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Procrastination central, party of one.

Mad Men 3x07: Seven Twenty Three
  • I've seen a lot of complaints on the internet about the 'morning after' opening images of Don, Peggy and Betty, and while I do agree that it is an easy method of juxtaposing the three characters' positions at the beginning and end of the episode, I wouldn't call it lazy shorthand. It did the job effectively and, I would argue, quite artistically, so I didn't have a problem with it.

  • Let me get this right out of the way: Don was a dick (though interestingly, not Dick, not anymore**) in this episode. Insight into his personality and his feeling of being trapped don't mitigate his actions throughout the episode. I remember reading an article in the New York Times that compared Don Draper and Tony Soprano, and the author concluded that Matt Weiner, though a writer on The Sopranos, wasn't prepared to let Don be a 'bad guy' like Tony. In essence, David Chase was willing to show us Tony's bad qualities unflinchingly, whereas Matt Weiner and Jon Hamm weren't willing to play up qualities and attitudes in Don that men of his time would, for the most part, entertain: endemic misogyny and racism, to name two. I agreed with that assessment at the time: despite Don infantilizing Betty throughout the series, the show always seemed to me to imply that Don's humanity could in some way lessen unpleasant facets of his personality. I do think that Weiner got over that tendency this season: Don nearly cheated on his wife with the airhostess (circumstances, not morals, prevented him) after his promises of reform last season; ruthlessly exploited his position of power with Peggy to lash out at her in an attempt to feel better himself; and made the naming of Gene All About Him ("I hated him and he hated me; that's the memory!"). Anyway, the NYTimes article's a good one; go check it out:
    In the Chase paradigm, a show’s main character must be fundamentally evil, and this evil must undermine the tenacious American fantasy that there are morally responsible roads to power and moreover that the achievement of power is itself a moral responsibility.

    ** More than Bertram's manipulation, I think Don signed the contract because of his father's taunts. This was the episode where he consciously realized what he's probably been subconsciously avoiding: he's transformed from the rebel to the bourgeoisie. Not only are all the escape routes cut off, he doesn't know how to make use of them, to effectively transform himself and run away, anymore. And he can't handle the realization quite yet.

  • Even more than with Peggy (about whom, more in a minute), Don's behaviour with Betty was utterly appalling. In contrast to his uncharacteristic openness about the possible move to London (I don't think he would ordinarily have mentioned it to her unless it was a done deal), he clammed up about the contract. Don, having been so sincere in his attempts to reconcile with Betty at the end of last season, is lapsing in more ways than infidelity: he still vacillates between treating Betty like a child and as an adult who is his equal. I'm glad that she's found ways to argue her position more effectively, to fight back.

    I don't have much to say about the flirtation with Henry yet; I think I need to see it play out a bit more.

  • If you would have told me at the beginning of the episode that the man in bed with Peggy was Duck, I would have been utterly surprised. The fact that it came after Don's tongue-lashing makes more sense to me; unlike Don, Duck's an authority figure who's all too willing to shower her with gits and compliments as opposed to her withholding boss ("Every time I turn around, you've got your hands in my pocket."). Plus, Peggy's actually beginning to let go of her hero-worship of Don and objectively assess the man underneath: we've had hints of this before when she told the college kid, "I hate my boss", and she walks away from Don when he's sulking at the office party in the last episode ("This is good champagne." "I don't think so."). I think she slept with Duck at least partially because of the need to dissuade both Duck and herself that she isn't "really Don's girl", as Duck puts it.

  • Duck's playing a deep game here; while he couldn't possibly know that Don shouted at Peggy, he does know that the easiest way to get to her is through Don. This is the guy that nearly pulled of a flawless coup at Sterling Cooper, and he's a shark. Plus, "I can smell the alcohol on your breath" was the most tragic, yet brilliant line of the season.

  • Speaking of account men, Roger's really losing his touch: his handling of Don's contract was utterly gauche. "Grunt once for yes." Really? That's the best he can do? Added to this, he knows that he and Don don't enjoy the easy camaraderie of yore and he knows from Betty's cold behaviour when bumping into him at the office that shewould like nothing better than to avoid him. Going to her is easily the quickest way to piss off Don. And Roger probably knows that, and he does it anyway.

  • Cooper!! Oh Bertram, you magnificent bastard! (That's one of the reasons I love this show: every week, there's guaranteed to be at least one Magnificent Bastard. It's great!) Forget Duck, Bertram is the king of the deep game: he hung onto the info for two years. He knows all the angles, and he's pulling all the strings. "I hear he's quite an eccentric" is an even more fascinating line to me now, because Cooper orchestrated the entire moment: he knew Don was about to balk, to protest even further about the contract, so he put his feet up and defused the situation by saying it. He set up Roger and Lane Pryce for those furtive grins that get Don to smile. And the kicker is, none of them realize it, not even Don, until it's too late.
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