Monday, September 29, 2008

Mad Men: "Six Months Leave" - Woke up with a Monster

We had to wait a week for it, but wasn't it worth it? Not only did to see Mad Men's big Emmy win, but all the expectation for this episode after week off was met with another solid (game changing) episode. As expected, the death of Marilyn Monroe played a crucial role in this, the August episode for Mad Men, tying it together with the theme of 'be careful what you wish for."

The story of Marilyn Monroe is obviously one of tragedy, a women who achieved fortune and fame, but in the end was destroyed by it, the historical tie to the aforementioned theme. It was obvious to anyone that Joan, of all people, would be affected by her death, so it's all the more cold to hear Roger lecture her on who was worthy of mourning. "She was a movie star who had everything, and everybody, and she threw it away," he says to her, devoid of empathy. "Someday you'll lose someone you love, and then you'll understand," she replies and Roger is left to stare off in the distance. He already has lost someone he loves, and she just walked out the door behind him. Just one of the many subtle moments that help set up Roger's surprising move at the end, but more on that later.

The main story throughout, of course, was the downfall of Freddy Rumsen, played with aplomb by Joel Murray. The title of the episode, "Six Months Leave," sounds like something you might wish for after a hard day at the office, but for Freddy, in the wake of pissing himself, it's a death sentence. Don's resistance to firing Freddy is seen by Roger as loyalty to a fault, but in this case I think it's more Don seeing his own precarious situation in parallel with Freddy's. A man's name is important, and not to be sullied, even if, as in the case of Don, it's not even his real name. Freddy knows that the arrangement is just a gesture, and that his job won't really be there when he gets back. "Who am I if I'm not going to that office every day?" Freddy asks Don, reminding us that he's defined himself by his job. Don, meanwhile, is nearly the opposite -- he's essentially lost his identity in the role of his job. Their final words say a lot. Don, still playing the optimist, says "Good night, Freddy," while Freddy, understanding what's really happening, says "Goodbye, Don." We'll miss you Joel Murray [plays "Taps" with zipper].

Another recurring theme throughout is of various characters getting woken up abruptly, to be confronted with a sobering reality. Betty, is awoken from an alcohol and depression induced nap, and after being subjected to Sarah Beth's hints at an affair, Betty then decides to take kill two birds with one stone, setting her one outlet for an affair in Arthur, and instead setting him up with Sara Beth at a lunch she conveniently misses. If there's any doubt as to Betty's intention in the setup, we're given a visual of young Sally "stirring the pot," as the Drapers make cookies. Freddy similarly awakes from a drunken stupor, only his sobering reality was soiled trousers, and the walk of shame out of the office, his last such walk. Complicit in Freddy's demise was Pete, who's awoken from a nap in his office by Peggy, confronting him about ratting out Freddy. Hildy's disgust was also visible, which is funny in that he still can't get respect from his 'girl.'

In the final, plot twisting scene, Don is woken from his nap by Roger's wife Mona, and we find out that Roger has not only used Don's words to justify his dumping of Mona, but also is throwing his lot with Don's secretary Jane. Roger, who earlier was thinking of how he lost Joan, convinces himself that Jane is his Joan (and, to revisit the "Maidenform" episode from earlier, Marilyn's not an option now, so you have to go with a Jackie). The move is traitorous to Don on many fronts, the worst of which is knowing that Roger's gained access to info about Don via pillow talk. As we saw last season with the oysters and the elevator stunt, Don is ruthless in his revenge, so one wonders what it's store for Roger (and Jane, for that matter -- it's bad enough having to watch your back with Joan, but add Don to the mix, and you get the feeling Jane will soon be following Freddy's zipper out the door).

The significant choice of music this episode was the closing credits, with Marilyn Monroe singing "I'm Thru With Love," from her role as Sugar Kane in the Billy Wilder classic Some Like It Hot (see video below). It's the saddest of all the Marilyn songs, and thus has even more of an impact in the context of the initial belief by many here that her death was a suicide. Meanwhile, Betty switches away from news of Marilyn's death on the radio, to instead listen to Tchaikovsky's "First Piano Concerto", which may or may not have some significance. Tchaikovsky first wrote/dedicated the song for friend and Moscow Conservatory founder Nikolai Rubinstein, but ended up taking it to someone else after Rubinstein asked him rework it, and that history could have some parallels to the state of the Drapers, if you squint really hard (go ahead and squint!).

Previously: As the World Turns (Episode 2.08)

1 comment:

Pam said...

I really enjoy your recaps! Thanks!