Monday, October 19, 2009

Mad Men "The Color Blue": Eye of the Beholder

This week's episode, "The Color Blue," deals with perception, setting up the metaphor right off the bat with a discussion between Don and Miss(tress) Farrell. "How do I know that what I see as the color blue is the same as what everyone else sees? " The question posed by one of Farrell's students gets answered over and over again in many ways. "The truth is, people may see things differently, but they don't really want to." Basically, people see what they want to see, especially Betty, until the wool is pulled off their eyes. The episode ends with everyone looking at Don Draper, while Betty sees essentially a con man.

You have to hand it to Matthew Weiner (and, in this case, his former assistant-turned-writing-partner-turned-ex-employee Kater Gordon) for making this episode more than what it was, which was the inevitable dramatic turn of Betty finding out about Don's past. The whole episode is obviously written around that (non) event, and finding a subtle theme to make it work is the genius of Mad Men. As a result verywhere you look in "The Color Blue," there's two sets of eyes looking at the same thing differently, and in many cases, first seeing it how they want to see it, then uncovering the ugly truth of what they're looking at.

Lane Pryce doesn't see anything the same way as either his London bosses or his wife. Pryce can't understand why they'd want to sell Sterling Cooper, because he's made it more efficient, but the ugly truth is that is exactly why they want to sell. Elsewhere, perspective is everything with Pryce and his wife sees their stay in New York as a sort of prison sentence, but Pryce is determined to "make the most of" his stay. News of the sale saddens Pryce, but his wife sees it as a chance to get back home -- they even see being stuck in traffic through entirely different lenses. It's a wonder they're still together.

Speaking of still together, Betty's perspective is an interesting one throughout here, for obvious reasons. I loved how they handled the hung-up caller, with both Don and Betty fearing it was their secret tryst on the other line. (One has to assume it was Miss Farrell, right?) Meanwhile, Betty's steamy relationship with her washer/dryer finally hits paydirt, producing Don's keys which leads to Betty finding his box-o-secrets. Confession time: My great uncle had a whole room like this, apparently, where after his death, they discovered boxes of cash, photos and a store's worth of still shrunk-wrap clothes. His secret was that he was gay, and his death was a liberation for my great aunt, stuck in a loveless marriage for nearly 40 years.

I've had less to write about this season, as there's been a lot less in both music and literary references throughout (Mary McCarthy's The Group hardly counts here), but I still find myself so invested in the characters, that I don't miss it (or maybe I'm so invested in characters that I'm missing literary references that are there). However, if I'd somehow just came in during this season, I have to confess I might wonder what all the fuss is about. Even great series' will sometimes rely on our relationship of characters to carry us through episodes by the third & fourth season, but I sense that we're going to get a few more nuggets before we're through.

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