Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mad About the Men: Out of Town

Spoiler Alert. Season 3, Episode 1:

The doors of Sterling Cooper are open for business once again, and oh Aunty ‘Em how good it felt to be back, nestled in the ample warmth of Joan’s bosom once more.
Unlike the two year leap from Season 1 to 2, here a matter of six or seven months have gone by (essentially real time) and Betty is now 8 months pregnant.

Appropriately for the first episode of a new season, images were abound of birth and motherhood. Our first sight of Don was of him warming milk for Betty late at night, intercut with flashbacks, in which we learned the genealogy of the name "Dick" Whitman. These were actually a little disappointingly handled to me, reminiscent of slightly dubious amateur dramatics but also evocative of the final scenes of Our Town.

However, we did finally learn the full story about Don’s/Dick’s less than auspicious beginnings. He is quite literally the son of a whore, named "Dick" as an angry testament to his father’s appendage. Was this Don’s own paranoia at work? A story created from his imagination? Or was it true? Perhaps the overt theatricality of it all was a clue that we were meant to read this as Don’s own internal fiction? Time, I’m sure, will tell.

This maternal theme was fully rounded-out in the closing moments when scary Sally Draper (who is going to be such an effed-up adult thanks to Betty’s Valley of the Dolls routine), discovered the Air Stewardesses wings then asked about the night she was born. Don was unable to get the story out, drifting off into a dark reverie.

The other big storyline was the outing of Sal. To me, the strength of Mad Men has always been the way they weave the metaphors of advertising together with the broader emotional and social issues of the show – The Kodak Carousel moment is one of the most memorable from Season 1. This was once again done superbly in this episode with the London Fog business.

London Fog became the presence of the Brits in the office, it became a metaphor for Sal’s closeted existence and ultimately a "fog" was what Don encouraged Sal to bring down around himself. His "Limit your exposure" speech to Sal was so absolutely pitch perfect as to cause me to catch my breath. Here he is, a man who knows ALL about what it means to lead a double life, telling Sal to keep the proverbial raincoat on. Limit your exposure. Protect yourself. Once again we caught a glimpse of Don’s humanity, the thing that keeps us hanging on when we’re screaming at the TV after he once again bangs some dumb girl. Oh Rachel Menken, how I yearn for you! You were his only equal.

It would be rude to ignore Pete Campbell in this episode, his creepy Mr. Burns-esque post-promotion victory dance was so macabre, so ghoulish! I loved it. His subsequent descent into foot-stamping and brattiness was equally enjoyable. He remains my favourite character on the show.

LINE OF THE WEEK: "Limit your exposure" – Don to Sal.
NEXT WEEK: Is Peggy going to get laid?

Diligently construed by E. Nolan
Photo by Carin Baer

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