Monday, May 18, 2015

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Now, my thoughts on the series finale of Mad Men.

Ugh! First let me say that although this last season has been iffy, I really am going to miss this show. Mostly, because when Mad Men gets it right, it nails it.

That being said, I really think last week's episode was the better episode.

Let me start with Betty.

I thought her story arc was by far the best. She starts off as a naive, expectant woman who has it all, but doesn't. Mostly, this is Don's fault. He's not emotionally available. He's not the father he is supposed to be. He's not involved. It's devastating to Betty who is someone who was raised to get the man and have the family. It makes the innate problem of being a stay at home mom even worse -- the boredom and the lack of fulfillment is not even offset by having what you were promised to begin with.

She is obsessed with losing her good looks at the beginning of the series and even comments that she hopes she dies before she loses them.

Well, she does.

Betty also makes the comment in regards to "is this all there is" that what, is she just supposed to sit all day and smoke until she dies?

That's exact where the series leaves us. Birdie almost makes it out -- she was on the right path with school. Yet, there she is, final Betty scene, with her psychology books pushed aside for her magazine and a smoke, at the very kitchen table she dreaded dying at in earlier episodes.

By far the best.

As for Sally, oh how I hurt for Sally. Not only does she have to watch her mother die, someone she has a very tumultuous relationship with, but the expectation put on her now is one that has been told many times.

She will be the new mother figure. She will be the constant in those boys lives. Sally, her youth will be gone in so many regards -- first off with her carefree Madrid trip. More of that is to come. Over the years she will be both happy and resentful that she had to take care of her younger siblings. It's the cost of losing a parent.

Hopefully Don and the other men in their lives will step up. Another great Betty moment. For all of her faults, and misperceptions about the world, she nailed this one. There needs to be a woman in their lives, because during that age, women were the caregivers. Betty was protecting all of her children. The men were off at their jobs, or finding themselves, or any number of things. Oh, I loved this part too about the end scene with Betty at the kitchen table. Despite her situation, Henry was still late, still at work.

The Joan situation, I liked. She doesn't need a man, never did. She has moved beyond being a sex symbol, the woman who once slept with a man to move up in the world. She is now her own woman. She has elevated herself. I liked it.

Joan asking Peggy to be her partner? A little bit of a reach.

Same as Stan and Peggy. Did I want to see them together? Yes. Did I like how it happened? No. I would have preferred it if Mad Men developed it more after Peggy reveals what happened to her baby to Stan, built off of that. I get, in a way, that's what happened. How Peggy can trust to tell him. Now, only Pete and Don know, no one else. That speaks volumes.

I was sad there wasn't more between Peggy and Don. They have had so many great scenes. My only solace is that Peggy says Stan is always right. Don and Peggy will have many more soulmate experiences going forward.

The least liked scenes for me was Don in his story arc. Him with Betty was great, but that's where it ended for me.

Don has been dealing with his past forever. I want him to take his own advice and just move forward. Let it go. However, like so many people in this world, it is easier said than done. Some wounds never heal.

I didn't get the whole hugging the other guy thing, sorry. I didn't like the writing technique at all. What, so Don feels like no one sees the real him? That Don doesn't feel like he would know real love if he saw it -- I believe that. Yet, he does. He knows what real love is, I just don't think he lets himself feel it.

As for the end, the enlightened yoga, and the did he or didn't he?

I think there are so many ways that it could be thought of.

I don't see Don sitting in a commune forever.

It's unclear if he did have any kind of enlightenment. He's had revelations before, and nothing has come of them.

I do think he was trying, while he was doing the yoga, to become enlightened or continue his enlightenment.

He made that ad.

The question really is, did he become a better person and make the ad, or right when he had the opportunity to become a better person he fell back into his old habits -- and became an ad man. Selling what he should have been feeling for himself?

I think the latter. He's had too much time to become a better person and for so many different reasons. If he does make strides, and I think he will, they will be so incremental.

However, if the show is any indication, all the characters improved themselves, so maybe Don will too.

