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Darrel Manson
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I'm not really into most of the storylines, and some characters (Ken and Harry, especially) are barely around anymore. At this point, the most intriguing thing is Cutler's play to take over the entire agency. It's like he's the Uncle Jack of Mad Men.

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It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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This episode had nice moments (Don and Sally get some great moments), but, like the premiere, it didn't have much apparent forward momentum.

I do think Lou--who is particularly loathsome, even by this show's standards--is being set up for someone to take him down (Peggy, probably).

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All the "Hey look! [character's name] is still on the show!" moments dragged down an otherwise strong episode.

 

At least there wasn't a shark at the farm.

 

And Don watching Vertigo is up there with Walter White watching Scarface for "we get it already" moments.

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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The 2001 allusions in "The Monolith" (title of last night's episode).

 

 

Even before last night’s episode of Mad Men aired, some fans suspected it might have Stanley Kubrick on its mind. As Indiewire’s Sam Adams astutely noted a couple weeks back, the episode is called “The Monolith,” bringing to mind the mysterious object that heralds epochal change in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The timing was also ripe for Matthew Weiner to do his own spin on 2001: Kubrick’s “Ultimate Trip” came out in 1968, but it stayed in theaters well into 1969, when “The Monolith” takes place.

The episode “The Monolith” similarly represents potential epochal change in the world of Mad Men, and its allusions to 2001 begin at the very beginning. As soon as Don Draper first appears, getting off the elevator for his first day back at Sterling Cooper, the camera lingers as Don is confronted by this image, reminiscent of the object that gives the episode its title:

monolith_mad_men.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediu

Sceengrab by Jeffrey Bloomer for Slate

Don finally learns of the latest sign of this new era when he finds his colleagues: They’re meeting because the company is installing a new computer. As Cutler announces, “This agency has entered the future.”

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I see we're not done with the 2001 allusions:

 

When Ginsberg sees Lou and Cutler talking in the computer room, the camera pans follows their lips the way it did when HAL was lip-reading the conversation in the module.

 

 

[edit] And John Drew pointed out another potential connection to me on Facebook.

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It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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A new substratum of madness is emerging from Mad Men, which leads me to think that these final few episodes are engaging the titular premise of the show: only something cancerous and absurd sustains these people. If the entire show devolves into a Jodorowsky orgy of whatever, I would appreciate it. This last episode was just bonkers. Every interaction and reaction was tainted by a slight whiff of insanity. Not desperation or anything so pat, just a kind of shell-shocked loopiness. Continuing the 2001 allusions, Runaways tracks with the Clarke narrative a bit to where all the monkeys start hitting each other with bones. They have discovered weapons, and they are happy to start slapping each other with them.

 

The final shot of Don Draper in this episode is one of the most bizarre shots of the entire series. Don has just had an old-school Don-type #winning moment. He slams the taxi door shut on his current nemesis. The camera pulls back to a medium shot as Don whistles for another taxi. The camera holds a bit on that shot as he just stands there in his mismatched fedora with his hands kind of clenched. it is a macho pose, a stock John Wayne one-sheet stance. But if you really look at Don in the frame, there is something jilted about his body. He has a little bit of extra weight, his torso is twisted in an odd direction. His smile is very manufactured. Given the tight control Mad Men typically has over how things are composed within a frame, I can't help but think that this seeming lack of judgment is intentional and everything really is just descending into a Raskolnikov-like madness, Don taking everyone with him. 

 

By now, there is dawning recognition that something is just off. "Off" like there is a guy at your party wearing stuff that looked really cool ten years ago, but now is just kind of sad. "Off" like there is this Bradburyesque whirring and clicking intelligent machine right their in your very office. One thing that Mad Men has captured well as a period piece over the years is the great fear and anxiety that attends the adult feeling that something is now off. You once had your youth and vitality, you were connected to what was current and happening, but after a few too many times closing the bar down you lost that chisel in your jaw and aren't quite sure exactly what it is that 20-somethings find interesting these days. That feeling, especially for someone in advertising, is a special species of doom. Now the young people have total ownership over the glossiness of life, with their pot and their clarinets and Vietnam protests. You as an entire generation are now officially off. Like Don, you now find yourself the employee of the kids whose puppet strings you once pulled. 

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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By now, there is dawning recognition that something is just off. "Off" like there is a guy at your party wearing stuff that looked really cool ten years ago, but now is just kind of sad. "Off" like there is this Bradburyesque whirring and clicking intelligent machine right their in your very office. One thing that Mad Men has captured well as a period piece over the years is the great fear and anxiety that attends the adult feeling that something is now off. You once had your youth and vitality, you were connected to what was current and happening, but after a few too many times closing the bar down you lost that chisel in your jaw and aren't quite sure exactly what it is that 20-somethings find interesting these days. That feeling, especially for someone in advertising, is a special species of doom.

