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Darrel Manson
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So what did we think of the finale?

It definitely appeared to be designed more as an epilogue than a slam-bang finish. I thought the focus could have been stronger, and that some sections were a bit heavy-handed, but it did an okay job of wrapping up the season's themes (the choice of music for the closing montage was spectacular).

Overall, I think season five was very, very strong--I love the up-front desperation of this season--but it has admittedly struggled with the more tertiary characters, and that really shone through in the finale.

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I thought it felt anticlimactic, too. It was the best Alexis Bledel has been on the show so far, though that isn't a very high bar. The pound it in, wave and shout, "This is what it means!" approach to symbolism is getting annoying, too.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I... enjoyed is the wrong word... this season because it recaptured a very particular sort of dread that drew me into the show during the first season. There is a scene in Midge's apartment in the first season that is basically a drawn out Hopper painting and I like the show best when it recaptures that network despair you can sense beneath all the smoke and bourbon - which is sadly the very shape of Don's attraction to Midge.

And then all the subtle reflection in this season on the Jaguar account points us back that direction. Though Peggy is now freed from the existential mess that is Draper's life. Cue the Kinks.

But I don't do a lot of reading on Mad Men, and one thing I found increasingly alarming this season is that Don Draper doesn't actually look handsome anymore. His face looks like that of a hard drinking adult that has gone through a Draperish tumble through life, and he has lost that chiseled edge that drew everyone to the show in the first place. Am I off here? Are my TV settings off? Or did anyone else notice this?

Edited by M. Leary

"...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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No, you're exactly right, M. I can't tell you how many times during this season I said to Joanna, "Jon Hamm is just better than everyone else." I have to think Don's aging has been by design -- in the storytelling, in the makeup, and most definitely in the performance. In a recent interview, Weiner talked about how Don's pitch to Dow Chemicals was written to be incredibly ugly--grotesque, even--and that he was fascinated by the way Hamm made it that and also a classic Don Draper moment. I was talking to a coworker yesterday about the show's tendency to bludgeon viewers over the head with its themes and symbols. I've always enjoyed that because I put this show in that mid-century American literary world of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, and maybe even Douglas Sirk, but Hamm has a real knack for grounding the expressionistic touches in something real and human. Watching his face age (or maybe "weary" is a better word) is an important part of that.

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So... for discussion. What is the "phantom"? Given the conversation in which the word emerged. I spent the last few seasons thinking little of the show, but this season was rife with that word. Would like some critical response.

"...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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Watching Vincent Kartheiser play Pete Campbell for 5 seasons, and then tonight discovering he played Connor on Angel is giving me some major actor dissonance.

I'm positive I've looked at this IMDB page before, too. I don't know how that didn't register.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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So... for discussion. What is the "phantom"? Given the conversation in which the word emerged. I spent the last few seasons thinking little of the show, but this season was rife with that word. Would like some critical response.

Given the way this episode specifically makes use of the idea--through the literal phantom that haunts Don, the phantom that haunts the office now that Lane is gone, the phantom of Peter Campbell's dream affair, and the phantom of Megan's wished-for-life as an actress--I'm going to say that the phantoms that drive this season, as well as the show in its entirety, are the selves we want to be and the selves we actually are. MAD MEN embedded that idea early on in its revelations about Don Draper's rather melodramatic backstory. This season takes that notion and builds almost every arc around it.

I'm very curious to see how the next two seasons progress.

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  • 8 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

i still need to catch up with Season 5. My co-worker, who lent me the first four seasons on DVD, recently told me she'd been too impatient to see Season 5 and had downloaded it on iTunes instead of (before?) it became available on DVD. So she can't loan it to me. I don't have cable or Netflix, so I guess the library's my best bet, although I haven't put a "hold" on the item and suspect it'll be months before a copy comes through.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Since we're watching the show on Netflix, we're fine with not catching season 6 for a while. We're almost done with season 5, in fact. As Michael also mentioned,.my...enjoyment? (appreciation?) this season partially comes because of the sense of dread that loomed over everything. I've always really liked the supporting characters in Mad Men, so I was happy to see Kinsey and Freddy Rumson again.

Edited by Jason Panella
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I am still bummed out after watching last night's episode. I don't think another episode has ever gotten so deep under my skin.

Well, Ryan, this may or may not be a good time to share this Mere O piece in which I respond to another Mere O piece on the ethics of watching Mad Men.

Darren, if you're around, I think you'll appreciate my conclusion. Let's just say I've been lamenting to my wife the very thing you've mentioned lately about CBS crime dramas. We go to her grandmother's for dinner once a week, which we thoroughly enjoy. But for the first couple of years of doing so, we had a steady diet of NCIS and CSI. Since my son was born, we have reason to leave after Wheel of Fortune now.

If nothing else, last night's episode was a continuation of the dread hanging over season 5.

"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
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Did you write this before watching last night's episode? A few of the storylines speak pretty directly to the issues you wrote about. The biggest one is

Peggy's difficulties with the "lend me your ears" campaign and Vietnam; the "problem," as she sees it, isn't that soldiers were doing depraved things, but that widespread awareness of them could taint the reaction to a headphone commercial. Another one is Megan's acting role at the end of the episode--pushing someone down the stairs--that could change the interactions she has with people like the woman at the luau. Megan isn't worried about the pushback because people should distinguish what her character does from who she is as a real person. But one of the recurring themes of Mad Men (and one you touch on in your essay) is that everyone on the show is "playing a role" to the extent that the real/fictional distinction barely means anything anymore.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Tyler, I did write this and send it off to Matt before last night's episode. In fact, I wrote it Saturday night, edited a bit Sunday morning, and then sent it off. But, yeah, I'm totally with you on last night's episode. Felt like more confirmation of my approach to the issue.

"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
Filmwell, Twitter, & Letterboxd

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Nice work.

I think the key problem with Jake Meador's comments is that he made a "decision to skip a show that I enjoyed tremendously over the first four seasons." I don't think you can formulate a genuine response to the show without dealing with the thoroughly bleak fifth season (and now the sixth, which picks up right where the fifth left off).

That's what struck me about last night's episode. There were funny moments (Roger and his secretary), but they offered little respite from the gloom. Joy has been chased out of the MAD MEN universe by the specter of death.

Edited by Ryan H.
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Wow, maybe I was watching a different premiere than you guys! Death of course looms over SCDP as usual, but I found plenty to be joyful about. Particularly:

Roger's therapy sessions, Betty doing something useful for once in her life (and dying her hair!) and Stan and Peggy's late-night work calls. Stan in the Hawaii pitch was great too. "This doesn't make you think of suicide?" "Of course it does! That's why it's so GREAT!" I mean, yeah, a lot of it is dark humour, but what isn't on this show? I was laughing for most of the two hours. I greatly prefer this to the constant anxiety of Will Dick Whitman Be Revealed And Ruin Don's Life?

I found it quite interesting that none of the underlings seemed to know for sure about Joan and Roger. I thought it was common knowledge.

I enjoyed season 5 as much if not more than season 4, despite the bleakness, probably because of its focus on the Mad Women.

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Anna, I touched on the reasonableness of enjoying the show and its characters in my piece. And I agree: last night still had a few of those moments. For me, it's that the death/suicide theme seems to be increasingly looming.

"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
Filmwell, Twitter, & Letterboxd

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I found it quite interesting that none of the underlings seemed to know for sure about Joan and Roger. I thought it was common knowledge.

I think the question was

if they were still an item, not whether they ever had been.

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

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