Monday, May 11, 2015

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This episode was called The Milk and Honey Route.

Finally! An episode worthy of Mad Men!

Of course, there is only one thing to talk about and that's Betty.

Betty dying of cancer in this episode is truly brilliant. Betty, especially in the beginning of the series, really stood out to me as an example of my grandmother and mother. Betty so represents women of that age. Bored, lonely, chain smokers, not a part of the new movement to get jobs -- just stuck in this time warp. I fell in love with the show because of Betty. Watching Betty, staring off into space while smoking at the kitchen table was the epitome of my mom when I was younger. Place my mom in my grandma's kitchen and you have Betty.

Betty dying of lung cancer also represents that generation to me. Everybody smoked back then ... and a lot. It was the first real generation that was aware of lung cancer, but didn't do much to stop it. Betty, and people like her who die so young of lung cancer from smoking, changed our generation. Watching my parents smoke themselves to death definitely caused me to never want to smoke. In Betty's death, she represents that part of the generation as well.

Then there is the relationship between Sally and Betty.

I commented on it a few weeks ago, Sally and Betty sitting at the table together, having found a bit of common ground. I said, those are the moments you remember, after your mom is gone. The little ones. The small instances where Betty was actually nice to her daughter. You hold onto it, and you miss it.

Now, Betty is dying and Sally knows. Sally realizes, despite her mother's gross amount of flaws, Sally still loves her. For all of her hatred toward her mom, even having once commented about Betty being in the ground, Sally doesn't want her to die.

Plus, for all of us who have lost parents when we were younger, you ache for Sally and Betty for the loss of their future relationship. As you get older, you forgive your parents for some of their past transgressions. You move past it and forge new relationships with them. Sally and Betty will never get that chance and that's a tragedy we all learn too late.

That's also why we love this show, as Don puts in, the nostalgia. We ache for these characters because we see ourselves in them and what we have lost. We know the tragedy of Birdie, we've seen it in our own lives. It's so much harder because for those of us that lived through the 60's and 70's ... it's almost like we see ourselves sitting in those very same shag carpeted rooms. We too wish we could go back and be Sally, and hug our moms one last time.

The part that really got me was the great shot of Birdie as she is walking the stairs at school. You want to take a mental picture of her as she smiles at the young man that walks by her. In an instant you see the grace and beauty of Betty. The smile, the light ... the briefest of moments of what made this woman so beautiful, so hopeful in her youth. The smile so quick to light up her face ...  highlights the tragedy of her youthful demise. So much to live for, now so senselessly gone from the world. That was great storyboarding and great cinematography. Whomever wrote that scene deserves an Emmy. It was brilliantly done.

As for Pete and Trudy ... I love the way that ended. I know people on the forums keep saying the characters are doomed to repeat all of their same mistakes, but I just didn't see it that way. Maybe Pete is one of the lucky ones. Maybe, unlike Don, he "gets it" at a time he can still do something about it. He gets that he keeps looking for better things out there when he had something great all along in Trudy. His statement about how cheating on his wife felt good at the time, then didn't, is true. Is it worth it? Was it worth it to Don? To cheat on Betty? Did it make Don happier in the end? No. I for one, root for Pete. Perhaps Pete is not making the same old mistakes -- destined to repeat. Maybe he's actually getting off of that train of constantly feeling like there is something better out there only to be continually disappointed. Maybe he gets the old adage the grass is always greener on the other side.

As for Don, I don't know. He finally lets loose and tells people about really happened, trying to free himself from his past. He's been doing that for awhile. I'm not entirely sure his storyline can end in a fashion that I care about.

For next week's episode we need to complete Peggy. She has been such a central part of this show. I also want to see Harry get hit by a car -- wait, no. He needs that smirk wiped off his slimy-ass face. He needs to be fired and be seen trying to find a job but no one will hire him because he is a turd ball.

