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Darrel Manson

Mad Men

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The one with Pete was creepy, but I didn't find it as depressing. At the very least, I didn't find it as desperate, and there was a lot more comedy throughout that episode to pick me up. But I don't really feel for Pete Campbell, so I was more of a distant observer there, and was more than a little pleased when he got his comeuppance.

But this episode hit me square in the gut. The desperation is everywhere, spreading even to characters who I thought were a little more stable than the others. There was very little humor to break anything up. And the violence of that final section tipped me right over the edge.

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Heresy, Tyler. (But I never did much care for THE OFFICE, even when it supposedly good.)

Anyway, the most recent episode--"Far Away Places"--is getting a lot of conversation because of the drug use, but I was more struck by how bleak and depressing the episode was. I don't think MAD MEN has had such a downer of an episode before. I don't think things are going to get lighter, either. These episodes has established that the trajectory of this season is a downward spiral. It's going to get ugly.

Ryan, did you ever watch the UK version of THE OFFICE? I couldn't bring myself to watch the American version, but I think the UK version is just about one of the most perfect shows ever.

Yeah, this episode was pretty dark, but it was also inevitable. I'd been waiting for Roger to get tired of Jane officially for a while. And the Don/Megan stuff we saw coming in the season opener as far as the undercurrent of violence in their relationship anyway. I think Don genuinely wants things to work, especially after his comments to Pete last episode. But he has no idea how to relate to women apart from misogyny. Also, Ginsburg's revelation was interesting, but I saw it coming when we were introduced to his "father."

Oh, and I loved the use of The Beach Boys during the LSD sequence. Fantastic stuff.

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Ryan, did you ever watch the UK version of THE OFFICE? I couldn't bring myself to watch the American version, but I think the UK version is just about one of the most perfect shows ever.

I've seen some of it. From what I've seen, I do prefer it to its American counterpart, but I'm not what you'd call a fan.

Yeah, this episode was pretty dark, but it was also inevitable.

Oh, yes. But I didn't expect them to pile it all into a single episode. The way the structure layered these character's relational distingrations gave them a heft they might not have otherwise had if the moments had been sprinkled out through the rest of the remaining episodes.

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Ryan, did you ever watch the UK version of THE OFFICE? I couldn't bring myself to watch the American version, but I think the UK version is just about one of the most perfect shows ever.

I've seen some of it. From what I've seen, I do prefer it to its American counterpart, but I'm not what you'd call a fan.

Do check it out. It's only 12 episodes and the Christmas Special (which is really key to the whole thing). I don't even know if I'd call it comedy in the end. It's something much more.

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Chiming in to say I've had a similar experience to Tyler. We finished season one and ended up liking it, and finished season two not to long after that and absolutely loved it. We've intentionally put our viewing on hold — at the rate we were going, we'd blaze through the remaining available episodes on Netflix streaming and just get bummed out when we finished. I think we're going to pick up with season three in a few weeks.

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Quick question for those of you watching season 5: How pessimistic/optimistic are you about the future of Don and Megan's marriage? I ask because after watching each new episode, I always read the reviews by Matt Zoller Seitz, Alan Sepinwall, and the AV Club, and all three of them see little to no hope in the relationship. They all pointed to the structure of the episode and then tried to draw direct parallels: Peggy is trying to become the old Don, Don is becoming the old Roger, Roger is becoming the old Cooper. I'm pretty sure it's not that simple. Anyway, I was surprised by how consistent their responses were and how different they were from my own. I asked my wife this same question last night, and her take is similar to my own.

This is Don Draper after all, so we can't ever expect his marriage to be all sunshine and roses, but I see him and Megan as both going in to the marriage with their eyes wide open. They have very different backgrounds and are of different generations, so conflict is inevitable (conflict is inevitable in all relationships, especially in that period immediately after the initial shine wears off). And they also have that vein of sado-masochism running through their relationship, which complicates things (not to mention Don's mommy issues). But I still see potential in them. Don seems more aware of what's at stake. I loved Megan's line, "Each time we fight it diminshes this."

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Quick question for those of you watching season 5: How pessimistic/optimistic are you about the future of Don and Megan's marriage? I ask because after watching each new episode, I always read the reviews by Matt Zoller Seitz, Alan Sepinwall, and the AV Club, and all three of them see little to no hope in the relationship. They all pointed to the structure of the episode and then tried to draw direct parallels: Peggy is trying to become the old Don, Don is becoming the old Roger, Roger is becoming the old Cooper. I'm pretty sure it's not that simple. Anyway, I was surprised by how consistent their responses were and how different they were from my own. I asked my wife this same question last night, and her take is similar to my own.

I’ve had a similar thought.

I don’t think their marriage is guaranteed to fall apart. At this point, with everything that these critics are saying, that seems too obvious. Weiner rarely does anything that I (or others) think he’ll do, so my guess is that we could be heading towards a larger tragedy that would only affect Don and Megan’s marriage tangentially.

