Tag Archives: review

Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 17: Knives

If you are starting to wonder whether I have anything better to do than sit at my laptop and watch television and then blog about said television all day, the answer is no. No, I do not. I am loving my kitchen remodel, but it’s keeping me stuck at home (stuck is perhaps too negative a term), on hand to let people in and out and answer questions, but too distracted to do work for money. I balanced my checkbook already, and removing the hotlinks that I put in this blog before I learned that it was rude to have them gets pretty boring pretty fast. Why not write? I enjoy writing, and I definitely like watching B5, and even though the aforementioned episode was a little slow, the half of if that advanced the story arc was very good.

I’m just going to skip over all the Sheridan hallucination stuff and pretend it didn’t happen. It turned out to be a go-nowhere situation that maybe served the purpose of reminding viewers that there was that time slip/warp thing with Sector 14 that involved the Babylon 4 station, and really nothing else. OK, the vision of watching the Icarus ship explode reminded us that Sheridan’s wife died because of that monster on that planet, so that will probably come up again soon, too. It actually annoyed me when Sheridan started having those visions and those headaches, because I thought we were in for another round of morals and lessons by Kosh the Vorlon, but that wasn’t it. I can’t decide if a go-nowhere resolution (it was an alien in his brain that left no traces and did no damage!) is less annoying than a repeat of psychic training would have been. Remember that episode of Lost with Hurley finding the van? It was an adorable little episode when you were watching it the first time, but the second time, when you are reviewing that season before the next season started it, and you already knew that it would go nowhere, you just don’t want to bother. That’s what I am feeling right now, but only about the Sheridan stuff. Because this was Londo’s episode, and I wish we could have seen more of him, without padding.

Londo! I can’t make up my mind about him, which is a testament to the character or the actor, or the writers, or all of it. I hate him, I think–especially because of these flashes of conscience we see. I know he appreciates Vir, and I’m glad Vir is confident enough now to openly speak to Londo about his behavior, and to wantonly judge and implore and generally try to interfere with his plans, and it says a lot about Londo that he lets Vir keep harping on these points. But why Londo has just given himself up to Fate, or The Machine, or Greed, or whatever it is that he feels hopelessly entangled by, when it is so clear now that his choices are not requirements and war is not inevitable, is a mystery that bears watching.

If there was any doubt in my mind that perhaps the Narn were unreliable narrators and perhaps manipulating the sentiments of all observers to cast the Centauri as villains, it’s gone. The appearance of Londo’s friend Urza demonstrates that the ruling class of the Centauri is not a monolithic, arrogant, hostile crowd hell-bent on empire and galactic domination. Considering that Urza really had no knowledge of Londo’s involvement in this palace coup, I believe that when he says no one really wants another war he means most Centauri really don’t want another war. Vir is no longer just some lone opponent of evil–he is the desperate mouthpiece of a planet trying to get through to the one person who can halt this chain of events. I’m pondering whether that makes Vir more or less heroic; it makes him less of a victim, in a way, and less of an angel figure, and it makes the whole situation seem much, much more tragic somehow. Good is being trampled by evil, but also the will of an entire people is being trampled by the intrigues of a few.

The fight to the death as a strategy to put Londo in a position to help his friend was genuinely suspenseful. I knew Londo wouldn’t die, but I didn’t know how it would actually resolve. I liked watching the people in the background of the party, too, because I like what goes on with the extras in this show for some reason. And the Centauri men’s hairstyle fascinates me; all the bald women’s heads are strangely beautiful, too. We didn’t really need to learn about that particular tradition of Centauri House Dueling, and I can’t imagine how it would come up again, but it shows that Londo is aware of subtlety, and obligation, and the bonds of friendship, and has a sense of pride, and it makes it even more perplexing that he’s being so stubborn about this war thing. I am probably more interested in him right now than anything else on the show. Well, him and G’Kar. Of course, this mystery will likely be directly tied to the mystery of what lurks in the shadows and the hinterlands, and the evil thing that ate up the late Mrs. Sheridan’s science ship, so it’s a package deal. I can dig. So even if the Londo story didn’t really advance the story arc either, it was still worth it to see him as a character and it invested me even more in this story. I keep remembering now that he’s the guy who narrated the pilot/movie that starts off the whole show, and that means he’s around at the end of it all to tell the sad, sorry tale. Or inspiring, heroic tale. That makes him narratively the most important character of the story. We’d call him Ishmael if he didn’t already have a name.

I’ll have to think about how PsiCorp factors into all this. Earth Government feels like just a puppet of the PsiCorps, so I can throw them out of my calculations. PsiCorps, Centauri schemers, evil beyond comprehension, the persecuted Narn, and the Minbari/Vorlon freedom fighting alliance all add up to a space station placed precisely at the epicenter of disaster.

I have high hopes for the rest of Season 2; it’s got some very good titles coming up. And because I doubt that Hulu will scrounge up season 3 just in time for me to watch it (although that’s what happened with my Buffy viewing), it looks like I’ve got some reserving to do at the library. The county branch has everything on DVD. Thank you, taxpayers of San Diego!

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Blogging Harper’s Island (Because Someone Has To)–Episode 11: Splash

Let’s just get the graveyard out of the way, OK? Here are your names and your epitaphs:

Goodbye, Nikki! Im sorry that neither your character nor your characters death served any purpose.

Goodbye, Nikki! I'm sorry that neither your character nor your character's death served any purpose.

Goodbye, Shane! Ill miss your attitude, but you did put up a good fight. I really thought hed cut your arm off, though.

Goodbye, Shane! I'll miss your attitude, but you did put up a good fight. I really thought he'd cut your arm off, though.

Goodbye, Cal! I really thought youd do the whole pirate movie hero thing. I am very sad for you, but mostly for myself.

Goodbye, Cal! I really thought you'd do the whole pirate movie hero thing. I am very sad for you, but mostly for myself.

Goodbye, Chloe! It was very romantic, but you could totally have gotten away. Cal told you to run. You let him down.

Goodbye, Chloe! It was very romantic, but you could totally have gotten away. Cal told you to run. You let him down.

I guess I ought to remark on the passing of the deputy, whose body was found in the church. He is the fifth dead body of the episode. There. Graveyard planted.

I am not sure if I really liked this episode or not. On the one hand, it had Leoben from Battlestar Galactica in it, a character I absolutely loved played by an actor who owned the role (Callum Keith Rennie). Despite appearances, I don’t really watch that much TV, and I don’t see that actor that often, so it was a treat to watch this episode looking even for glimpses of him. It kept my attention until the end. It got by me last episode that it was this actor, so I was totally surprised to see his name in the opening credits. On the other hand, it was an episode where people were wandering around–which I find boring–and it was an episode that shot to hell my “elegant theory” (the mysterycanuck said it was elegant!) about how maybe Wakefield wasn’t the murderer and how maybe he was tracking down some son who actually was. My predictions about shows are never right, so I never expect validation, but I never particularly like seeing them proven wrong, either. So that was a drawback. And it was disgustingly violent. I mean, wow, gross, ick violent. I thought a lot of the people early on died in pretty grisly ways, but some of them were sort of interesting (I realize that sounds just terrible to say), and the camera didn’t just focus and focus and focus on it. This stabbing business was over the top. I don’t know why we had to see all of that. It was sort of a major departure from the methods of the other killings (creative, staged, private), which added to the sense that it was out of place, and it really requires an explanation now that we haven’t gotten yet. That Wakefield used to love a woman like Chloe is not sufficient.

Speaking of which, these tunnels are interesting to know about, but I refuse to believe anyone could enter and exit them quietly, especially with a captive when everyone else is standing IN THE SAME ROOM. Chloe could not be dragged out of that church into a tunnel without anyone noticing. No gag is that efficient, and she was standing in the middle of a bunch of wooden pews, and those things make noise when you try to move between them. Secret kidnapping just not happening. Cal coming to find Chloe was very romantic, and their escape and him buying her time to get away and all that, but the time it took for her to stand there and watch Wakefield kill Cal, and for her to have a conversation with Wakefield would have been plenty of time for her to get around that fence and run away. Cal was a beautiful, wonderful boy, but she had no business throwing herself away after him… especially in a scene that was such a rip-off of The Last of the Mohicans, when Alice dropped herself off a cliff. I can get how suicide might be empowering in some situations, but this isn’t one of them. This is lazy writing. Call me a cynic, but I would have made a go of it. I might have slipped in my haste (although the rushing water was far enough away that the spray would not have made the pipe slick) and fallen anyway, but just giving up when she was already started and Wakefield was already so far away was a bad decision.