For as much as I have hated this whole season, I loved this episode. Plus, it only highlights the writers really can put out good television in the Mad Men world. It kind of, in a way, now that I'm putting my thoughts down, makes it kind of worse that the last few episodes have been so severely wasted.

I want to know about Peggy, Roger, Sally (although I guess we kind of already know), and Don. That's a lot to put into one episode. Especially with all the nuance that I am used to from a good Mad Men episode.

Until next week!

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Monday, May 4, 2015

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This week we focus more on what the lives of our Scooby gang are like at McCann. The big flashy office is at first exciting to Joan and Don. They feel like maybe things will really be okay.

But it is jus a mirage. It is the horror that they thought it would be.

Don gets sweet talked by Jim -- eluding that Don is going to be the star at the company. That Jim chased him and finally has him and he couldn't be more excited.

Don walks into the Miller Lite room with his chest puffed out -- the star is here! He is quickly deflated as he realizes he is not special. He is one of a dozen ad men in the room. All rank and file. All with very sad lunch boxes. Jim just wanted him off the competition's roster. The despair in the room is palpable for Don. He stares out the window looking for freedom -- perhaps the same freedom he looked for in Korea when he took on his new identity. Don, in great Draper fashion, simply stands up and leaves. Ted takes notice and smiles. Ted knows that he himself will be happy there -- he doesn't crave the spotlight. Ted doesn't want to be in charge. Don does. That's why the smile from Ted, he knows exactly why Don gets up and leaves. He doesn't fault him for it. He doesn't judge him for it. It is just Don Draper.

Then there is poor Joan. She has been cut down most of all. She is completely unvalued at McCann. She is a prize, much like Don, but for her beauty, not her talent. Joan is completely discredited by all she crosses paths with. Her work is misrepresented by a man who can't do it as well as her, but despite knowing this,  he is the one given the leniency. He is a man, after all. How could he possibly be expected to answer to Joan, a woman? A woman who looks like she does no less.

To Joan's credit, she tries to go through the proper channels, but she is essentially laughed at for even trying. Worse, she is put in a sexual harassment situation in which the only reason someone is helping her is to sleep with her.

When she tries to assert herself, she is quickly rebuffed, chastised for having even considered herself a talent at the company. It inflames Joan's anger, as it should, for being spoken down to. She has been put in her place. She fights like hell to win the battle, but in the end, she can't win. Roger is the one that gets through to her. Yes, she has a right to be mad, but being right doesn't always mean that it is in your best interest to fight. She will lose more than she will gain from taking on the men at McCann.

The women's revolution wasn't won overnight, nor has it really, even in this day age, completely won out. Women still get paid less than men for the same job. Roger really does have Joan's best interests at heart, despite whether or not it is right for the women's movement that Joan steps down from the battle. It's a tough call. $250,000 is a lot of money in the 70's to just walk away from.

As for where we left it with Don, he is not making his way back to New York City, so what does this mean?

Who knows, but with two episodes left, I hope we find out and that it makes sense.

On a side note, it really does seem like slippery Pete always comes out on top ...

Until next week.

Monday, April 27, 2015

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I'm not sure what to make of this Mad Men episode. Our Scooby gang lost their company and are getting swallowed up into the parent company, despite signing that independence clause earlier? How did that get trampled over? I must've missed something.

Everyone is frantically trying to create a West Coast office so that they have some autonomy. The pitch, while invigorating everyone, fails. However, the main company states that they will all have jobs, save for Joan in a not so subtle way.

I don't know how I feel about this. They are all millionaires, in the 70's. They are not hurting. They have job security ... things change. It's the business that they are in. Yes, this company that they worked to build has been swallowed up, but not because it wasn't successful. I don't know, I'm seeing the loss, but not a series ending loss here.