But I could always be wrong about that.

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You know, I don't see a larger tragedy looming either -- just because there's no precedent for it in Mad Men. At times in season 4 I was convinced that Roger would commit suicide, but I just don't think Weiner is interested in that sort of thing, not with the main characters at least. He's more interested in examing the psychology of the times. For example, I see the Richard Speck episode as a way of unsettling the psychological foundations of the show by introducing the violence of the times (race riots, Vietnam) into the lives of a social class and generation that, in 1966, was still safely protected from most of it. The critics I read are too quick, I think, to say "because Don has a Speck-inspired fever dream, he will turn violent himself" (or something along those lines).

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Quick question for those of you watching season 5: How pessimistic/optimistic are you about the future of Don and Megan's marriage? I ask because after watching each new episode, I always read the reviews by Matt Zoller Seitz, Alan Sepinwall, and the AV Club, and all three of them see little to no hope in the relationship. They all pointed to the structure of the episode and then tried to draw direct parallels: Peggy is trying to become the old Don, Don is becoming the old Roger, Roger is becoming the old Cooper. I'm pretty sure it's not that simple.

I'm pretty sure it's not that simple, either. Those parallels are too easy. Of course the episode does draw some parallels between these characters, their situations and motivations are altogether quite different.

This is Don Draper after all, so we can't ever expect his marriage to be all sunshine and roses, but I see him and Megan as both going in to the marriage with their eyes wide open. They have very different backgrounds and are of different generations, so conflict is inevitable (conflict is inevitable in all relationships, especially in that period immediately after the initial shine wears off). And they also have that vein of sado-masochism running through their relationship, which complicates things (not to mention Don's mommy issues). But I still see potential in them. Don seems more aware of what's at stake. I loved Megan's line, "Each time we fight it diminshes this."

There is potential. Whether that potential will be trampled, or whether they will genuinely work to make their relationship stronger, I can't say. Don seems to be genuinely struggling with himself, being forced to confront his own personal demons. It's worth mentioning that while a lot of commentators are just seeing, "Look how screwed up Don is, and he can never have a decent relationship," Matt Weiner's comments have been more along the lines of, "You can see through Don's desperation that he legitimately loves Megan."

But things are going to shift at some point. The interviews with the cast and crew have pointed to shifts in character dynamics that haven't yet come to pass, and will undoubtedly put some strain on Don's marriage. Whether that strain will break it or simply test it, we'll have to see.

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You know, I don't see a larger tragedy looming either -- just because there's no precedent for it in Mad Men. At times in season 4 I was convinced that Roger would commit suicide, but I just don't think Weiner is interested in that sort of thing, not with the main characters at least. He's more interested in examing the psychology of the times. For example, I see the Richard Speck episode as a way of unsettling the psychological foundations of the show by introducing the violence of the times (race riots, Vietnam) into the lives of a social class and generation that, in 1966, was still safely protected from most of it. The critics I read are too quick, I think, to say "because Don has a Speck-inspired fever dream, he will turn violent himself" (or something along those lines).

Well, it is hard to imagine someone like Pete coming into the office one day and letting off a few rounds with his rifle, but I've seen others throw that idea around, and I don't think something big is beyond the show's scope--not with this season's heavy focus on serial killers, snipers, war, etc. I think a death is likely, even if it occurs off-screen (something happening to Joan's soon-to-be-ex-husband, for example) and just ripples out from there. Season three brought us a game-changer that was unexpected but inevitable given how unhappy everyone felt at the old company. I just can't help feeling that another change is on the horizon here, too, but a darker one. I don't think it will necessarily involve the Don-Megan marriage, as I've said, but I think someone could crack. The Lane-Pete face-off feels like foreshadowing here--kind of like season three's "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency." It's strange, unexpected, darkly comic, and possibly Weiner's way of laying a foundation for whatever is coming, even if what eventually comes is ultimately more subdued than melodramatic.

Edited by andrew_b_welch

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Well, I do think we're marching toward the end of Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce, and that the end of this season will send the characters spiralling out in different directions and into new circumstances. But I'm not sure it will come from an act of violence or death as much as it will come from increasing stress on the characters' relationships with one another. They're already moving away from one another.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Well, I do think we're marching toward the end of Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce, and that the end of this system will send the characters spiralling out in different directions and into new circumstances. But I'm not sure it will come from an act of violence or death as much as it will come from increasing stress on the characters' relationships with one another. They're already moving away from one another.

I think that would be a great direction for it to go in.

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I'm generally in agreement with what you guys are saying. One thing that Matt Zoller Seitz hits on consistently in his recaps is the fact that the MAD MEN characters are fundamentally unpredictable in real ways. And that unpredictability also means that there is always a possibility for characters to do redeeming things as well as awful things, even if we haven't been given many opportunities to see this. Don's comments to Pete toward the end of Signal 30 were a glimpse of it.

