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
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.
*SPOILERS TO FOLLOW*
The imagery of Mad Men often walks a fine line between poetic and on-the-nose. But for an episode that opens and closes with Don in a foetal position, this one manages to stay just on the right side of pretentious. Todd VanDerWerff has a wonderfully in-depth analysis of all the Freudian underpinnings of this episode, so I’m just going to look at the episode on a more superficial level.
The ubiquity of drug use has run rampart this season. Sure it relates to its prevalence in America circa 1968, but it also underlines this season’s – and 1968’s – tackling of chaos and waywardness and the futile attempts to manage it. This theme has been well managed by this season, but by its very nature, it leads to episodes and characterisations that don’t really amount to much. Now Mad Men has never focused heavily on driving forward narrative arcs, but by the end of each episode we should get a better sense of these characters, who they are and what they want. What we get in this episode is two very enjoyable story lines that don’t really amount to much and a couple of less interesting side tales of office politics.