Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mad Men: Mo' old money, mo' old problems

Brief spoilers for episode four of "Mad Men" coming up just as soon as I borrow a neighbor's lock of hair...

I watched this episode about a month ago (even before I saw episode 3, for reasons too boring to elaborate on) and wasn't in a position to take notes at the time, so I can't say as much about it as previous weeks, but I liked it. The primary goal is to humanize Pete -- to explain him, if not apologize for him -- and it accomplished that.

Those of you who find the show too heavy-handed probably aren't going to have their opinions changed by scenes like the one pictured above, where Pete's blue-blood daddy (or is he?; the money comes from his mother's side) lectures him about how his job isn't fit for a white man. But it worked for me, in part because of those obnoxious Bermuda shorts an docksiders; sometimes, it's the odd detail that makes a scene. Pete's weird quest for approval from Don makes much more sense now, both in light of his own lousy father figure and the revelation that he intended to be a creative type, but the episode's not entirely a pity party for him. He massively oversteps his bounds with the Beth Steel man, and I like that Roger manages to frame things so it looks like Don saved his job.

In the other half of the episode, Betty goes down the rabbit hole by agreeing to babysit for Helen the divorcee while Helen's off cruising for men at a Kennedy campaign event. It's an interesting friendship (if you can call it that), because Betty has as many reasons to be jealous of Helen as she does to be afraid of becoming like her. Chief among the latter: Helen's creepy son, so out of sorts from the divorce that he's lost all sense of boundaries, walking in on Betty while she tries to pee and then demanding a lock of her hair. (Not sure which of the two is more disturbing, but it was amusing to see the machinations a woman like Betty had to go to to use the bathroom in that get-up.)

What did everybody else think?

18 comments:

Jeff said...

I like this show more and more each week.

And so nice to see that J. Pierpoint Finch did succeed in business, without really trying. :-)

Andrew said...

Well, I'm finally sold on this show. I knew the show was extremely intelligent and well acted after the first three, but no single character had pulled me in.

I'm finding Pete to be my favorite character because I **shudder** seem to identify with him the most. During the meeting where the Steel man gets behind Pete's idea, I had the exact same smug smile that Pete had even though I knew it wouldn't end well. I felt good for him at that moment anyway.

Louis said...

I keep hearing good things about this show, but I haven't watched it yet. Is it worth jumping in now, or have I missed too much?

Colin said...

Brilliant show. So much going on -- class struggles, generational struggles, struggles between the sexes -- I do, however, take issue with the suggestion that Helen was "cruising for men at a Kennedy campaign event." I think she's (or at least seen by Betty as) a "modern" woman who's no longer dependent on a man. Perhaps she was pretending not to be "cruising for mean," but the line played sincere to me.

Jon Delfin said...

Briefly sticking it to the closed captioner again: I'm not at all surprised that Dyckman became "Dikeman," but really, you "should of" [sic] been able to spell "saxophone."

Anthony Foglia said...

I'm probably one of those people who's been criticizing this show for being heavy-handed, but this episode was the best so far. One major benefit was that, unlike all the other episodes, it wasn't a particularly dated story. The time merely enhanced the drama, as opposed to being the root cause of it.

@colin: I don't think Helen was "cruising for men." Betty was the one who brought it up, and that's because she's unable to imagine an adult woman with a life without needing a man. Helen though seemed mature enough not to take offense, but not so militant as to refuse wanting a man. (I'd say Helen was taking the suggested singles technique of doing what you like, but keeping yourself open for any opportunities that erupt. Betty was thinking this had to be solely a ploy to find a new guy.)

Helen's son was just creepy though. Creepy in a budding-serial-killer sort of way.

Melissa169a said...

Research, anyone? Betty went to "Brimmare" then tells her shrink she belonged to a sorority. Bryn Mawr has never had sororities. Should have been checked.

Anonymous said...

Those after-show segments ruined the mystery of Don's upbringing. Seriously, why would Weiner let the actor reveal that?

Anonymous said...

No one seems to have mentioned the creative ways the producers or whoever have come up with to keep me from fast forwarding thru the ads in a show about Ad Men. (First time I'm watching live, but when my brother comes over, the fast forwarding hits a snag)

in the meantime - love how Roger (?) made Pete believe he was beholden to Don. And that little kid was creepy! I wonder why she gave him her hair.
As for the bathroom antics - pantyhose: ick! hate them. them aside, in a full skirt, you can pretty much do your duty in front of anyone without anyone seeing anything. My mother used to do it all the time (i think she only wore pantyhose when she went out at night - till later, when she wore them with shorts to hide the varicose veins. lucky me - i've avoided those, and I avoid pantyhose as much as possible.