And I’m just tired of Abby, who I never liked, and I am tired of Madison acting like a simpleton (although I am very happy people are telling the truth to her now–nothing makes crazy like lying to a kid who senses what’s really going on). I guess I never minded Shae, and I am impressed with how Trish has stepped up to the plate, and I guess I’m supposed to think that Jimmy is the new bad guy (although surely Abby’s dad would have some insight into that and not sacrifice himself so that Abby could live long and prosper with Jimmy by her side), and I don’t understand how all these rugged, rustic locals who until the wedding party arrived probably hunted a fair piece are missing all these shots. (Henry, I’m looking at you. Abby, too.)

To wrap up on a lighter note, I appreciated the dynamic between Danny and Sully. Sully confessing his dark secrets and pretending to be “less guarded” now is sort of a cliche, but I found Danny’s reverence for his fear and turning to religious comfort in his dark hour was an interesting choice. It’s probably the most reasonable thing anyone did all episode. Small touches like those go a long way towards authentic characterization in better shows, and it’s nice that Generic Friend got something real to do.

I will watch the rest of this series and get it out of my system, hoping now that Trish catches on to how Henry’s really helping Abby fight her battles instead of helping Trish. A breakup at the end would please me. I probably ought to figure out how many episodes are left, too. One, two, whatever.

I am still a big fan of the short summer series concept, however. Hopefully this show will serve as some sort of trailblazer, and not matter in the end if it wasn’t very good. If it teaches the viewing audience and writer teams what the format can do, then better shows can follow, and I will be grateful.

Blogging Harper’s Island (Because Someone Has To!)–Episode 7: Thrack, Splat, Sizzle

Gah! I wrote this more than a week ago, and just now noticed that it was still in “draft” status and never got published. I feel like such an idiot. Oh well. Now I’ll have two posts in a row. Could be worse.

(From June 7, 2009)
I have made a cardinal error. I have let too much time go by between me watching this episode and me writing my thoughts about it, although I have not made the cardinaler error of watching the next one. So I am two posts but only one episode behind. I will refresh my memory not by rewatching anything (unlike reading, say, Middlemarch, it doesn’t get better a second time), but by taking advantage of the three-minute recap on CBS. Or the one on YouTube:

Yeah, the show is sort of that insipid. OK. Onto the work of being a watcher.

I have forgotten whatever craft and subtlety I may have noticed the first time around, but I astonishingly had forgotten all about the two most noteworthy things: Abby’s mother dating Wakefield as a young woman (dating was such a funny word to use, I thought), and Madison being lured into a room with a self-closing door. I was disappointed by the Wakefield revelation, because going all OJ is just not that interesting. I hate that Wakefield is just another stalker–it’s so Lifetime–if just another stalker is what he turns out to be. I have high hopes that the father is some kind of unreliable narrator (certainly enough characters have said aloud that he is not to be trusted) and that the real story is something way cool. I’ve had Stockholm Syndrome on the brain all week because I’ve been watching Pixar’s Cars (the inhabitants of Radiator Spring really do a number on McQueen’s brain), so I wouldn’t mind finding an instance of it in this show. There could be this thing that Wakefield is really Abby’s dad (I am 100 percent expecting that regardless of how everything plays out) and that the mother was brought to the island by Officer Dad or something, and that Wakefield is really not the killer and that he’s really just lost his bloody mind and trying to bring is daughter home.

The thing about Madison is not interesting in itself. I don’t have anything to say at all about the actress, but the character might as well be a prop–she’s there to reveal things about other characters. She’s done all the work she needs to do for JD (a truly guilty man wouldn’t be so comfortable and natural and juvenile around children); she’s made her father more sympathetic; she jumpstarted–for no logical reason–the creepy tone at the start of the show (nothing creepy was happening external to the wedding party so they had a kid in anklet socks frying slugs with a magnifying glass); she opened the possibility of ghosts. I think ghosts would be pretty lame, but I think the rest of the show has answered the ghost question already. People aren’t just showing up dead in apparent accidents. They’ve all been manhandled. Something corporeal has done them all in. The big question with Madison now is how far the show will go to upset people. Will the producers kill a kid? It’s not something you often see on TV outside of the crime drama, especially not in the horror venue. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think that even in The Hills Have Eyes they killed the baby. But then there’s that scene in the Battlestar Galactica pilot/miniseries with Six walking through that farmer’s market on Caprica, and that baby stroller, and that weak neck… because that has happened on TV (post-primetime cable TV, true), there’s always the possibility that someone else will try it, too. Is CBS going to be that someone? I don’t think so, but I don’t know. Gotta keep watching. Later, if Madison stays alive, I’ll be able to complain that the show demonstrated a real lack of innovation and courage for relying on predictable victims. I’ll see groundbreaking TV or I’ll get to play critic. It’s kind of a win-win.

Regarding the other content of the program… meh. Abby is going to pursue true love with the boy she should have never left behind. Trish is breaking off her engagement. I’ve never liked the engagement and these ugly incidents have revealed that Henry does have too much personal baggage for a steady relationship. All this business about how she’ll never be able to separate him from his brother about her father is just cover-up. She may think that now, but this was not a great match. I won’t say that she’s lying to herself because no one should have to marry the brother of her father’s murderer (I don’t think JD is the murderer, but this is a line of thought), but the shock would wear off. There’s some feeling beneath this story that is making it seem more true. I’m kind of impressed with Trish in this episode for pulling herself together. She did her panic/acute grief/shock thing and then put it aside when she had to. Girl’s got strength. She’s her father’s daughter! I wonder what other personality traits she’ll end up revealing.

The one death in this was the Beer Mongerer, Malcolm Ross. He had to be punished. It was a given. And thus, the thracking and splatting and sizzling. The blood on the actual money was a nice touch of color in a gloomy stretch of color. I don’t think he was very surprised to be knocked off, and it certainly happened at the luckiest time for a villain–the point of redemption. (Perhaps our killer is a Shakespeare scholar?) I vaguely wonder if his body parts will be tossed into the furnace, but it doesn’t really matter. The scene is grisly either way.

Goodbye, Malcolm! You never should have lied about your friend, or shot the boat, or had entrepreneurial dreams above your station.

Goodbye, Malcolm! You never should have lied about your friend, or shot the boat, or had entrepreneurial dreams above your station.

This episode felt a little flat after the fantastic one from the week before, but I haven’t seen the one after yet. If all the pieces were being assembled for some excellent drama, then I am totally stoked! I think I’d rather have one simple plot twist and lots of action, however, than a complicated explanation and a lot of talking. I’ll cross my fingers for some kind of posse. Perhaps Cal knows lots and lots about constructing a torch.

Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 15: And Now for a Word

Like I said yesterday, I really disliked this episode. I thought it moved the plot forward in interesting ways, but investigative journalism is annoying, especially in the hyperdramaticized, scandal-mongering way it is frequently presented–which this episode was overtly satirizing. I could only sit through about twenty minutes of it before I had to take a break. I went back to it while writing the previous episode blog post (Hulu, how I love your resizable pop-out viewing window!) and I took notes on it so I never have to go back to it again.

I’m not actually copying and pasting them–I’m jazzing it up with commas and verbs and articles and stuff. And adding sentences; my notes started halfway through, because it did pick up in the middle, when the interview segments got longer and the characters were able to speak for themselves better. Actually, the talking heads (as they like to call the interview segments of The Office, and everywhere else, I suppose) were quite interesting. It was the scenes of the interviewer adding commentary and the outside filming of the conference room and battlestations. Those were kind of artificial and stagey.