The only interesting point of the show was Peggy, again. Her dealing with the fact she has a baby out there, somewhere, was touching. The narrative she spoke of is what used to make Mad Men so good. Why do men get to move on from their mistakes and women can't? Her battles in the show are about feminism. How does one have a career and a family? That has been turned over and over in the years. In her time frame, the 70's, you almost couldn't have both. In my time frame, the 80's and 90's, women were told we could have it all. We were told you could wait to have kids. Now, there is some backlash to that. Can women have a family and a career? Do women want to put off having families to have a career? Many of us in our later 30's are now realizing, hey, my body may not be able to have that baby without help - maybe we really can't have it all. Maybe, we need to have one, more than the other. Not exclusively, but the balance may shift to spending more time having a family, while part-time working, or perhaps not being the CEO of the company after all. What Peggy faces in the show in the 70's is still going on today. Feminism is one of the themes I have alway loved about the show. When we start with Betty in season 1, her smoking despondently at the kitchen table. I tell you what, that was my mom.

I don't have high hopes for the ending of this show. What started off as consistent, all encompassing magical writing, now just gives us crumbs.

Monday, April 20, 2015

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I have to admit, I'm kind of tired of Mad Men.

They need to stop announcing that there is only 3 episodes left. Nothing is happening! Who cares if there are only three left, they could very well end it next week and I wouldn't care. Just tell me what happens so I can move on.

The thing is, existential crises are fine, except for the fact that all these characters are doing nothing to begin with.

I used to like that the series showed the mundane, but under a microscope. This seems more like someone forget where the microscope is at.

Glen was kinda of cool, if it had been more flushed out. How many boys do you think signed up for Vietnam because they had nothing better to do, or they wanted to be heroes like their fathers were in WWII? I, of course, am referring to early on in the war, not so much when it got so out of hand. I know my dad tried to sign up and my grandpa told him he would shoot him in the family room before he let his son go off to war.

I liked the scene with Betty and her daughter. I liked that they had found some common ground. It was really nice to see. Betty certainly still isn't going to be mother of the year, but what I liked about this scene (especially if you have lost a parent) is that when you look back, once your parent has died, those are the times that you remember, that you hold onto. You know your mom wasn't the greatest, but the part of you that still loves her? That part of you remembers that time at the kitchen table ...

As for Don, I don't know why we are beating the empty apartment over the head. We get the symbolism. His life is just as empty as his apartment. Stop patting yourselves on the back.

I think that is the problem with the show, they are so used to everyone patting them on the back, they don't realize that now it is just "yes men" who are doing the patting. The show has teetered on the edge of being too full of itself for awhile, and I think this episode just caused them to go over the edge.

We get it. Don is supposed to be a miserable, lonely, washed-up person. Betty is a bad mom. Looks fade. Men are pigs. The higher ups are so used to having everything that they could want that they don't actually know what to do with themselves anymore. Peggy's dreams of accomplishing something in a man's world is lost on Don and other men in the episode because they have forgotten what it was like to not be allowed to do anything that they want.

What I want, is three better episodes to finish off this series.

Update to my post ...

I also wonder what will happen to Sally and Bobby. I would really like to see some closure on their two lives, however, I know this is difficult because then we would have to a time jump, or flash-forward or what not. I'm not a huge fan of those. They rarely work well and it almost seems like a too easy writing technique to skip over the difficulties with ending a series. Personally, I would love to see a show that picks up 20 years down the road. Sally in her first job, Bobby dealing with mom issues. I think that would be really, really cool.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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The most recent episode of Mad Men is titled "New Business".

This episode seemed to me to be about the lies that people tell themselves. Megan lies to herself that she doesn't want anything from Don, that she doesn't need him. She wants to think of herself as strong enough to not need to rely on him.

However, she blames him for everything that went wrong in their marriage, and while yes, he cheated on her, she too changed the game plan by not being his partner. She chose acting over him. I can't help but think when Mr. Disgusting (Harry) questioned who would pick California over New York, was in a way, who would pick acting over Don and all he had to offer.

Megan also takes the check after stating she didn't need him. Oh, how her morals crumbled when she looked at one million dollars. She talks a big game, but she can be just as easily bought as the rest of them.

