Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mad Men: Man with a Plan (6.7)

Don Draper exists in a state of perpetual control. Gotta be the top dog, the one holding the power, sharing the pie if and as he pleases. But something has changed this season, as if the people he surrounds himself with have experienced those trademark maneuvers one too many times, and they're not going to take it anymore. On a grander level, the world is going to hell. People in the greatest positions of power and respect are being murdered, and it makes a lot of sense for mere mortals, the bystanders, to try and hold onto the few aspects of their lives that they have control over. Man with a Plan is about that struggle, that determination to take ownership of something in a world where power is constantly out of your grasp. For Don himself, however, it's domination that he seeks, a hideously cruel distortion of a universal truth.

It goes without saying that there are parts of this episode in which Don resembles a horror movie villain, locking Sylvia away and tormenting her with sexual dominance. She's madly infatuated with him, so takes a while to realize where he's going with it. His treatment reduces Sylvia to a prop, somebody there at his beck and call, lacking in any other thought or motivation that doesn't revolve around Don. Even a book is too much of a distraction. It's incredibly uncomfortable to watch, but also indicative of Don at his most sexually honest. Gone are any glimmers of sexual etiquette, intimacy or consent. Instead it's about this man putting sexual hunger above any emotional respect. Sylvia is compliant for a while, just because it initially seems so adventurous and different. Only when she realizes the truth does she call it a day, in a moment that finally rattles Don's cage.

A similar power play occurs between Don and Ted. Both are two very different ad men, Don working better alone, operating as a lone wolf that everybody else needs to bend around; Ted, on the other hand, is expansive and friendly, encouraging of shared discussion and teamwork. And because Don isn't willing to essentially 'cave into' that mindset, he sets out to publicly humiliate Ted, getting him drunk in the office and marking his territory as only he knows how.

But there were a couple of moments where Don seemed to stare his own mortality in the face. Sylvia's eventual rejection for one, Peggy's confrontation at the end of the hour, and his terror in Ted's small plane, entirely at the mercy of a man he barely knows and unable to offer any real expertise. In that plane, Don Draper as a 'construct' doesn't exist. He can't dominate because the environment he's in doesn't allow it. A lot of season six has of course been about Don's willingness to disregard the feelings or opinions of those around him, but it's also been exploring the sheer horror he experiences when those people in question don't allow him his power, reducing him to nothingness. It's happening a lot, and it's more disquieting than you'd think. A


- The Alzheimer's of Pete's mother is played with a nice mix of empathy and mocking, the former because this poor woman is adrift in the world with a mental suffering that nobody yet understands, and the latter because it leaves Pete continually exasperated, which is always fun to watch. Vincent Kartheiser has always been the unsung hero of this show in terms of its spectacular ensemble cast, and he got some great stuff here.

- Joan and the perpetually ambiguous Bob Benson had a cute subplot, one that showed Bob's wiley charm and sweet caring... but Joan protecting his interests at the firm suggests there could have been an ulterior motive all along. I hope he's genuine, for Joan's sake.

- I never particularly enjoyed the Sylvia character, but her epiphany was strong in its quietness. She suddenly realized the awfulness of her recent choices, and how much they can hurt those around her. It's not some grand blow-up, instead a very small, very believable awareness of things.

- Just a small thing, but I love how far Peggy and Joan have come from their beginnings in season one. There's an actual friendship there now, their respective evolutions softening the rigid walls they had built to shield them back when this show first began.


Ginsberg: I saw you taking your little tour the other week and you looked pretty tall. But now I see you're about my height.
Ted: I hope you can still look up to me...
Stan: That was quick.

Pete: I want you to relax, watch the television, and I will call Bud to come and get you.
Dot: He's going to send that girl Trudy...
Pete: Bud's wife is Judy! Not Trudy!
Dot: Now I suppose I'm crazy for mixing those up?

Burt: I'm expecting some kind of severance.
Roger: Who knows? We're really hurting, we're having to cut back. Well, obviously.
Burt: You're a real prick, you know that?
Roger: Dammit, Burt, you stole my goodbye.

Stan: I worked on the KKK spot. You probably heard about it, it was too hot to run.
Ginsberg: That's very impressive.
Stan: Thank you.
Ginsberg: No, you made it fifteen minutes before you brought it up.

Peggy: He can't drink like you, and you must know that because nobody can.
Don: Peggy, he's a grown man.
Peggy: So are you! Move forward.

Semi Chellas, Matthew Weiner Director John Slattery

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