One of the first things I liked was the dock worker’s reference to the union strike and its resolution; that was a nice callback to the previous season, and the previous station captain, Sinclair. I was impressed with his solution to the problem, although I don’t remember right now what it was, and I think that even though the end-viewer of the journalism piece will have no idea what he is referring to, every television viewer did. I also liked the lurking presence of Ivanova during the interview with her subordinate, who was talking about how much he enjoyed working at the station. I’m not saying that she told anyone to lie, and that guy probably does like his job, but guy was definitely minding his tone. It made the later description of her as “sunny” and “bubbly” (or whatever insipid adjectives the reporter applied to her) even funnier. First of all, even the fictional end-viewers of the report were going to know that it wasn’t true, which gives them a good reason to be skeptical of everything presented, should this investigative piece become an issue later. Second, though, the television viewers know her, and can have a laugh at the obnoxious reporter’s expense.

I am at this moment coming up with an idea!

So later in the episode, the Earth representative guy whose name I didn’t catch complimented the reporter on being “one of the good ones.” I don’t generally like hearing politicians judge reporters as good or bad, because they usually don’t mean it in terms of story construction or artistry–they are judging the favorability of a journalist’s spin. That this politician liked this reporter suggests that she was sent out to Babylon 5 (or allowed to go after thinking up the idea) because she would come back with the correct version of events. Remember–these are the people we think tried to discredit Sheridan and undermine the Babylon 5 mission just one episode ago. Perhaps the journalist specifically planted clues that all was not what she said it was; her concluding speech was quite favorable of the staff and goals of the station. It’s a little conspiracy theoryish of me, and I really did just now think it up, but why not? There are established conspiracies in the show.

The journalist was awfully mean to Delenn, though, and made her cry, which is further proof that Delenn is trustworthy (see my previous post, which is from one day ago, for more on Delenn). So even if the journalist is cleverly collecting data that helps Babylon 5 that the Earth politicians are missing, she’s still a cold-hearted snake like the lot of them.

The background of the Narn/Centauri original war was fleshed out a little, although I don’t think that the personal details provided by G’Kar are more than poignant. Hearing the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” more than once (Sheridan says it and G’Kar says it) stuck out because it’s an excuse for a war that we’ve heard a lot of lately, but I don’t remember exactly what was going on in world politics in 1995. Perhaps it was a callback to the first war against Iraq–Operation Desert Storm. I’m sure Straczynski had it in mind when he was drafting the plot for his story. Overall, the way G’Kar explained his side of the story made the Narn seem a little bit like Ewoks; the way they filmed Londo at the last interview made him (and by proxy the Centauri) a little like vampires–I seriously never noticed his fanged teeth before this episode. It’s pretty clear to me who the Earth audience is supposed to see as victims/perpetrators, but I don’t think that the investigative journalist was presenting a very different side of the story than Straczynski has presented to us.

Delenn’s wrap-up of why she thinks Humans are so special reminded me of that scene in Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact, when the aliens were talking to Ellie about how Humans are so special. They referred in the book to Human dreams whereas Delenn admires Humans’ ability to form communities, but it’s just another contribution to the long list of science fiction scenarios in which some older, supposedly more enlightened alien race discovered that these brash upstarts (and I’m looking at you, David Brin, and you too, Spock) have this raw enthusiasm and energy that other races have forgotten how to tap into. It’s sort of an infantilized view of people, but we do love children, and it’s nice to be reminded that people are good, too. I guess it’s a fictional solution to the problem of how to make the playing field equal among the races when Humans are so far behind technologically and historically. I appreciate the cliche, but I’ll call it a tradition and bask in the warm cuddlies.

Something that Really Annoyed Me
I know we’re supposed to believe that Ivanova is competent and ruthless and a good leader, but easily half the time we see her she is not making decisions. Yeah, yeah, she’s not in charge, but even when she’s with her captain does she have to stand there and repeat the computer? Sheridan announces his plan of action, and Ivanova works it out aloud why that’s a good one, instead of getting to judge whether it’s a good one, or add to it, or participate.

It’s a stupid job, but someone has to do it, and the task once again falls on the woman. Poor Susan Ivanova! At least she’s in very good company.

PsiCorps
I had sort of forgotten about them. If the slightly unpleasant vibe you got off of the Earth politician wasn’t enough to remind you of the large conspiracies, then this PsiCorps commercial should have done the trick. It was hard to watch without laughing, and I’m sure that the selection of a perfectly Aryan boy for the role of misunderstood and extremely talented wasn’t an accident. The subliminal message–“PsiCorps is your friend. Trust the PsiCorp”–probably wasn’t subliminal enough if I saw it flash by, but I’m sure no one watching the commercial during the investigative report would have been able to see it and thus distrust it, because no one had pausable, rewindable, digital live TV. Of course, I don’t have pausable, rewindable, digital live TV either, so I shouldn’t poke fun; I had to go look up the message online. I’d caught PsiCorps and Friend, at least. I didn’t feel so bad. I’m guessing that we see Talia next episode if they went this far out of their way to remind us of her.

Maintbots
I just need one. Considering that a fleet of about thirty seemed to cover that gigantic surface area of the space station, one ought to keep my entire building clean. The cats would love it!

Blogging Harper’s Island (Because Someone Has To)–Episode 4: Bang!

Episode 4? Already? Where has the time gone?

Long Story Short: This is late because I was confused.

Short Story Long: I am a little late posting this, because I got all confused last Friday when I went to watch the show online and there wasn’t one, so I figured they’d skipped a week for some reason, never dreaming that they had moved it to Saturday. Saturday is not a good night for TV anymore, so I’m not sure what’s behind the move, especially at the end of the regular season when all the other shows are wrapping up. Perhaps I’ve just answered my own question, and they don’t want their television murder mystery experiment done in by the shows on the other networks that are also wrapping up their established shows. Perhaps the Thursday nights were just to get people hooked before they moved it to Saturdays in a coldly calculated move, according to an evil plan. I can get on board a CBS evil plan; I have an evil plan of my own and like to support others. I’m pretty sure our evil plans are not in conflict with each other, even indirectly. In fact, CBS’s evil plan might dovetail nicely into my own, what with Harper Island’s apparent proximity to Canada and all.

SPOILERS!

I thought, actually, that this was a pretty good episode. I liked the Groom’s Buddies as a concept, so the idea of spending all day with them was pretty fun. And I really didn’t see Future Beermonger coming. Talk about layers! I can’t say I was surprised that he was turned down by Bride’s Dad (whose name I have already forgotten), but he made a great pitch! I would totally invest in that beer, and I bet it’s good beer. I also thought the bridal shower was a good enough way to keep the women busy, and the bit with the tea set a nice scene between the sisters. The wedding dress, I guess, is spared, now that the china is all busted up. I am not suspecting Madison at all, though. Not for this. Frankly, it was just too quiet. I can’t see her having the strength to break every single piece by hand and so rapidly without being heard from the other room. What I also appreciated in this episode was the introduction of the Very Bad Idea. Sinking the boat? Really? Come on. EVERYBODY knows better than that. And that’s where the logic falls apart, which is precisely what needs to happen in a show like this. But I’ll rip on Beermonger later.

I honestly didn’t think “The Nerd” (Joel Booth) was going to be the one to go. It wasn’t after all, his Very Bad Idea, and he had the decency to be overcome with horror and disgust to the point of vomiting off of the side of the boat. That shows he is a Good Person, if a cowardly one, and to go in such a way–at the hand of his friend!–is a sort of a reward, I guess. He didn’t die terrified, he died with company, and it supposedly didn’t hurt at all. On a show like this, it’s as good as winning, I think. He was, in retrospect, too annoying to be allowed to live, and we couldn’t really spend so much time with him in this episode and not give him more screen time later if he survived, so this was maybe the writers’ only choice. I can’t feel that bad about it. He was lucky to have gotten as many lines as he did, and for that he should be grateful.

Goodbye, Joel! You were nice, and you were rewarded with a calm bleed-out. We should all be so lucky.

Goodbye, Joel! You were nice, and you were rewarded with a calm bleed-out. We should all be so lucky.

This sobering talk does bring up what has now become a major irritation, though. Are these people really so selfish and self-absorbed that no one misses Lucy and her yappy dog at the bridal shower and no one misses philandering Uncle Marty at the bachelor party? No one has stumbled on any corpses in the woods? Nothing? This island is not that big, and they are all using the same footpaths between the same locales. Burned people stink. Footbridges are in well-traveled locations. I am really starting to lose my sense of humor about this–even campy TV needs to explain some stuff.

