Monday, June 11, 2012

Mad Men "The Phantom": It won't be the hot tooth that kills you, Mr. Bond

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) lights up, which feels like it's how nearly every Mad Men season finale ends.
Compared to prior seasons, Mad Men's fifth seems a bit of an odd one. After the extended layoff, we got murderous fever dreams from Don, Roger taking LSD, and Joan accepting an indecent proposal, Lane's harrowing end -- all scenes that might feel out of character in any other season. For the finale, we get the ghost of Don's (Dick's) brother Adam, lecturing him while out on laughing gas. Between having Adam spell out Don's hot tooth metaphor for us and Pete's "temporary bandage on a permanent wound" speech to Beth, the finale really took the bite out of critical analysis. Lucky for me, there was music.

Playlist: Season 5 of Mad Men (Spotify)

The turn to fantastical after four strong seasons really made the use of the theme to You Only Live Twice to "montage out" the season all the more appropriate. Like Mad Men, the fifth installment of the 007 series really "went for it," feeling invincible after the one-two punch of Goldfinger and Thunderball put the franchise -- and the spy genre as a whole -- on top. They hired the fantastical children's author Roald Dahl to adapt Ian Fleming's last published James Bond novel (in his lifetime, anyway), and Dahl tossed out most the plot (except Bond faking his own death, which fits nicely into Mad Men's back story for Don) and took it over the top. The ultimate was the building a lair for SPECTRE inside a volcano (requiring a $9+ million set build from designer Ken Adam). The film did well at the box office (the first Bond film to be released during the lucrative summer season in the U.S.), but is never remembered as a good Bond film. What it got right, though, was the music, employing John Barry for the first of many soundtracks, with the sultry Nancy Sinatra giving the title song just enough kick.

In parallel to Mad Men's fifth season, while the AMC series certainly didn't have an overflowing budget, I can't help feeling Matthew Weiner was emboldened by four straight Emmy wins for best drama, and channeled his own inner Dahl for some of Mad Men's more fantastical elements this year.

Another Bond film gets referenced in the season finale, as Don runs into Peggy similarly "clearing the clouds" at the theater, taking in the messy Bond satire Casino Royale. Employing five directors and Ian Fleming's original choice for Bond, David Niven, Casino Royale made Dahl's crazy script for YOLT seem like Jane Austin. Critically panned at it's release, the film has become a cult classic of sorts, and you'll probably have better luck "clearing clouds" with it than it's 1967 Bond counter-part. Ironically enough, You Only Live Twice spawned the more recent Bond spoofs, the Austin Powers series, with its volcano lairs and bald bad guys (Dr. Evil is only slightly more funny than Donald Pleasance's camp take on Ernst Stavro Blofeld).

If anyone wants to spoof Mad Men, I guess this is the season to draw inspiration.

After re-reading this, I feel the need to point out that I don't think this season was terrible at all, just the odd duck in the series thus far.

Previously: "Christmas Waltz" (Episode 5.10)

1 comment:

Michelle Auer said...

This finale kind of left me with the feeling that it wrapped enough up, that if they decide to not do one last season,l it won't be a huge deal. When I finished watching it I had to double check it was not the series finale since it had that "wrap it all up with an open ended bow" feeling to it.