As for Diana and Don, that was just so sad on so many levels. Don wants to connect with a woman who he views as needing help. Someone who needs saving, someone like his mother that he couldn't save maybe? He wants to see himself more as who he was with this woman, he wants to reinvent himself. However, she is stuck in Dante's Inferno, a lost soul who wants to stay in a tortured place. She wants to keep torturing herself. Unlike Don, she's not looking for redemption, so Don needs to leave. I just found that whole thing very, very depressing. Not poorly written, just depressing.
Why is he always casual around Betty and the Kids? Does this mean something?

Also, how gross is Harry? I mean, really. On so many levels, he is just so disgusting. He's a horrible coworker, he's full of himself, and just so blech.

I hate him. I may hate him more than Pete, which is saying ALOT!

The thing with Megan was so slimy. Then to go to Don and try and pretend like Megan was going to slander him. I'm super happy Don saw right through that.

Looking forward to next week.

Monday, April 6, 2015

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This episode is called Severance.

It's so crazy how much you can miss a show. As soon as the characters were back on the screen, it was like coming home. All that nostalgia that Don Draper is always talking about.

Don looks very, very confident as he is parading around town with all of his new friends. Yet, as an audience that has seen this man over the years, we know inside he is struggling. He is filling his loneliness and his fears of identity with what he knows how to do, have sex. To woo. It took me awhile to realize that he imagined Rachael. He has a sense of these things, as his did with Anna Draper before her death. Rachael was, for all intents and purposes, the one that got away. The one that was his equal. Her death hits him hard, for this reason, and because he is deeply lonely inside while desperately wanting to connect. He wants to stop hiding, but he seems to be hiding even more than usual. The best scene in the episode was the emotion that Don shows at the funeral. It's true emotion, he can't hide his sense of loss over Rachael. The sense that he didn't really know her, that she was the one that got away, that she moved on, that people die, that he will die -- it is inevitable. He tries to connect with the waitress, but he misses his mark there, too. She has sex with him because she thinks she owes him something for the large tip. He is still lonely. He "just wants to sit there". I loved the panning back of the camera, of the other people at the counter, lonely as well.

There was still some great Mad Men humor in the show. Everything to do with Ken was awesome. I swear, the reason the show has been so good over the years is the mixing of what is ultimately so sad with the beauty in life. They are often two emotions and states of being that are entwined. Ken and Pete have a history of being pitted against each other and this was no different. They are like a great basketball game where the lead changes constantly. You can never be sure who is ultimately going to walk away with the championship. It's almost like Dante's Inferno. They will live this horror out for eternity.

I also really liked the scene with Peggy and Joan. Women have a history of being meanest to each other when they should really band together. The men in the meeting were horrifying to Joan. That was a terrible position to be in. While we all would like to jump up and say something, we have to remember how difficult it was back then. It was the early 70's. Women for the most part still didn't have jobs like Joan and Peggy did. Peggy and Joan probably could have done something to curb the remarks but didn't. They were in fear of escalating the situation and of losing the pitch. Plus, they really were trying to keep some level of professionalism to the meeting. However, after the meeting, Peggy could have
just said what she should have said, which was, yes, those guys were assholes and I wanted to strangle them. I tried the best I could to keep redirecting the conversation back to the facts of the pitch. Peggy absolutely did not need to then turn it around as to be Joan's fault. Also, Joan does not wear the most revealing outfits in that office I might add. Joan is just an extremely beautiful woman. On the other hand, while I agree that Joan had every right to be mad at Peggy, that did not give Joan the right to attack Peggy's plainness. Peggy can be beautiful. Joan and Peggy just have different types of beauty, like all women do. They did not need to go at each other when really what made both of them so mad was the men's behavior. Yet, that is so like what women have a tendency to do, attack each other. Peggy was angry to for the men's disparaging remarks. It was so classless. I reiterate, band together next time ladies!

I can't wait for next week's episode. I have to find out if Betty will ever be happy, although the answer is and should be no. What will happen to Sally? Love, love, love this show.