Beermonger obviously was the one who deserved to die, and will suffer righteously for killing his friend until he does so. He was the one I was expecting to go, thinking that maybe The Nerd would kill him out of fright. Of course, a desperate man with a doubly guilty conscience can be counted on to do something interesting! What I don’t understand about him is why he stole the money. He’s got a supposed best friend who is about to marry an heiress, and they’ve all been joking about how much money Henry will have, and he doesn’t think that his friend would be able to invest in the beer company within a month? Surely the credit card stuff is temporary, since we are led to believe that he is only in this debt because of the tremendous costs of writing a business plan and inventing beer (which is noble) (which I will refute that in real life is crazy, because beer brewing on a small scale is pretty cheap, and he’s apparently just irresponsible). So his Very Bad Idea was all for naught, really, except now he’s committed them all to this poor choice. Of course, they could easily overcome it, I think, and go to the Ineffectual Authorities and explain everything. They wouldn’t even have to explain too hard. It would be a drag for all that to go down before the wedding, but not really. Even with the bullets in the bottom of the boat. This was selfish, crazy behavior that endangers others and has put Beermonger right at the top of the Clearly Has It Coming list, with underlines.

I know Sully is already on that list, but as much as I was liking Cal I am so not sorry that he was deliberately excluded from the fishing trip. You heard him talking about his love of fish. Would you have wanted to go out to sea with him? I’ve been out to sea with people who show off and it is no fun. Cal has every right to be upset with Sully over the Chloe thing, but he deserved to be left on shore for this one. And the local stripper thing screamed mishap as soon as they said the word “local.” Of course Henry would know her. The mafioso stripper handlers were just too much, even for this show.

The Girls
The bridal shower was unremarkable, although I liked the idea of having a psychic at a party. I also liked the idea of the psychic almost hitting Abby with the car, causing that horrible scrapbook to fall in the mud. Great idea for a present, bad execution. There are classier ways to make memorabilia now, and they don’t require glue. It is a last-minute gift and it looks like it. I can’t feel bad about it; she has plenty of time to make a nicer book with digital files and regular binding. It’s remarkable what digital printing has made available to people–especially to people who live in Los Angeles and should know better. It also struck me in this episode how ridiculously skinny Abby is. The actress is too thin. She is painful to look at. I didn’t notice it in other episodes; perhaps it is a directorial choice that signifies something about her character. In the same vein, I like how the Scarlet Woman Stepmother is lusty and voluptuous. Such a contrast! It’s pretty bad to screw your stepsoninlaw, but obviously she is only the stepmother because she and Richard have cooked up some plot to get Dad’s money (most likely with death), which Richard knows he wouldn’t get otherwise. (He can’t skeet shoot, to start.) I’m not exactly sure how that makes any of this a betrayal of Bride, but it was awfully nice of Richard to rescue her from the pool. That is what happens, right? I have a bad memory for faces.

The drama about being in the water while the cover was going over was just silly. It wasn’t a rigid cover–just swim to the side. Why the panic? If it were one of those hard covers that would be one thing, but this floppy, bubblewrap business? Why were they even putting that on at night, anyway? It just makes the pool even more dangerous with no benefit (they are solar covers for warming the water). Dumb, dumb, dumb. That and the Beerbrewing debt, and the unmissed members of the party are seriously bugging. Srsly.

I Just Had a Thought

Hmm… Maybe the level-headed Henry let the boat sink because he is the one that murdered Hunter! Everyone alive is a suspect for everything, right? He had to have recognized the body. Had to. It had only been out there a day, I think. I’m still impressed with how whoever rigged up that gun to shoot the guy rigged it up. That was some fine Rube Goldberging!

Blogging Harper’s Island (Because Someone Has To)–Episode 1: Whap

I was told by Stepfather that I should watch Harper’s Island. He didn’t tell me that very emphatically, and he probably isn’t watching it himself, but we’d been talking about Lost and how he stopped watching it this season, and because I don’t watch any of his shows (American Idol and Survivor spring to mind) and because so many of my shows are off the air, right now (Ugly Betty) and probably for good (Kyle XY, Battlestar Galactica, Life, Sarah Connor), and because I am a huge fan of the “maxi-series,” or deliberately short seasoned of planned programs, I figured why not? Besides, blogging about TV brings in what few ratings I have, and I bet not that many people are bothering to analyze the program, so it might give me an edge. It will all be over by Independence Day, so why not? Plus there’s a certain satisfaction in overthinking, and this is a show that allows me to overthink it without having to expend a lot of effort. Look at how easily I’ve overjustified this blog post! The words flow through me like a river through a drain conduit during the rainy season.

So I watched the first episode from my kitchen, on my laptop, like I’ve seen so many programs in the past. I picked it up at CBS.com, which is a pretty good website for keeping lots of episodes around for its programs although it is not so good at putting lots of programs online for people to watch in the first place. The first thing that struck me was at how short the show was–that’s a very big clue. Now that the networks are putting up old programs online for people to wax nostalgic over, you can see just how flagrantly content has been supplanted by commercials. A typical hour-long show is usually about 42 minutes; Harper’s Island is only 40. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer used to be about 48 minutes long. 8 minutes is a lot of story!) That’s clue #1 that the network doesn’t really think this show is very important. Clue #2 is that the online version was totally plugging an iPhone App where you could keep up with other viewers and make predictions as a group about which characters were going to be offed next. Ha ha! If I had an iPhone, and if the App was free, and if I had some sort of usage package that didn’t charge me by the megabyte or however they do it, I would totally participate! There is a lot one can forgive bad TV for if one has a group to bag on it with. I’ve said many times in the past few years how we are in a golden age of television, and the programming has been startlingly good (despite all the reality TV), but I think what makes it golden is that the Internet has really made it possible for everyone to get together and talk about the damn thing. We’re all living our own Mystery Science Theater 3000! The content provided by the industry is really only part of the entertainment. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets antsy when I have to view a show later than broadcast, not because I care what’s in it but because I care so much about what everyone is SAYING about it. I want to chime in, too, but I don’t want to be left out of inside jokes. I wouldn’t be watching Dollhouse if people that I talked Sarah Connor with online weren’t also watching Dollhouse and chatting it up. It doesn’t look like any of those people are going to be watching Harper’s, though, so I’ll do that bold thing where I build it to see if anyone comes.

I am a little too lazy, however, to constantly keep checking IMDb for everyone’s names. I know the episode’s name only because I could look at the CBS website in a tab already open so I could link to it above. I’ll be as descriptive as I can and use names if I can remember them. Try to keep up… and let’s get started!

All my episode write-ups will contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Harper's Island

There’s just not a lot to the pilot episode except establishing characters’ relationships to each other, and establishing some characters. I don’t get the feeling character is going to be explored too deeply in this show, and it probably doesn’t matter. The clothes and hairstyles pretty much indicate which stock stereotype each person is, and if you are having trouble keeping some of the rich blonds apart it probably doesn’t matter. They’ll get picked off soon enough–they always do. My favorite stock characters so far are the fun-loving buddies and the creepy kid. They do a girl creepy kid this time, which is something sort of unusual, and they actually show her hurting an animal with a brain: She’s torching snails with a magnifying glass. That’s not quite as hardcore as Caprica 6 snapping a baby’s neck, but this is CBS and not a high-decade cable channel. So it suffices, and I wasn’t expecting it. Props.

Whaddya know? I got a character name! One less ambiguity for me to deal with later. \o/

The fun-loving buddies are redeemed from being ordinary stock characters when we learn that they travel nowhere without a cooler. I think that image is hysterical, and let my imagination riff on that for a moment, and didn’t mind too much when we didn’t see them again. I’m sure they’ll crop up, one way or the other. We know they are guaranteed to die, so they’ll get at least a few lines of dialogue before that happens. Maybe one will even go out a hero!

