Monday, October 12, 2009

Mad About the Men: Wee Small Hours

Spoiler Alert. Season 3, Episode 9:

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
- MLK Jr.

The American Dream was front and center of this ninth installment of the season, the most fractured and in many ways most frustrating episode so far.

The grainy radio broadcast of Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech (dating us on or around August 28 1963 - three months away from Roger’s daughter’s wedding and the assassination of JFK) hissed through Don’s car as he took a drive in those wee small hours and once again (yawn) sought to exert his influence over Miss Farrell. He loves her because she’s different! But really, she’s not that different at all. Watching Don move in the same tired old circles is becoming somewhat tedious and I can only hope that the writers will take us somewhere unexpected with this storyline.

But yes, the American Dream – free spirited Miss Farrell running (sans sports bra) through the pre-dawn streets; dreamy, lonely Conrad Hilton musing on the greatness of a hotel chain that will literally allow you to be BE IN AMERICA wherever in the world you happen to be, and lovely Sal, working his way up from Art Director to commercial director, directing a burly man with a knapsack on his back, a Lucky Strike in his mouth and a faraway look in his eye. The symbolism is almost too much to bear.


I wish I’d been counting the number of times they said the word throughout the episode. It was a lot.

But this is a dream curdling like a bottle of milk on Don and Betty’s breakfast table - think of the sheer number of dream sequences we’ve seen this season. Connie Hilton is alone and unsatisfied, rightfully so - his grand-daughter will turn out to be Paris Hilton. Miss Farrell may be either ‘Pure or dumb,’ but she’s still just another woman who falls for Don’s charms. And Sal, with all the undertones of racial discrimination permeating the episode, Sal was the greatest victim of all. Don’s almost-whispered line of ‘You people,’ was cruel, cold and unexpected, much more shocking than Betty’s admission that the nation may just not be ready for a civil rights movement. We expect that from Betty – trapped so helplessly as she is by her desire for revolution and her paralyzing fear of change. We expect more from Don whose god-like patina continues to slowly tarnish as the season proceeds.

Betty’s stalled attempts at an affair showed the paradox that exists between what we dream of (the opening dream sequence of Henry seducing her on that damned fainting couch) and what we get in reality – thrown cash boxes, broken promises and ‘tawdry’ liaisons in locked, messy offices. Her dream was born and crushed by reality, just as her dream ended so rapidly last week when she returned home from Rome.

The overbearing and increasingly stifling feeling that something terrible is about to happen continues to haunt me as the season persists. Thank God for last night’s brief moment of comic relief – coming as always from Pete Campbell trying a cigarette and enduring a five minute coughing fit. It was a great piece of physical comedy, as was his flapping run out of the door after the vile Lucky Strike client. A thing like that.

Quote of the week: Don to the Art Director: “Now that I can finally understand you, I’m less impressed with what you have to say.”
Next Week: A party for Cooper

Diligently construed by E. Nolan
Photo by Carin Baer

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