This is a very good description, not only of the show in general, but of this last season in particular. Mad Men has always played with appearances masking reality.  Even in the first season, you begin having this bad feeling that something somehow is wrong.  Weiner has portrayed this mood in many ways that have been both new and nostalgic.  But the early seasons explored some of the more obvious forms of hypocrisy (happy family life, treatment of women and other minorities, the ability to declaim prejudice simultaneously as a means of prejudice, etc.) while the last couple seasons have been interested in something deeper.  The thing is, now we have some reformed characters who are more honest than they were at the beginning of the show.  There are a number of different directions Don's storyline can still go, but he is more aware of the moral dimension that he interacts in.  And yet, while a number of characters have learned lessons and have even rid themselves of a certain amount of hypocrisy, something is still ... off.  It's very subtle, but it's there.

And M. Leary, Please do continue writing about Mad Men.

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A new substratum of madness is emerging from Mad Men, which leads me to think that these final few episodes are engaging the titular premise of the show: only something cancerous and absurd sustains these people. If the entire show devolves into a Jodorowsky orgy of whatever, I would appreciate it. This last episode was just bonkers. Every interaction and reaction was tainted by a slight whiff of insanity. Not desperation or anything so pat, just a kind of shell-shocked loopiness. Continuing the 2001 allusions, Runaways tracks with the Clarke narrative a bit to where all the monkeys start hitting each other with bones. They have discovered weapons, and they are happy to start slapping each other with them.

Oh yeah. SC&P is so toxic that I just want to see the whole office razed to the ground.
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Did the show really bring in Neve Campbell for just that one scene? I was assuming she'd come back, but now I doubt we'll see her again.

 

Now that's how you do a Mad Men episode!

 

I know last night's was good, but I like the show more when it gets weird.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Just finished S6.  I noticed Christian commented that this was a season where nothing happened.  I thought a ton of stuff "happened" this season, as Don's artifice really starts to crumble and he begins to see the past start spilling out.  Ted and Don were an interesting compare contrast (though the finale was a bit too on the nose with Ted's personal choices).  I don't have AMC, so am disappointed that I have to wait an entire year (2 years?) to see the final season.  I am really enjoying the business plots more so than the personal story lines, but am very interested in Sally becoming the most important/influential female in Don's life.  We'll see...well, some of you are already seeing, but I'll see.

 

And Bob Benson--does this actor play anything but con men?  I liked him in the 1 episode of "Lone Star" I saw.

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Did the show really bring in Neve Campbell for just that one scene? I was assuming she'd come back, but now I doubt we'll see her again.

 

Now that's how you do a Mad Men episode!

 

I know last night's was good, but I like the show more when it gets weird.

Mad Men has been so bleak and so bitter for so long that I needed a crowd-pleasing episode like this one.

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Did the show really bring in Neve Campbell for just that one scene? I was assuming she'd come back, but now I doubt we'll see her again.

 

Now that's how you do a Mad Men episode!

 

I know last night's was good, but I like the show more when it gets weird.

Mad Men has been so bleak and so bitter for so long that I needed a crowd-pleasing episode like this one.

 

 

 

I did not find it so hopeful. This may have been the most Lynchian of the Mad Men episodes. Thoughts on that and reference to Psalms and the Eucharist in Mad Men here:

 

http://theotherjournal.com/filmwell/2014/05/21/mad-men-season-7-ep-6-psalms-for-a-burger-chef-era/

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Very good thoughts, Mike. I love what you've had to say about this season of Mad Men.

I don't disagree with anything you wrote. When I say Mad Men gets "crowd-pleasing," I don't mean that it necessarily gets hopeful. Mad Men doesn't get happy as much as it gets bittersweet. Peggy and Don's semi-reconciliation, as tender and sweet as it is (their dance may be one of my top ten Mad Men moments), does not change the big picture. They feel--and they actually are--lost.

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Very good thoughts, Mike. I love what you've had to say about this season of Mad Men.

I don't disagree with anything you wrote. When I say Mad Men gets "crowd-pleasing," I don't mean that it necessarily gets hopeful. Mad Men doesn't get happy as much as it gets bittersweet. Peggy and Don's semi-reconciliation, as tender and sweet as it is (their dance may be one of my top ten Mad Men moments), does not change the big picture. They feel--and they actually are--lost.

 

Gotcha. I agree that the show is complex enough that the Don and Peggy dance is sweet and real. The way the show can alternate between these human moments and the really complicated through-the-looking-glass moments is genius.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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If Twitter can be trusted, there are people who liked the last two minutes of the episode.

 

The only way to rescue that scene is if

the start of next season (half-season, whatever) reveals that Don went Ginsberg while he was walking down the stairs.

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Oh come on.  That was fantastic.  A tribute to Robert Morse, who got his big break with "How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" (although the song itself was from another musical altogether). 

Nick Alexander

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Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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