The island is sufficiently spooky–the default setting of any island in the Pacific Northwest is gloomy, and that’s what we get. Most of the scenes once we’re off the boat are indoors or at night, so I can’t tell how the sunshine is really going to factor in. Sometimes directors use that sort of light to highlight events, but if it’s a show set in regular daylight most of the time, they can’t. Needless to say, there was enough sun for enough time to kill a snail around dinnertime, so the weather has to be pretty bright. I’m sure the rich people who vacation there know enough about local weather patterns to pick the best time to have a wedding.

The locals, whose economy seems to be vacationer-based, are down-homey enough and touchy enough to be surly when rich people act up and dumpy when rich people’s clothes need to shine. The rich people and local people are dressed far enough apart from each other so that when BFF of the Groom, a local girl who has been living in LA for a while, shows up in a fancy dress but a denim jacket, you can tell instantly that she’s living in both worlds. She’s also the only one I remember with dark hair. Her mother died on the island, but although you think for most of the episode that the mother is a victim, there’s this weird newspaper clipping that appears on the mirror in her hotel room (she’s not staying with her family) that seemed to implicate her mother in some way as perpetrator. Maybe I read it wrong. Whatever it was, everyone knows that she knows that they know her mother died when the rampage was happening, but the placement of the note at the end of the episode has to indicate that someone she doesn’t know is letting her know he or she knows something about her mother that the visiting rich people don’t know.

I thought the grisly murders were darn good for network TV. They weren’t that bloody, which was fine with me, but they were set up well. Nobody wants to be chopped in half like Fun Uncle, although it seems a mercy he was drunk enough or drugged enough to not have it hurt terribly much (there was no screaming). The worst one was the one at the beginning. I don’t know who he was or how no one knows that there’s a corpse tied to the keel of their yacht (one of the rich blonds–maybe the bride–was trying to call him at the beginning, but he didn’t seem so important to the wedding party that he couldn’t be left behind). The really nice touch from a horror movie standpoint was having him breathing with scuba gear for a long time before the boat’s rotor chopped his face all up. You’d think that the pilots of the boat really would have noticed something, but boats have a lot of mass and people don’t, so whatever. I’ve never piloted a yacht. I’m rolling with it.

Because it’s just been one day, I am not accusing any characters of being stupid yet, except the girl who decides to go skinny dipping in the North Pacific at night. Idiot. It’s freezing at noon in the summer! No wonder she got so angry at Accent Boy’s hijincks… if they were Accent Boy’s hijincks. I’m never good at tracking people who are bobbing in and out of the water. I’ll bet that he had an engagement ring in his pants pocket, though… hence the promise to take her sailing earlier… it was going to be a very romantic proposal, but now she’s so mad at him that she’ll probably have sex with a local to punish him or be so angry she walks into a murderer’s trap. That happens a lot to characters with violent emotions. They never see the killer coming.

I guess episode 2 will take place during the morning of the next day. I’ll be interested to see if each episode is one day or if they break up the days by meals or something. 13 days would be a really long time to be having pre-wedding celebrations, although they could get stuck on the island with a broken boat after the wedding. If I have to make predictions about who’s next, I’m going to say that it’s Ocean Girl and one of the fun-loving buddies. I really wonder if CBS would kill off even a creepy she-kid like Maidson. I bet she ends up leading people to a body at some point.

How long can half a body hang from a footbridge before falling through the broken slats? How many times will wedding guests cross that footbridge while he lies beneath? The suspense just may kill you.

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 12: The Mountain King

Peggy was radiant. Anna looked an awful lot like Betty. Joan’s turbulent inner life is breaking my heart, and I never ever thought about her inner life before. The mystery of the poetry package has been solved. Betty has broken the cycle and talked honestly to her daughter about problems in a way that her parents and family never bothered to talk to her (although I think she was overly defensive with Mary Beth). I was glad the piano player was not Don Draper’s (either #1 or #2) biological child. I hope Betty was just having her period and not some kind of dramatic miscarriage. I was pleased by the mutual directness and familiarity and professional respect during the conversation between Peggy and Pete. (See? He does know what social niceties are and how to use them!) Boo hoo hoo hoo to Ken Cosgrove for not getting Rumsen’s office, and thank you Roger for listening to Peggy despite being in a hurry and granting her perfectly reasonable and, yes, ballsy request. Most of all, zing! to Sister Cooper (Alice Cooper? Really?) for commenting about all of Roger’s children. I think she was referring to the lovely Jane herself.

I guess I’ll start with Peggy. I don’t know what other business there is to bringing in new clients, because all we saw was her presentation to Popsicle, and I’m not sure what else she did besides think up the idea to say that she brought them in herself.  Surely there are other points of negotiation that she has conduct with the client. Maybe it’s assumed that she spearheaded the operation, which is not something I’d think of a copywriter doing now. (Of course, I come out of editing and not advertising, so job descriptions could be different). I guess my lack of understanding about the industry in general impedes my ability to analyze, but I am assuming that while Don’s away Peggy and the other copywriters are doing his work. He was overseeing their department and, well, now he isn’t. We are obviously watching Peggy’s rise at Sterling Cooper, and Don’s reassessment of his role there, so it seems logical to me to assume that she’s going to end up in his job eventually, or its equivalent, or some parallel position of responsibility. She’s definitely management track. Her joke about sleeping with Don was really funny and really meaningful. It does sort of establish her as the second half of a ruling pair. (Plus it revealed that she knows what people think and how comfortable she is with Pete, and how they both know how she ended up with Rumsen’s office.)
I wonder if merging with a British company is going to be advantageous to her or not. Like, are they used to women advancing professionally? Is it so novel to them that they don’t know what to make of it? Or is her plausible rise going to cause more friction because they are defensive? I wish we’d seen some of Duck.

Peggy’s artwork was pretty funny, and I liked how she did work the Christ imagery in; I thought the comments about whether or not it looked familiar were a little gratuitous, but of course not everyone watching will be familiar with the Benefactor pose. I do have a Catholic background, so I saw it, but perhaps that is precisely the kind of idolatration that all the Protestants abhor and thus remove from their churches. To skip ahead to Don, the repeat of the scene with the arms was a little much, especially with the Christian-themed folk song playing over it. I get that he’s been baptized and is choosing a new life for himself, but for a minute there I really, really wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to swim out to sea a la Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Well, no. I was sure that he wouldn’d drown himself, but I wondered if he’d dabble in it… swim a ways out, let himself go under before emerging… that kind of thing. I wondered, too, how likely it is that Don would know how to swim. Like confident strokes in the ocean swim, if at all. Was this an act of primal bravery? Was he really in actual danger? I’ve been knocked over in waves like that and I know how to swim and I still get a little frightened beneath the turbulence. It looked scary to me watching it. I suppose in either case, Don being unaware of the risk or Don ignoring the risk is heavily symbolic of Don facing his life despite the consequences.

Yeah, yeah. I know the sea wasn’t that stormy. I’m just sayin’. It’s a dangerous place and it’s a welcoming place and the Pacific Ocean is the largest keeper of secrets on our planet. And maybe it’s just me, but seeing Don on the beach reminded me of the last scene in The Shawshank Redemption. Or Robinson Crusoe. It’s a sneaky little trope!

I enjoyed watching Don with Anna, and looked for wistful longings in her face regarding their relationship but I really do think it has been mostly platonic. I mean, she was married to someone else and is probably a significant number of years older than him. I really didn’t see any “if only” in their interactions, although the thought of just staying together probably did cross their minds. I definitely can see why he was attracted to being around her. Forgeting the fact that he needed a mother, she is remarkably open-minded and non-judgmental, and he was a person who needed to be heard and not judged for a while. The joy of living a normal life was so bright in his face it almost brought tears to my eyes. And seeing Anna made me understand what he saw in Betty. She looks just like her, but whole. It is of course no accident that Don befriends a woman who is damaged on the outside; it helps him externalize the damage he personally has on the inside and because it’s Anna’s problem he can ignore his own. So although she has found ways to live with and defy her damage, his is an untreated hindrance. That’s what the previous two seasons of the show have been about.
Where I think things went bad for Don was the ease with which he was able to assume Don Draper’s identity, and the tolerance and welcome Mrs. Anna Draper gave to him. Clearly Betty is from a different social world, and I don’t get the impression that it’s an easy world to bust into. It requires a complete overhaul of Don’s history. What worked once, right? But this time he has to hide everything forever, because he can’t admit the deception later. It’s too risky. So he does manage to build the family he wants but he’s so busy protecting his part in it from scrutiny that he can’t take time to sit in it. It’s only just now hitting me what the detour into the hot rod conversation was really about. Yes, Don, that’s a 1934 sedan but the wheels attach in a totally different way. Yes, Don, that is a beautiful color. Gives a man ideas. And it is a shame that he can’t stay to work on cars because the job market for hot rod building isn’t there yet. Makes me wonder if he partly got into advertising because it was a way to create markets for things he really wanted to do instead. Hell, if it worked for the space program…

Don wasn’t born in 1934, was he? I don’t think so, but it’s close enough.