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The characters are unpredictable in real ways; they're also predictable in real ways. Roger can blithely say he knows the divorce will take half his wealth, but that means he might have to actually start working for a living again. Don has a new apartment to pay for. Pete has a home, a wife, and child in the suburbs. In other words, the men of SCDP have financial responsibilities, and one reason Weiner is interested in men of that generation is because they took those kinds of responsibilities seriously. I'll be shocked if SCDP dissolves and the characters move their separate ways. Peggy and Ken always have one eye on other opportunities, apparently, but the partners can't just pick up and leave. Where would they go?

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Where would they go?

Many of them might move to different agencies, taking clients with them. Cooper will probably retire. Pryce might go back to England. I'm not sure about Roger, now that we know he's headed for divorce.

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And the show would be what, then? Or are you predicting this is the trajectory of the series finale?

I'm not sure what the show would look like after such a mix-up. That would be for Matt Weiner to decide, but I don't think the change would be insurmountable.

I get the sense that this season is moving towards something big and rather ominous for its finale. The trajectory is that these characters are pulling further and further away from each other. You could have them forcibly reunited, or you could have them part ways. I think we're going to see an end-of-season-three-style shakeup, cutting some characters out, and putting a lot of characters in a new place. I'm going bold by predicting the full-on dissolution of SCDP, but perhaps it would instead just be an elimination of a few of those names from the marquee, complete with Peggy Olson and Ken Gosgrove going to make it on their own.

I know Weiner is signed on for two more seasons.

Yep. And we know Weiner considers season seven to be the last, and has a definite ending for the show in mind.

Edited by Ryan H.

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And the show would be what, then? Or are you predicting this is the trajectory of the series finale? I know Weiner is signed on for two more seasons.

If Weiner didn't have any trouble dropping a few characters at the end of season three, I don't see why he would feel obligated to keep everyone at the same company going forward. I think the series could be just as compelling if the characters were all in different locations. I don't know if that could be sustained for two more seasons, but I could see him spending at least one season like that, and then perhaps bringing a few of them back together for the seventh and final season.

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If Weiner didn't have any trouble dropping a few characters at the end of season three

You mean Sal and Paul? I wouldn't put them in the same category as Don, Roger, Peter, and Peggy. I suppose I can still imagine Roger dying, either from suicide or a heart attack, and I can imagine Cooper dying or Pryce returning to England, but a show without Don, Pete, and Peggy working together would no longer be Mad Men. This show has always been as much about Peggy as it is about Don.

The only two storylines where I can imagine the kind of drama you're predicting is Don / Megan (I think they can grow into a healthier relationship but don't think they necessarily will) and Sally, who I expect to become a much bigger presence in the final seasons, both because the young actress is really good and because she's about the right age for Woodstock-ish rebellion.

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Ok, just watched last night's episode (another "home run" in my book, making it four in a row -- and yes, we have baseball in Canada). Roger was back in full force. I loved it! Apparently the LSD trip brought back the old Roger, but even better?

I agree with Matt Zoller Seitz's recap, that about 3/4 through the episode I thought things were much more upbeat than the anything else this season. But of course, such things don't last. There was enough darkness that it feels entirely of a piece with the trajectory so far. I'm not optimistic for Peggy/Abe. As cruel as she is, Peggy's mom is probably right about Abe. Also, that final tableau shot of the table: gold.

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Ok, just watched last night's episode (another "home run" in my book, making it four in a row ... Also, that final tableau shot of the table: gold.

Season Five is turning out quite well. I agree that the last episode was well written. It was precisely the sort of episode that exhibits why Mad Men is still running in the first place - an intermixing of kindness, darkness, triumph, humor and power with just little bits of the disturbing covered by a fine veneer of charm. I still cannot, for the life of me, explain my attraction to this show. But it's engaging in a cultural commentary of a sort that (maybe it was the party at the end with the different revelations that all was not what it appeared to be) is beginning to remind me of a sort of 1960s Great Gatsby.

I wonder how much F. Scott Fitzgerald has been read by Matthew Weiner.

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Ok, just watched last night's episode (another "home run" in my book, making it four in a row -- and yes, we have baseball in Canada).

I've already said that I think this is the best season to date. This most recent episode continues the excellence.

This episode does wonders for Megan's character, who is becoming more interesting all the time. I was puzzled by her character at the end of season 4, but now she is fast becoming one of my favorite characters.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I'm finally caught up with the series, and I'm still not completely sold. Peggy is my favorite character, by far, and the Don/Megan relationship is developing well. I don't think Roger or Betty have had an interesting moment in the last few seasons and kind of wish they weren't on the show anymore; Betty was my favorite character in season 2, too.

I think the basic reason I can't get fully invested in Mad Men, while I completely am with Breaking Bad--and they are similar series in many ways--is that BB is about people fighting for their lives, and MM is about people fighting for their comfort.

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