Pam, with way too much information

I liked this ep a lot too. I missed Peggy, but otherwise, I really liked it the best of the four. (and I really wanted Pete to get fired. I was just surprised that Don had (or thought he had) the authority to do so. And I was sad as to the reason that he was kept. But Roger (phone call interrupted thought I can't now recall) was my hero...

anon said...

john delfin,

I take bad captioning to mean a) the captioners aren't being given the script, and b) they aren't being given the time to proofread the copy. Moreover, I thought the implication of the name was somewhere between the captioning and the script.

anonymous 7:04pm,

Assuming we're referring to the same thing, it looks like the "secret" is revealed next week anyway ("It's really you"). Still a spoiler, I guess, but maybe not something they intended to hide for long.

Alan,

I must admit that I still don't see the period detail as anything more than a conceit. The Pete story seemed more accessible and straightforward to me simply because it wasn't fundamentally dependent on the date. Men wanting to prove themselves to their fathers, rich kids wanting to escape the family shadow, and the brilliance of "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart". These are all timeless.

But one thing confused me. Does Pete know why he was hired or doesn't he? When he makes the comment to Don about how everyone keeps calling him a "people person" I felt like he knew exactly why he was hired. But then when Don fired him Pete truly freaked out, as if he didn't know why the company thought he was valuable. My only thought was that Pete recognizes the power of the Dyckman name, but he's still so deeply insecure that he thinks even the name can't save him. But after a day or two of cooling off I would expect him to figure out what really happened.

Anon

ooda said...

Four episodes in and I'm still madly (har har har) in love with the show. I still laugh whenever Salvatore is on screen ("yeah, twenty years ago"), but surprisingly, prefered it now that Peggy wasn't on screen. It was cringe worthy during the proposal scene, as you just knew Don was going to get at him.

I understand what Pete was feeling, as he finally saw that his entire worth in life is really just his name. The job, made more evident now with the faux-firing, just made sure to reiterate that. The meeting the co-op lady just made it worse, especially when his wife brought up stories of his past intended just to illustrate his illustrious bloodline.

But what was running through my head was trying to work out just what was up with the divorcee's (Helen, I think) son. It's sad that he's so starved for attention that the little he does get he tries desperately not to lose (following Betty into the bathroom, and then cradling a lock of her hair). That said, even when his Mom gives him attention, it's not like qualitatively it's all that significant.

Now just let me get the Carnation out...

MC said...

I have to agree and say that this is the best episode so far. I like Don as a character, but here he seems petty by trying to fire Peter for basically saving the account. I guess he doesn’t like the fact that he pitched an idea behind his back and that he’s not a team player. I guess this is an example of how they are trying to show the differences between three different generations of men: Roger, Don, and Peter.

I think that Betty is secretly jealous of Helen’s independence. She can’t conceive of having her opinions: “We haven’t decided who we’re going to vote for yet.”=”My husband hasn’t told me who to vote for yet.” At the therapist she suggests Helen is jealous of her, perhaps the Freudian doctor sees that she is jealous of Helen who doesn’t need men-doesn’t obey her husband and locks him out of the house, works, and raises kids on her own.

The kid is a trip, perhaps he just needs attention. But, perhaps he’s just effeminate and close to his mother, a mama’s boy who likes pretty things and ironing.

Lizbeth said...

Melissa, good catch. I forgot Betty said she went to Bryn Mawr. There's no way she was in a sorority. Having had a sister who attended Bryn Mawr in the 1980s, Betty doesn't strike me as a "Bryn Mawr woman" at all. Even in the 1950s, I imagine they were a bit more foreward thinking and independent than other women of the time.

Then again, Betty is only 28 (or so she says) and already has two kids so who knows if she actually graduated college.

Dani in NC said...

Several articles about this show have made sure to mention that the creator worked on "The Sopranos", but this is the first episode that really made me think of that. The scene with Glenn and the lock of hair -- nothing good is going to come of that. I'm just waiting for the inappropriateness of Betty actually giving him the hair to blow up in her face.

Nancy said...

I totally agree with the comments about budding-serial-killer-creepy Glen. I know we are supposed to be feeling sorry for the kid from a broken family, but he was just way over the top. And why on earth would Betty give him a lock of her hair? Of course, she seemed to really like the "you're so pretty" comments, but surely she must have known it was completely inappropriate for her to agree to his request for her "princess" hair. Just plain weird!

Niffer said...

That does sound like an oopsie on the sorority bit. However, the high school in my town used to have a sorority, so perhaps she's referring to a high school sorority?

Anonymous said...

I'll say the unthinkable: Maybe Mrs. Draper transferred to Bryn Mawr, after attending a lesser school, with sororities. That would account for Don liking her, because she pulled herself up after some trouble and strife. Note that her mother died, recently, and she hasn't mentioned her once after the first therapist visit? Was she a caregiver, in high school, and that's why she couldn't get into Bryn Mawr, the first time?

There's some deep stuff with her, going down, that we haven't gotten to, yet....

The G Lover said...

In one of those "the more things change" moments, I laughed incessantly at the debate over where Park Ave starts to 'fall off.' Pete wants to move to 83rd, his dad says 77th is the upper limit, his mom claims it's 86th. Fifty years gone, and I'd say that it's 96th. Subway stops, all of them. (On Lex, of course, a block over.)