On a gut level, as a fan of the show, my enjoyment of Mad Men is determined by how the story treats its two protagonists: Don and Peggy. Do I care about Betty, Pete, Harry, Joan, and the rest of SC&P? Of course I do, but these characters are cyphers. They are made to represent characteristics of 1960s society, serving doubly as a representation of a certain personality type and a certain factor of corporate society. Continue reading
Well, I certainly can’t say ‘The Runaways’ was uneventful, because…….no seriously what the fuck? For people who claim that Mad Men is all stuffiness and period decor, I will henceforth direct them to this episode. Was it a good episode? I’m honestly not sure. For any other prestige drama I would say a recurring character slicing off their own nipple because a giant computer is turning him gay might be a ‘jump the shark’ moment, but there’s so much subtle character work, fantastic acting and solid direction nestled around that truly bizarre storyline, that it’s hard to not just sit back and appreciate that after six and a half seasons, this show is still capable of both moments of pure brilliance and pure absurdity.
Mad Men’s sixth season was full of institutional shake-ups for SC&P. While this kept the series from getting too comfortable or stale, it also made the season feel unbalanced and plot heavy, trading the show’s trademark purposeful pacing and philosophical leanings for multiple character introductions and messy office politics. Season 7 seems to be following a similar pattern in terms of its mid-season office shake-up narrative, but this time it is more intensely grounded by its characters, namely Don’s, so that all the office swapping and building renovations seem to exist to inform the character’s mindset, provide obstacles and reflect the character’s situation within the narrative.
I don’t think we’ve ever seen Don Draper so powerless and uncomfortable in what was once his natural environment. The real triumph of ‘Field Trip’ is the way director Christopher Manley along with Weiner and co-writer Heather Jeng Bladt, take the SC&P offices, a place that has become so comfortable and inviting for its audience and turn it into a scary, foreign environment, where even a partner who helped build the company feels out of place.
Yes! This is what I love about Mad Men. The show where the best scenes are almost always simply 2 people having a conversation. The show where a secretary changing offices can be a moment of genuine excitement and a radical narrative leap. The show where one of our favourite characters can act like a cruel and selfish person and still be recognisably herself.
The world has gone and changed on Mad Men. I’m just not referring to the 60s of the show which is creeping towards its end as Tricky Dick is inaugurated midway through the premiere; I’m referring to the television landscape that Mad Men inhabits.
Picture courtesy of the fantastic Tumblr Mad Men Screenshots with Things Drawn On Them
My feelings on Mad Men’s season six finale ‘In Care Of’ very neatly summarise my impression of season 6 as a whole. There are moments of brilliance, and the show still manages to be effectively unpredictable, but as a whole there feels as though too much is happening; it all feels a little messy and the episode ends up feeling less significant than the sum of its parts. However the final scene of the season goes a long way to taking a highly turbulent season that takes place at a confused and violent time period of the 60s and effectively centring all that craziness around Don.