Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mad Men "The Good News": For People Who Love Bad News

"Though things have been precarious financially, it’s been a magnificent year," says Lane Pryce, illuminating the only real "Good News" this week's episode had. "May you live in interesting times," goes the famous Chinese proverb/curse, and 1964 seems to have been all that (and a bag of s$#t) for the episode's primaries -- Don, Lane and Joan.

I get the feeling this episode had a checklist of back story that it was to fill in for us, and it did so rather clumsily (which might be a first with Mad Men). We're already aware of just how bad it's been for Don, that's been hammered into us with the first two installments of the season, but it turns out that chap Lane has had a rough go of it himself with the ol' trouble and strife. And, as we might have suspected, Joan's reality of a married life is far from her ideal. But it was nice to find out that Greg isn't as bad a surgeon as we (and Joan) thought. Aside from the tone deaf "filing papers" comment, his bedside manner and efficient stitching up of Joan's finger surprised her, and made the prospect of him leaving for Vietnam seem even more real.

We also get another trip to the W(B)est Coast for Don, which means 1) Anna, so Dick Whitman is let loose; 2) More colors in the palette! 3) Another young nubile temptress (Stephanie) who spouts heavy-handed lines to suggest the coming cultural revolution. Comments on the sit in at Berkley, Jan & Dean and being an anti-consumer dropped like coins in a tin can. "Nobody knows what's wrong with themselves, and everyone else can see it right away," she says at one point, drawing a not-so-dotted line into the over-arching theme of Mad Men. One thing that comment does, though, is make what Anna says a little later that much more special: "I know everything about you and I still love you." Anna knows all about Dick, but Dick knows all about Anna too, that she's dying of cancer. I have a hard time believing that Anna doesn't know, considering she's been going to the doctor all her life, so perhaps it's a shared secret that neither of them knows the other one is in on.

Back to Stephanie, besides Jan & Dean ("Sidewalk Surfin"), she plays Patti Page's "Old Cape Cod" to tease Dick about his age (is an 8-year old song already an oldie?). The song's theme naturally fits in with one of the episodes themes, that of 'getting away from your troubles.' Don/Dick's Cape Cod we already knew is Anna's place, where he can be himself and grounds himself before starting his next chapter. Back on the drab colored East Coast, Don offers Lane his own bit of Cape Cod escapism with a romp around town, and thanks in large part to a steak belt buckle, my memory of this episode will forever be favorable. (Lane for the save.) Just like Don with his trip to L.A., Lane seems refreshed the next day, ready to put the past behind him, and Joan is right on queue with "Gentlemen, should we begin 1965?"

Minor quibble, while it was hilarious to see Don & Lane go from thinking about going to see The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and ending up at a Japanese monster movie. The movie appeared to be footage of Gamera, but that film didn't get its U.S. premiere for another two years. Instead, they probably meant for the film to be Mothra vs. Godzilla, which opened in New York around Thanksgiving in 1964 (as Godzilla vs The Thing).

Mad Men - Episode 4.03
1. "Sidewalk Surfin" - Jan & Dean
2. "Old Cape Cod" - Patti Page
3. "Waves (Antonio Carlos Jobim)" - Oscar Peterson

Previously: "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" (Episode 4.02)

1 comment:

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