Now I’ve written too much to be able to muse upon Pete and Trudy and Trudy’s dad, or Hildy, but I can say that I found the scenes between Bertram Cooper and his sister remarkable. Their relationship, their conversation, the fact that she’s their partner, their relationship to Roger (who probably has contributed his share to the business even if he’s also the resident playboy), their views about life, work, the end of life, and the end of work… the passing of the torch. It really is traumatic, especially for men. I’m not surprised that men die so soon after retirement (or used to). Alice seems quite settled into her life, and ready to let go of work (although one doubts that she’ll really have any less involvement that she currently does), but I sympathize with Bertram’s reluctance to give away his business. Sharing isn’t the same. But the cows were tempting. And it’s good to see that he doesn’t die when someone steps with shoes on his carpet. I guess Cleveland was serving at the table shoeless? That’s kinda funny.

With one episode left for the season, all we have to do now is list what will be resolved now and what questions will be left open. I’m sure Don is going home, although I wonder what he’ll do when he learns he’s just made $500,000. I’m not sure if Joan will break off her engagement. I’d like to see Joan confide to Peggy, or the two of them have some kind of subtext that gives Joan some hope or resolution, but I don’t think we will. I don’t think Pete will learn about his baby, but I wonder if in Season 3 he’ll be divorced from Trudy. (Is her family the type to tolerate childlessness over a divorce?) I don’t think we’ll see much of Anna again, and I think the points to be made by Roger’s elopement with Jane have all been made.

Favorite scene: Peggy in the dark, rifling through people’s drawers for a cigarette, sparking it up, and wandering around the office like she owns the place.

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 10: The Inheritance

Yeah, so I’ve been busy. I’m still busy, and I even fell asleep last night while watching the episode, but caught up just now and once more I am compelled to write about it immediately. I wish I’d written something last week, and maybe I’ll pick it up on the other side, but here we are.

With Pete.

Pete was not such a jerk in this episode. He was annoyed with Trudy, yes, but we haven’t seen enough of them lately and we didn’t see enough of them here to know if she was being annoying or not. And maybe she always dresses for bed in frilly nothings, but it struck me this time that she was dolling herself up to get his attention and to influence him. I do not blame her for wanting to go to the convention (and I can’t say if Pete is being unreasonable or not) and I do not blame her for wanting to adopt. I don’t think she was playing her cards very well to bring up that her parents were into the idea, too, however. Pete’s comment to her about how they must always think he always says no was interesting; it seems like Trudy usually gets her way, but Pete’s always portrayed as the bad guy. And Trudy doesn’t seem particularly upset about not getting to go to California, either, so I’m not worrying about why Pete isn’t bringing her. I am more piqued by the idea that Trudy can’t stay at home while Pete is gone. Can’t? Or doesn’t want to? Is she the kind of person who is easily bored? Who easily falls into funks? Or is this just a social thing? It’s just that I haven’t seen any particular stigma attached to even married women living without men, so it can’t be a chaperone/decency thing.

Regarding Trudy’s explanation of getting a good baby: Seems business-like, but not unduly harsh. Even today adoptive parents have to do a lot of self-promotion, whether or not it’s an agency or a birth mother doing the choosing. Pete’s mother calling them discards was pretty funny to me, which probably reveals more about me than I know, but I still liked it. And mentioning it gets me to the Big Question of the episode:

Is Pete a bastard child? A step-child? A foundling? Probably not a foundling, because he didn’t call into question his mother’s parent status, but the “your father/your husband” thing wasn’t fast enough to get by my notice. And now I have to worry again that Peggy’s baby is going to be ripped out of a home somewhere after living for two years with the only parents he’s ever known. Of course, Trudy might not be so keen to adopt his bastard, either, despite her insistence that one can love another without sharing blood. And a two-year-old isn’t a cuddly infant; he’s a cuddly toddler, who can probably talk already and ask for mama and he won’t mean her. I wonder if something like this is likely to be a season cliffhanger, or if Don/Betty will trump it. I hope Don/Betty will trump it, because it’s too stressful to think about what might happen to babies. Peggy and Pete talking about the baby and it getting back to Trudy would be fine with me. But perhaps I suffer from a lack of imagination but I can’t think of how Peggy and Pete would ever have this conversation. Obviously Don knows Peggy has had a baby, but I wonder how much he knows or cares about his parents. I hope Peggy’s sister keeps her mouth shut, too. Anita clearly knows who the father is, or can guess, or can stir up enough trouble so that everyone at work could guess.

Peggy and Pete’s little conversation was a nice callback to their earlier relationship. I like how she handled him, and looking back at season one I think she’s always handled him the same except that she had no authority to him because she was just a secretary. I appreciated, too, how classy it was for her to say merely that everyone has it hard and not to dump on him or blame him for her choices or vent about unfairness. I don’t know that Peggy was being dignified on purpose (if one ever is) or holding back on purpose or just being cold and suspicious, but she was magnificent in her austerity. I am choosing not to read anything into the costume choice for her–the blacks and whites all mixed up together but clearly still distinct–but she looked great and it reminded me of some outfit that Scarlett O’Hara wore in <i>Gone with the Wind</i>. I am absolutely positive that is a coincidence.

I suppose it is worth pointing out that sending Peggy on a business trip almost seems normal to Don, and so she’s come a long way, baby.

Now onto Don and Betty. I am pretty sure that Betty actually came out of bed to come onto Don, to put it crudely, and I am not surprised that she did so but it’s extremely telling that she did not invite him into the bed. I wasn’t sure for a while if it would turn out to be a Don Dream like at the end of the first season, but I’m convinced that it happened because of the conversation Don and Betty had after coming home. That was the “pretend” she was referring to. The unified front for the family was just keeping secrets–they weren’t pretending to themselves that they were on good terms, and Don jumping to her defense when her father groped her was just normal and him being closest and being the least affected by the father’s sickness. I wonder, too, if we are supposed to see the ugly head of incest rearing up in these scenes, but I think the father just is lapsing and Betty looks like her mother and the impropriety and embarrassment of it is bad enough. It’s bad enough, too, that her brother and father treat her like a child with no sense, or like a fragile thing that needs protecting. If Betty wants to hate on her stepmother, that’s fine with me. Whatever. I don’t think her stepmother is patronizing Betty, though–I think her stepmother is avoiding the issue of her husband being sick because she doesn’t want to face what will happen to her if he dies.

So speaking of <i>Gone with the Wind</i>, I wish I’d caught the name of the character I really don’t want to call Mammy, but will until someone corrects me. Betty was so relieved to see her, and I really can’t tell if it was for following reason A or following reason B. Reason A: She was more like a mother to Betty than her own mother was. Reason B: She is the only adult in Betty’s family who does not treat her like a child or tell her lies. I’m leaning toward Reason B. I know Betty, Don, Roger, and Mona talked about nannies and childhood at dinner many episodes ago, but I don’t remember what Betty said. I’m running with Betty’s remark to Don this season about how Carla (her own household employee) wasn’t there to raise the Draper children (which she isn’t). At the time I found that more of a statement about Don than about Carla, but Betty’s been so wrapped up in what her mother was or wasn’t and she is very interested in what other mothers do that I think Carla really is there to help with the house (not the family) and that Betty’s relationship with Mammy is not one of her being a Mammy at all–she’s just a person who knows Betty very well and has always respected her mind.

