didn’t really care for the voice-over and hope they don’t continue it in the future. It reminded me a little too much of “Carrie Bradshaw” writing her Sex and the City column and that’s not how I would ever envision Don Draper. (He’s more of a “Samantha,” anyway.)

Has Betty reformed? After throwing a snit, followed by a crying session, and then a temper tantrum*, she apologizes to Henry and adopts her friend’s viewpoint that she does, indeed, have everything. Even going so far as to be gracious and kind to Don as he unexpectedly shows up. But then, as Betty is surrounded by her everythings, the camera closes in on an almost wistful and probably confused, face as she watches Don and their child. I don’t think she has fully gotten over Don or thought about the possibility that her new life is really just a reaction to Don and their failings instead of something she actively wanted/needed.

* When I think of the way she acted in this episode it’s no wonder her children misbehave/act out to get attention; Betty is still very much a child. Henry even calls her on it, remarking that he handles things as an adult should. Couple the death of Betty’s father and the death of her first marriage with her subsequent marriage to a much older man and the birth of her third child, named after her father…

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