Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mad Men: Indian Summer (1.11)

Peggy has long worked as an audience surrogate for us at home, not only because she's discovering the world at the same time as we are, but also because she so often represents the values and work ethic that a lot of us take for granted today. She's somebody at the forefront of all that change, and it's easy to root for her as she becomes one of the first women to break through that glass-ceiling. It's obviously still early days, but she's getting there. But something that surprised me during this re-watch is how little she's been used so far, not anchoring as much of the series as Don, Pete or even Betty. As season one develops, however, she's coming into her own as a character, and Indian Summer really promotes her importance as a major Mad Men player.

She's somebody who is so far a little stuck between the nice Catholic girl of the outer-burroughs and the successful business woman in the city, still aspiring to be something more, but constantly having her background shoved in her face. While she has all the advertising talent of most of her male superiors, she's still finding herself navigating difficult waters within a man's world, having to read most of their behavior before she can totally run with it. But she also begins to use it to her advantage, too. The campaign-of-the-week is an old-fashioned exercise belt thingy, and the guys toss it her way initially as some kind of comment on her recent weight gain. She's probably aware of it, too, but decides to take the opportunity for all its worth and suggests ideas on how to push the product instead.

It's also the beginning of Sterling Cooper realizing how important a female perspective is, especially when they've been hired to promote products specifically designed for women. There's a wonderful running theme here about men failing to understand female sexuality, entirely missing the fact that the exercise belt effectively works as a kind of discreet vibrator. It takes a lot of balls (that was unintentional, I swear) for Peggy to be so open about the sexual potential of the product with her bosses, but it again folds into her determination to succeed.

Elisabeth Moss also continues to play Peggy with this forceful ambition crossed with underlying vulnerability. Just look at the awkward blind date her mother sets her up on, in which she casually talks about the fancy Manhattan lifestyle she probably doesn't yet have, but hopes will impress by mere fact of talking about it. Or even how she refers to Joan as her good friend. Like... no, Pegs. But it's overwhelmingly sweet, hitting all the right notes when it comes to our innate desperation to be seen as successful in one way or another.

Indian Summer is another episode that rattles along covering all the show's recent bases, jumping from one interwoven story to another. We spend most of the hour constantly remembering its isolated opening sequence, in which Don's brother Adam puts together a package for him, before hanging himself, so as we watch Don finding continued happiness with Rachel and going from strength to strength at work, becoming a partner this week, there's that nagging feeling that this is all about to go terribly wrong.

Betty has a fun subplot, too, again trying to break out of her suburban funk and rapidly lonely marriage by allowing a salesman into her home and casually telling Don about it in order to infuriate him. And she, like Peggy, releases all her pent-up stress with a little makeshift masturbation, finding alternate uses to her clothes dryer. Hee.

This is another episode that works like a collection of intimate photographs featuring the lives of various individuals, but by reducing the number of subplots it grants additional depth to Peggy, who really blows everybody out the water here. It's hard not to fall for her rapid enthusiasm and feminist daring. A


- There was some really interesting camera work this week, more so than normal. Like how director Tim Hunter doesn't photograph the door-to-door salesman until he's actually inside Betty's home, introducing him only as this enthusiastic voice coming from the other side of the entrance. Or that great moment with Pete casually tossing Adam's package aside, only for his hand to burst into the shot again after a brief pause and grab it back again.


Harry: He looks like death.
Paul: I know. His hair and his skin are the same color.

Roger: Look, I want to tell you something because you're very dear to me, and I hope you understand it comes from the bottom of my damaged, damaged heart. You are the finest piece of ass I ever had, and I don't care who knows it. I am so glad I got to roam those hillsides.

Carl: Advertising doesn't work on me. It's just a lot of people screaming at you from the walls and the TV.
Peggy: If advertising is good, people never think it works.
Carl: How do they know it does? Did they ever prove that?
Peggy: Why are you insulting what I do?
Carl: "So you drive a truck."
Peggy: You do.
Carl: I'm my own boss, you know? You get off the train every day at Grand Central, and they spray you with gold? Let me tell you, you can act like you're from Manhattan, but you don't look like those girls.

Peggy: Those people? In Manhattan? They are better than us, because they want things they haven't seen.

Guest stars
Robert Morse (Bertram Cooper); John Cullum (Lee Garner, Sr.); John Slattery (Roger Sterling)
Writers Tom Palmer, Matthew Weiner Director Tim Hunter

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