Interesting, though, to have Mammy and Sheila in the same episode, with two interracial physical expressions of affection. And all the baby stuff. And Kinsey telling Sheila he loves her (the likelihood of which is completely out of the scope of this blog). The foreshadowing of someone getting hurt in Mississippi was pretty blunt, and I don’t know enough about the details of the real incident to guess at whether there’s room to write our characters into that story, but I hope to god Kinsey comes back less pompous. How could he not? I know he didn’t really want to go, but he went, and I know nobody but Sheila was listening to him on the bus, but there he was… something is going to wake him up. He’s sort of living an image of a life instead of a life. And the idea that he and Sheila, really, form a family hangs on my memory of the program. Like if they don’t it’s because of him and Sheila, not because of the races. It’s sort of cool to put it against the backdrop of nannies and baby showers.

But the Hildy business of sobbing over Crane was a little too heavy-handed for me. Poor Joan is in pain enough to have to remind us that Crane chose his wife over an office fling. Roger left his wife for Jane. Jane! I don’t know how badly Joan had wished he would leave his wife for her, but she loved him. She really, really did. She had to move on and find someone else, and then Roger decides to be happy. Maybe he really does love Jane (probably not), but he was so horrible to Joan when they were breaking it off, and then so flirty with her still for all of this season, that I really got the impression that (well, he was a conceited ass) that he was cheapening his relationship with Joan because he couldn’t continue it and that he was sorry to see her move on. I’m sure Joan thought that it was only Mona holding them back. I can’t imagine how she feels. I half-expect to see Jane with a baby… I really do. I’ve lost track of why this struck me as so sad in any unusual way, except that Jane is no Joan and it seems to undermine everything Joan and Roger shared, and it’s back to him being an ass, and I am sort of afraid for Jane, and all kinds of things.

I don’t know what to think of Joan asking a secretary to cut the cake when Peggy was standing right there. I guess yay, Peggy, for not having to cut cakes anymore (although she was still serving it). You graduated! But do you feel bad that you never got your own baby shower? Or were you just prominently in that scene to remind us, again, that you had a baby? And to put you at the party so that we could hope you would get to ride to California on a plane–with Pete–after all before we learn that Don is going instead?

(So Don didn’t kick Pete off the trip… I hope Pete feels better about Don now.)

And now I am rushing things because the baby is waking up. Glen in the playhouse wasn’t that creepy, and I thought Betty interacted with him in a much more productive way this time than the last. She treated him like an adult to a large extent (versus acting like a child around him), and even holding his hand was remarkably sincere. I worried for a bit that Glen was going to try to kiss her, but we were spared that. I think it’s interesting Glen was dressed in Don’s clothes, but really–whose clothes was he going to wear otherwise? You could fairly question Betty’s motives for waiting until people came home to call his mother, but the kid did need attention. It is heartbreaking and sort of scary that he’s putting his sister to bed–scary because there are two kids all alone in the world but also sort of scary because the younger sister is being tended to by a brother who is sort of creepy and kind of sexualized. Helen does need to be paying attention. I wish Betty had been more stern with her during their conversation, but I am glad she confided in her, too.

I think this afternoon will put Don back in the house. Betty does not want to turn into a woman like Helen (not that there’s evidence that she would–Don would stay involved with the children, I’m sure, and would not start a new family). I wish she had more confidence in herself, though. She talks about worrying that she’ll float away without Don to keep her focused, but Don’s the one who has gone off on an airplane and living out of a suitcase with no secretary. Betty’s the one defrosting the icebox and relining the drawers with fresh paper and playing matchmaker (even just for fun) with her friends and helping other women take care of their children.

The symbolism of Glen hiding in the playhouse has to be the last thing I write about. That is the house that Don built. It’s empty, it’s pretend, it’s a place to hide in. What’s the house that Betty builds going to be like? And why the hell does she want that jardiniere in it?

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 6: Maidenform

Well, this episode was profoundly depressing to me, and I really have no interest in watching it again for a while, so I am going totally off memory without even DVR to fact check. I will probably get stuff wrong and for that I apologize.

First, how sucky is it that Peggy showed up in Peter Pan collars when I had convinced myself that she was done with them? It is small comfort, too, that she shows up at the Tom Tom all glammed out, because she really doesn’t know what it means to be an adult. She can look gorgeous and ten years more sophisticated (but not older), but she ends up all giggly in the client’s lap just like one of the strippers. I was happy to hear Joan give Peggy Bobbie’s advice (but bluntly) but Peggy still isn’t hearing it. She is hardly going to be taken seriously rubbing her fanny in the laps of her accounts. I really, really thought she was learning about business, but all she can do is repeat that she has a good ear for slogans and a good eye for models. Which she probably does, but talent is never enough. You have to supplement that with ambition, or savvy, or personal connections, and until she does something proactive she’s going to stay a worker bee. You kind of get a sense now for part of her sister’s frustration with/about her after seeing her move through this episode sort of like a spoiled brat. She does have some expectations that people will automatically recognize her importance without her having to speak up, and when she does speak up, it’s to Joan, who really can’t help her with the office part of it but who has the kindness to make what suggestions she can, however snappy her tone. Peggy is exasperating, though. Even I wanted to smack her for that gray jumper combo. It doesn’t help that she is a woman (overlookable) who used to work as a secretary (overlookable) for the 1960s men who are really (quite innocently) forgetting that they work with her.

On the other hand, how interesting were Peggy and Pete? Pete is another guy who sort of seems disappointed that people don’t automatically understand how talented he is, but perhaps it’s because he’s from some kind of prestige or position and perhaps because he enjoys White Male Privilege and perhaps because he is Pete but he doesn’t fail to step up and seize opportunities when they arrive and make them when they do not. What’s weird, and what I don’t fully understand, is why Pete needs Peggy to be infantilized or prudish and why Peggy cares. I still can’t shake this feeling that they know each other from before (and I still worry what’s going to happen to Peggy’s baby when Pete finds out about it).

Duck was a huge disappointment. I don’t take any pleasure out of seeing someone hit rock bottom–again. At least he does it with his eyes wide ope en and with full cognizance. I can’t bring myself to write about more than that.

Now, Don. Where does Don get off lecturing Betty, who looked absolutely adorable in her tennis outfit and in her bikini? Betty is not desperate. Don is projecting. Don is a prick. Don is driven by his prick and Don deserved to find out that Bobbie has been using him for sex because all the gals she’s in with talked him up good. When Don sort of crumples onto the toilet seat while shaving, I had the fleeting thought that it was the REAL Don Draper with the reputation at Random House, but of course that doesn’t make any sense. Don has just had his ego shattered and I think that it’s not entirely undeserved. It’s true–if Bobbie had kept her mouth shut like Don had told her to, then she wouldn’t be in some sort of Gerald’s Game scenario, but if she had kept her mouth shut Don wouldn’t have learned just what women are saying about him. Clearly he’s been around, and women think of him as some stud, and he’s the one that pretty much seems desperate now. I mean, the audience has clued into the fact that he is searching for something he has lost or never had but wants, but that’s not something Don is admitting to other people. And for Bobbie to bring it up in such a casual way at such a moment… it was like a perfect storm of psychological confrontation. But being Don, with Don’s tricks and talents, I’m sure he forgot all about it by the time he got home. That is, until his daughter brought it all back. To his credit, all he did was ask her to leave the bathroom, but that last scene of Don naked and slumped on a toilet without any energy to shut the door and make his breakdown private… that is a downer if I ever saw one.

I am hoping that this is about as low as the season gets. We are at the halfway point; maybe, if I’m lucky, episode seven will be the one where the fallen reassess themselves and their situation and the next six episodes will climb to a high note. I am also hoping that Betty wore her bikini to the pool anyway.

I guess there’s multiple layers of significance to this title, too. Here’s my cursory analysis, to make up in quantity what I lack this time in enthusiasm. Obviously Maidenform represents a goal and a transformation; the client was Playtex but they were kicking around the idea of shedding their image to pursue another one. Maidenform also refers to underwear in general, and the public selves that we hide beneath our public ones. It was also a good excuse to open the show with shots of three different beautiful women in their unmentionables, before having all the men at the office mention it to them. The title also refers to the form that Peggy will adopt for herself; will she choose Marilyn or Jackie or will she actually be able to pull off an Irene Dunne, an actress who did some very interesting and powerful things. Peggy will have to find her sense of humor first.

