Well, it’s been a long time coming and I am SO HAPPY that Mad Men has started that I CAN’T WAIT to blog about it, even though I am probably a little too tipsy to make any sense and the episode just ended a few minutes ago so I haven’t fully processed it. Nonetheless, here I go roughly into that good night of impressions, stream of consciousness, and full-on unfiltered reaction.
I wasn’t really sure what to make of this episode at first, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out when the episode was set. I had heard a long time ago that it was going to be in 1964, but I also was expecting Don and Betty’s baby to be born already. I was expecting Joan to be married or not married, but not still engaged, and I was worried that I was going to hear about Peggy’s little baby ripped out of his home–wherever his home ended up being–and placed into Trudy and Pete’s care. I am dying to know if Pete has said a word to Trudy; I am surprised, for some reason, that Sal is still married. Of course, babies were much on my mind, considering the opening. Had we ever wondered before about the exact circumstances of Don’s birth (I had not), we had all our questions answered.
I don’t think I cared very much for this interlude with Don and his memories (although the Dick joke was hilarious). It was very interestingly done (I’d say more, but I know nothing about cinema), but it established a strange tone I had a hard time recovering from. After seeing how it bookended with Sally and Betty and the story of Sally’s birth I get why we had it, but I don’t know that I agree with it. It felt indulgent. It’s been a long time since we heard that Don’s mother was a prostitute, so I suppose there was no other graceful way of reminding us, but I had kind of hoped that Don’s issues with his past identity–the personal ones, since it looks like the lovely First Mrs. Draper has made her peace with the practical ones and poses no threat–had been settled to the point where we would get to see what Don was going to do with the rest of his life. It’s my dear hope that we saw this beautiful memory made life to put it, finally, to rest. Nothing really could be further from his story than Betty bringing a toy Eeyore to the hospital to present to a cherished first child, or Don up late at night making her warm milk to help her sleep, or the daughter in his room begging him never to leave home again. The disparity between his old life and his current one has been made perfectly clear to me, thank you very much. I get it. I would like to get past it, so far as the details are concerned.
ASIDE: The little lesbian with the hammer line? Too jarring. It was as in your face as the dry-cleaning bag over the face joke from the first season. The Ooh, Daddy, are these stewardess’s insignia that got into your suitcase by mistake while you were attempting to bang the blond who looked like the pregnant wife you left at home for me discovery was priceless! Loved it! (Even if it was only a pretense, really, to put Sally on the bed between her parents so they could tell her their story and finish the episode.)
Salvatore is my next favorite thing to talk about, and so I will admire the beauty of him getting his own young lovely uniform into his hotel room while Don was doing the same thing. I feel just terrible for him–terrible!–even if the Balzac quotation too obviously explained what any self-respecting audience member should have discerned for him- or herself. The anticipation of discovery (and of gratification; has he actually acted on these desires?) is the bane of his existence. What I wish he realized was that Don knows. Don doesn’t care. Don was surprised that Sal had the boy in his room (because Sal is so timid about such things) but mostly wanted to make sure he got out of a burning building.
THESIS ALERT: Someone could analyze Sal’s behavior and desire against the context of the burning building, especially his remark back at the office that there were “no casualties” and Cosgrove’s lamentation that it was a pity. Surely there’s going to be some pop-culture/television/gay studies course that assigns a paper topic on these lines. Use the topic with my blessing, but leave a comment!
Interesting, too, that Sal does not answer “yes” when asked if he has a family. I know a lot of people think of children as family, but he has a wife. He wasn’t thinking of her. He had to clarify. She is so not on his mind. I would like to see one more glimpse of Mrs. Sal this season; she isn’t stupid. Maybe she’ll leave him with some noble exhortation to find himself someone who makes him happy. He was almost pitiful in that scene of the storyboards of the London Fog advertisement, when the man gazing at the women with the open raincoat had no face, and Sal had no description for his looks. Sal never doesn’t put faces on his drawings. Never.
The bulk of the rest of it (I am already almost at 900 words and don’t want to stay up all night) is about office politics, and Pete, who I absolutely adore for being 100 percent honest all of the time, even if he is a little crazy, and Joan and Peggy (Are they equals? Is Peggy having herself some airs over Joan?), and the poor Mr. John Hooker, who is a secretary in the Grand 19th Century European Tour tradition (like John Q. Adams, before he became president), but has no place in the pool. I know Joan was only trying to get him out of the girls’ way so they could get their work done, but it was a kindness for her to find him an office, too. I know she was ragging on him, and it was time for him to get used to the idea that he was not management, but it was obvious she understood how he felt about being the only male, and an Englishman abroad, and clearly shit upon by his compatriots/employers. He has a very lonely position, but so does she. They are not equals, no, but behind her scathing, no-nonsense personality she is not cruel. I felt just awful when Mr. Hooker’s superior kicked him out of the office–even though I know why he did that, too.
I am snickering only privately about poor John Hooker’s name.
I do not really want to talk about the way Joan looked. Not really. But there was that specific line of dialogue that Peggy said to her about water retention, and bridedom, and I don’t know what. I am not sure if I am seeing a pregnant Joan who is only getting married now because she “has to” and has given up the luxury of kicking a rapist fiance to the curb. I don’t think I am. I do recognize, however, tempting the fates when Joan says something along the lines of “my time here is short enough,” which means of course that she thinks she’ll be quitting her job when she gets married but that the laws of foreshadowing indicate that some part of that plan will not come to pass. I just can’t imagine her leaving the office. I may suffer, however, from a lack of imagination. Certainly nothing I ever predict for any show has ever come true.
ASIDE: I am really, really hoping that the last season of LOST starts with them at the airport, but with the memory of all the stuff that happened. Wouldn’t that be interesting? It would undermine the concepts of Fate and Free Will at the same time!
All the excitement for the next few episodes will be coming from the office, I think, and I am looking forward to it. I watched the “next week on” scenes but on mute, so I’m not going to bother to talk about it. I’m sure that I’ll find in the morning a million things of significance that escape me now, and that I’ll be distracted until at least 11:00 AM reading all the blogs tomorrow. I am so happy to have this show back on the air, and I’m not even sure I can say why! I must not be reading enough. But boy it’s good to be back!
Tonight’s Drink: R. L. Buller & Son Premium Fine Tawny Port (a mix of vintages from Costco). It gets you drunk.
Tonight’s Snack: An Apricot Wensleydale cheese, also from Costco, with jumbo Wheat Thins that really have no business being so large. It’s cheeeeese, Grommit!