Earlier this season, Dr. Faye Miller said two things to Don Draper that foretold the big event in "Tomorrowland," the fourth season finale of "Mad Men:" "You'll be married again in a year," and, "Nobody wants to think they're a type." She was right on both counts. Don Draper is engaged to Megan. Why? Because she's the Don Draper type. Faye was an accomplished, confident, autonomous, professional who prized her freedom. She loved Don and was willing to share parenting duties with him if it came to that, but not exclusively on Don's terms.
Margaret Schroeder has been through hell. She’s an Irish immigrant who toiled in crummy jobs for years, enduring abuse from her no-good drunk of a husband and losing herself in good books and Temperance Union meetings. Then she lost a baby late in pregnancy after her husband beat her to the ground in front of their children. Then her husband was framed for a gangland slaying, hauled out to sea and thrown overboard; fisherman found his corpse tangled up in a net. Now Margaret is a widow raising two young kids.
It's been said that science fiction is never just about the future and historical fiction is never just about the past. They're also about the society that produced them—right here, right now. I remembered this maxim while watching the twelfth episode of "Mad Men," "Blowing Smoke." The current season is set in the mid-'60s, and the characters often seem far removed from twenty-first-century American norms. But the panic engulfing them is of the moment. There are no abstract principles at stake. It's all about paying the bills, keeping the lights on.
Don Draper suffered a panic attack near the end of last week's episode, "Hands and Knees." This week it was the entire firm's turn. And Roger Sterling's to blame. No, it wasn't his fault that Lucky Strike took its business elsewhere (although Don wasn't wrong when he said his old friend could have worked harder babysitting his only account—or worked, period). But it was Roger's fault that the company was caught unprepared. Roger had wrested a 30-day stay of execution from Lee Garner Jr. to break the bad news and come up with a plan of attack.
The difference between the pilot episode of “Boardwalk Empire” and the next two episodes is the difference between movies and TV. That's not a slam on the second and third episodes. The pilot, directed by Martin Scorsese, was brazenly cinematic. Compensating (or maybe overcompensating) for having to carry the burden of exposition, it worked hard to avoid boring viewers and to plant as many narrative seeds as possible. “The Ivory Tower” and its follow-up, “Broadway Limited,” go in the other direction.
This is the new column in TNR’s weekly series of "Mad Men" episode recaps. Caution: It contains spoilers. Click here for last week's review. The first time I saw Jon Hamm as Don Draper, I thought, "This character has the saddest eyes I've ever seen." With each passing season it becomes increasingly clear that I read them wrong. It wasn't sadness I saw in Draper's eyes. It was fear. More accurately, it was fear held at bay.
Like its predecessor, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a melodrama, a contemporary morality play filled with big characters, corny dialogue, and commentary on recent events. But in the end, I was reminded of a classic Jack Benny routine. A robber points a gun at Benny and says, "Your money or your life." Long pause. "Well?" the robber demands. Benny replies, "I'm thinking." Reptilian corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is this film's version of Benny. But his dilemma is no joke.
The gangster genre can be as cliched and unimaginative as any other popular genre, but even the worst examples have something bracing, even liberating, at their core: They categorically reject the ideology that Americans are force-fed since birth.
This is the new column in TNR’s weekly series of "Mad Men" episode recaps. Caution: It contains spoilers. Click here for last week's review. Where to begin? With a eulogy for the dearly departed Miss Blankenship, erstwhile hellcat, whose every raspy one-liner was comedy gold? Or perhaps we should start by saying that Joan and Roger’s post-mugging clinch was both lamely contrived (a near-death experience on an L.A. backlot street leading into a kiss—how very daytime soap) and also truly sexy.
This is the new column in TNR’s weekly series of "Mad Men" episode recaps. Caution: It contains spoilers. Click here for last week's review. Except for the lamentable absence of Roger Sterling, "The Summer Man" was one of just two true ensemble episodes this season (the debut was the other). Characters that are usually locked into their own narrative boxes broke free and roamed through one another's territory; the show even managed to integrate Don and Betty's worlds, previously as rigidly demarcated as North and South Korea.