Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mad Men: For Immediate Release (6.6)

For Immediate Release sees Don's internal conflict clashing with the collective togetherness of the people he works with, Joan outraged that his actions make her sacrifice last season ultimately fruitless, Pete once again driven to rage at the thought that he's getting phased out of the company. It's important to remember that Don himself wasn't aware of the public offering engineered by the others, but that their group anger was more a product of his many arguably selfish choices over the years, and not only this specific incident. It's another indication of long-standing tensions surfacing, Don once again growing ever alone.

For now, though, things seem to be going right for him on a surface level. By placing his trust in somebody else, SCDP and CGC merge, Ted Chaough coming to the conclusion that two smaller firms will never get the biggest accounts, so why not combine them? Don is master of his domain, but the results frequently open up clashes with those around him. Despite being gently prodded in one direction by Ted, it's still an example of Don operating as a lone wolf outside the SCDP team, ignoring the wider consequences his actions inspire. As much as he seems to despise his isolation, he so often perpetuates it.

As a mid-season plot twist, the merger also sees Mad Men embracing its inner coolness for a change; the post-deal scenes full of men-in-suits walking in rhythm to a jazzy score, like the greatest caper film never made. The adventures at the airport, too, with Roger's undercover alias, his air hostess hook-up acting as a secret mole in her kicky go-go boots, just radiated a sense of fun that it's easy to forget can be done so well on this show. It's been a little dour this year, just saying...

Even further, it should be interesting to see where the merger takes Peggy. There was a feeling of sad inevitability in Elisabeth Moss' face during that final scene, as if she always sort of knew that things would turn to shit at some point. Not that Don represents shit in any form, but just that she took an enormous leap last year in stepping into a scary new arena, and I imagine there's some disappointment to discover that it'll be short-lived. That she's going 'home' again, back to where she never felt totally appreciated.

Or I could be wrong, and that the pain in her face is more a result of her romantic turmoil. Ted obviously made his feelings clear, and her reciprocation is probably exaggerated due to her own dissatisfaction with Abe and their recent living arrangements. But he's also the man who took an enormous chance on her, and treats her like the equal that she's always wanted to be. It's new and different and exciting, so not a huge leap that she would find memories of him linger long after she leaves the office.

On the home front, it's no surprise the show invited back Julia Ormond after her tour de force performances last season, and the episode got significant mileage out of her brusque coldness, all disguised behind that enchanting foreign tongue. The dinner with the Rennets was a riot, Peaches a classic pea-brained housewife distracted by the ultimately meaningless, Don's reading of "I love puppies" scoring the week's biggest laugh.

Marie's presence also allowed Megan to fully express her recent dissatisfaction, Sylvia-from-downstairs having likely halted their budding friendship. Megan, as easy as it is to find her aggravating, is just crying out for somebody to be there for her, Don no longer the person she can turn to in an hour of need. Marie's advice isn't all that comforting, though, at least on a long-term level. Her wisdom involves Megan becoming even less of an actual person with feelings and emotions, more a subservient sex robot; there to satisfy Don in his moments of crisis. It's the happiest we've seen the two of them in a while, but no permanent fix.

Mad Men's sixth season has so far coasted slightly, disparate elements and a lack of narrative cohesion all over the shop. But For Immediate Release arrives like a lightning rod, something that successfully restructures the show's status quo, conflict arising between most of the cast that seems purposeful for the first time in a while. It's no surprise, though. In an episode full of outward glory and things looking up, everybody is naturally miserable underneath. A


- They're doing some really interesting things with Pete this year. He's becoming more outwardly hostile, but only because everything's becoming specifically insular for him. Work, his clients, his home life. It's all falling apart, and his final scene with Trudy seems to really put a death knell on their marriage. In a way he's becoming exactly like Don, only his lack of smarts and the absence of Don's cool charisma only results in further misery. Don just has the good fortune of his negative qualities proving prosperous most of the time.

- Fantastic comedy with Pete's father-in-law in the brothel. And Ken's "working the slide rule" term is one for the ages.

- Something by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I loved that.


Arnold: Sylvia's going to expect an actual gift.
Marie: Do you want my flowers? I am quite done with them.
Megan: Thank you, mother.

Peaches: So there she was in the garage, right among the... you know, there's an oil stain that Herb's been meaning to take care of. There she is, our little puppy, with a full litter!
Marie: [My God, listen to this idiot. I need another drink.]
Megan: You're right, mother, they must have been adorable!
Peaches: There's one yellow, and one brown, and then three sorta mixed? Each one with its own nipple!
Don: I love puppies.
Herb: Not the way she does.
Marie: [Do you want me to break that bottle over her head?]

Pete: Last night I was celebrating at that party house up on Lex, and I saw my father-in-law exit the bedroom with the biggest, blackest prostitute you've ever seen...

Megan: I love you like this.
Don: Desperate and scared?
Megan: Fearless.

Guest stars
Alison Brie (Trudy Campbell); Julia Ormond (Marie Calvet)
Writer Matthew Weiner Director Jennifer Getzinger

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