Monday, May 05, 2014

Mad Men Season 7: Random Bullets

"Don't worry. It's not symbolic."
"No. It's quite literal."

I treated myself to Mad Men non-HD from iTunes ($22.95) this week. A few episodes downloaded, and then Episode 4, "The Monolith," got stuck. It would not download more than 10 minutes, but iTunes insisted it had already downloaded and could not be downloaded again. An endless loop of frustration? Symbolic or quite literal?

What's the song for this event and this season, Matt Weiner? "Riding along on a carousel, round and round and round and round with you"? Or "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right/ Here I am, stuck in the middle with you"?

Season 6 was not fun. Watching Don Draper double down on what we saw him do for all of Season 4--drink too much, stick with an irritating and sanctimonious Wise Woman of a mistress, and mess up at work--was, well, like being on a carousel, and not in a good Kodak-moment kind of way.

So far this season, we are in for even more misery theater.  Here's how it seemed to me last year: "There's a trend in television now that I think of as Misery Theater: how much can you punish or torture the protagonist for his or her sins and still keep the audience's attention? For you Game of Thronesfans, let's call it the Theon Grayjoy rule, or maybe we should just call it Degradation Limbo: "how low can you go?"

Well, now Theon/Don is reduced to shuffling around the office, doing the bidding of lesser men, as new creative director Lou ("He's adequate!" protests Cutler) is poised to cut down his ideas. Unlike Theon, he literally has all his body parts, but symbolically not so much.

Don has so angered everyone in the office with his antics that they're willing to stomp on his good ideas (new computer account) along with the bad ones. Then again, everyone in the office is in a foul temper all the time, including Peggy, and it's apparently all Don's fault. The only ones who aren't are Roger, who seems happier since he stopped trying to work at all, and Ted, who looks as if someone just stole his beloved puppy.

But the interwebs seem quite certain that the Mets pennant means that Don may be back on track in 1969, and certainly the sight of him typing on a magically restored typewriter at the end gives one hope. If he can write a pitch like Accutron, he's still got the gift.

"Just do the work, Don," Freddy Rumsen tells him. Words to live by, for sure, and I hope for the sake of the show that there's a silver lining to this endless black cloud.

By the way, did anyone else get a kick out of the computer sequence? It's big, it's shiny, it's the future, and no one knows or cares what it can do because Big! Shiny!  Future! I think the model was the MOOC 360.


Flavia said...

I'm really liking this season, despite finding the last one so frustrating I was considering not watching any more.

Partly it's that there are new plotlines--rather than just the boring retreads of last season, with Don cheating and being haunted by stupid flashbacks. This season feels fresher, and more oriented around the workplace. But I also feel that Don's in a decent place, despite everything, and has it in him to knuckle down and put his life right, whatever that turns out to mean. (That feeling was tested through the midsection of Sunday's episode, but restored by the end.) Here's hoping!

undine said...

Flavia, I agree. There's no place to go for Don but up at this point, and the focus on the workplace is welcome. I think the Don/Dick integration is showing through in subtle ways, too. When have we ever seen Don be a sloppy drunk as he was in "Monolith"? Don always gets more guarded when he's drunk, so this may be a way of telling us that he really is changing and the two halves are fusing.

Historiann said...

I don't think Roger Sterling *ever* worked. But as always, I want MOAR Roger!

Like Flavia, I've been relieved not to see the flashbacks to Don's childhood in spite of the fact that DD seems more troubled than ever. I hope you're right that this is a sign of integration, not of further disintegration.

But in the end, I don't watch MM for the DD update. I want to see more Peggy, more Joan, more information about Dawn & the other African American secretaries. I was even glad to see Mona and Margaret/Marigold again, because MOAR women! (And Roger!)

Can we really blame Marigold? She got married on the day that JFK was shot, after all. Of course her life would unravel and reinvent itself along with a great deal of America in the 1960s. (Plus, her kid's cute but the husband needs to be shucked off. He's a total stiff.)

undine said...

Historiann--Absolutely MOAR Roger, Peggy, Joan, and Dawn, especially if Dawn is telling off the new boss. I also want to see people stop being mean to each other and get to work on some exciting pitches, and with Don sitting at the typewriter, maybe that'll happen.

If classes get out of line next year, I am planning to adopt the Don Draper Icy Glare of Death when Peggy cheerily tells him about his new assignment.

Good point about Marigold. If she hadn't left now, she'd be starring in Kramer vs. Kramer in a few years.