Peggy, Don, Duck… Pah! All of you. You made me sad.

Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 4: Three Sundays

I knew that watching the fifth episode before writing about the fourth one would mess me up. Darn it! Now my thoughts are all muddled, and because I cannot allow myself to take the time to watch “Three Sundays” a third time, I have to go on fuzzy memory. It bugs me now that my impressions of this episode are going to be colored by what I’ve seen in the next one, but what can you do?

You can keep up, that’s what you can do. I have a long explanation for why I am at this point, but considering that blogging anything is a vanity project for me in the first place and that my audience of forty probably never stays to actually read the posts, and it will end up being a tale with a non-surprising ending, why go into detail? I’ll just skip ahead to the salient part: I had work for money to do. A fair argument to make would be that if I’d done work for money in the first place instead of worrying about this blog, then I wouldn’t have had to put off the blog for work for money, but that kind of circular reason never goes anywhere.

So anyway…

Three Sundays: Sunday, Palm Sunday, and Easter. I think I am just going to ramble and associate, starting with Don, even though it was totally Peggy’s story–and her sister’s. So might as well start with Don’s big reveal: victim of child abuse.

It is an amazing admission for Don to say that aloud, I think, but we learned far more about Betty in this episode than Don, I think. I am trying hard not to villainize her because we very rarely see her interact with anyone but Don, who dismisses her most of the time, but she really is out of control regarding the little boy. And could the producers have selected a cuter little boy to tug on our sympathies? It’s obvious to me that the kid is trying to manifest some real talent and interest in the way things work, what with the art project/tracing paper scandal (I think he was drawing well from memory) and his interest in mechanical and chemical processes (it was totally the bubbling of the pancakes that attracted his attention to the stove). Betty has decided for some reason to turn against her son, and I can’t figure out why. It’s not like there haven’t been men in her life–she has a brother and a father she visits and worries about. I think what she’s doing… AT BEST… is exaggerating the little boy’s wickedness (I really should look up his name) to get Don’s attention, which is what she wants. I don’t know how psychologically stunted she is and how much of an act she puts on (I think she’s more self-aware than she lets on), but she wants Don to treat her like a partner and to check back into the family. Men doing the discipline thing probably seems like the most logical place for him to start. However nutty Betty’s mother might have been, I don’t think she was hit or spanked as a child and really doesn’t think about what she is asking Don to do when she demands corporeal punishment. It seems to me that she is trying to reconcile her position as housewife instead of professional person, and needs other people to play the Father Knows Best role so hers has some meaning. Of course, the minute Don makes it clear why he isn’t that angry at the little boy and why he isn’t going to hit him, Betty drops it. I am wrong with every prediction I make ever for TV, but I like to think we’ve seen the last of Betty hounding her boy and punishing him as a scapegoat for Don.

Dialogue of Note: Carla isn’t there to raise their children. I was happy to hear Betty say that aloud.

This is how my sad, little, white privilege mind works: Speaking of Carla reminds me of Sheila, which reminds me of Paul Kinsey talking to Little Girl Draper (still too lazy to look it up) about his girlfriend. I found the contrast between how Paul interacted with Don’s daughter and how Joan interacted with Don’s daughter interesting. Paul really didn’t seem to mind the girl’s company and was quite at ease with her; it wasn’t until the sex talk started that he ducked out of the conversation. Joan hated every minute she was with that girl. I think first she was annoyed as hell that she was stuck with some domestic charge that really should have had nothing to do with her when it was clearly such an important business day and there really was so much to do. But I also think she doesn’t quite know what to do with kids. She can make nice to Roger’s teenage daughter about hair salons, but little girls? Especially little girls talking about boobies? Especially the boobies of the boss’s wife? It is a trying day.

I thought it was funny to see all the employees in their Sunday fun wear. The actual challenge of designing an ad campaign concept in a hurry wasn’t as interesting to me as the snapshot of what everyone else really had planned on doing instead. I am amazed that so many people were found so quickly and brought in without cell phones and answering machines, and I would like to ponder that more (but won’t). I was shocked by how bad Salvatore looked. He was sick or panicked or something; perhaps that is some artifact of my imagination but he looked more out of place than Peter in his tennis gear. Later I wondered, on Presentation Day (which was also Good Friday) if it was a coincidence that both Joan and Peggy were wearing purple. It seems like too much of a coincidence for the characters to be expressing religious sentiment in that way (especially those two characters), but I’ll leave the socioreligious analysis and commentary for someone else to perform. It just really, really caught my eye is all. The conversation about new business and old business and Duck seemed perfunctory, but the tension probably did need to be spelled out for the audience; I certainly wasn’t thinking along those lines until the script made me do so. It’s serviceable foreshadowing.

There! With all the Mad Ave Mad Men stuff out of the way, I get to talk about Peggy! And Father What a Waste! It was nice to see Peggy get a little flirty with a guy, even if it was a guy so safe as to be boring. At least he has his own car, has been to Rome, and a good sense of humor. And he recognizes talent when he comes across it. I am happy that Peggy and he “collaborated” (to the extent that it was a collaboration) on his sermon. I am also happy that Peggy found a way to avoid being in a photograph with a priest without making a fuss over it.

I am not at all surprised that Peggy’s mother and sister know exactly what she does at work, even if they are making like they don’t get it when Peggy’s the person they are talking to. I suppose it is a shame the way the mother goes on and on about how beautiful/smart/successful the younger daughter is, and it’s not really surprising that the older sister is jealous of her sister, but the overt displays of resentment make me sad. To her credit, she saves the worst of it for the confession booth, and takes up her problems with how the mother treats Peggy with the mother and not with Peggy. You can’t help what you feel, I guess, only how you react to it–and she is handling herself in public in a mature and reasonable way. I wish she wasn’t internalizing it so much. She is so clearly disappointed by something in life (it could be anything; we really don’t know her) but she is not addressing it. She’s picking on Peggy instead.

I am about to get artsy-fartsy film criticky, probably without reason, but this episode seemed to have an awful lot of doors in it: doors opening, people framed in doorways, shots through doors to other rooms… it made me think about how some people are traveling through doors and how some people are stuck inside rooms. Of course the idea that open doors represent opportunity is at the top of my mind, and all this door business only underscored how little opportunity is presenting itself to Peggy’s sister and how little effort she seems to be making to seek it out. I am convinced that she knew exactly what priest was going to be in that confession booth with her, and I’m positive that she dumped on Peggy in the booth to malign her to the priest who was openly admiring the wayward sister instead of the one who actually stayed home and cooked dinner (dinner that the priest couldn’t be bothered to stay for, either). I also think that in real life the sister would have answered priestly Latin with Latin and that the English was just so the audience would be able to follow the conversation.

Dialogue of Note: I can see why Betty wouldn’t want to bother Francine on a Sunday morning with unexpected babysitting, but is Palm Sunday that important? Seems like this was a big detail to have about Betty or Francine or the times, but I can’t figure out what. Was it just that Francine was planning an event that day or is the holiday that religiously significant?

Random Thoughts: OK, it’s Good Friday when the American Airlines deal sours, but I don’t see where a resurrection is happening (and not to be spoilery but it isn’t carried through in the next episode, either). Haha… Don doesn’t care that his kid is passed out drunk–those were crazy times! It seems important that the sister knows that Pete was a married man when Peggy was boinking him; I’ve got this theory that Peggy and Pete knew each other from before and it’s fuzzy and undeveloped and completely without textual support but this tidbit of gossip feeds into it somehow. It’s interesting that even though Peggy’s family is generally supportive of her job they lie to the priest when he asks why she’s absent… or did Peggy tell them that she was sick and not that she was going into work? Maybe that’s more likely. I am fascinated that Don knows how to make such beautiful, fluffy pancakes. I hope the President or Owner or CEO or whatever the title is at Mohawk Airlines derives some satisfaction out of this debacle. I’d use that German word for it if I knew how to spell it. You’ll just have to trust that I know how to say it and I’ll trust that you know what word I mean.