We were actually a little bored by this week’s Mad Men. The infrequent sparks of feistiness were not enough to keep us entertained and, even though they more than compensated for that early ennui in terms of overall impression, the final few scenes were not enough to erase that feeling of exasperated frustration that had been building within us.
This is an exasperated frustration, we sense, that has been building in the characters, too. The episode title, “For Immediate Release”, pretty much sums it up. Each of the characters is looking for release in one form or another – Megan from her sexless marriage, Peggy from her steady (if imperfect) life with Abe, Ted from the stresses of his job (will his ‘release’ with Peggy be repeated, as she hopes?), Pete in a very base sense, Don from the shackles of Jaguar… each needed, sought and found their release.
The latter two ‘releases’ were those with the most far-reaching consequences. The episode, on a surface level, focused on the drive to take SCDP public, with an offering of shares being planned and plotted in back rooms. They were all set to make millions. And then Pete got caught in a cathouse by his (incredible hypocrite of a) father-in-law. Bang. Vicks is gone. That’s (apparently) a $9 million contract. This loss came mere hours after Don finally had his fill of Herb, the Jaguar sleaze. This put SCDP in a precarious position – one from which they could only be rescued by the winning of Chevy (the securing of the consultation being Roger’s personal big win and release, celebrated by a self-congratulatory and crowing “I have this check for $10,000 because I closed, Pete. I close things.”).
And yet out of all of this, out of all this releasing, it was Joan who most grabbed our attention. We make no secret of our love for Joan Harris and, this week, that love surely grew. We got so caught up in the ‘hurrahs’ and ‘huzzahs’ after Don finally told Herb where to stick it that we never even thought what this would do to Joan. As a result, her reaction caught us by surprise. Yet it was so superbly acted that we felt no surprise at all. Instead, we were suddenly cheering for her and throwing some boos and hisses Don’s way.
The big news this week is, of course, the merger with CGC, cooked up by Don and Ted over late night, insomnia-fuelled drinks at a bar (with Don only confirming Joan’s assessment of him [Quoteworthy]). Raging against the unfairness of Big Marketing, they engineer a triumph for the little guy (becoming the big guy in the process). They win Chevy – with quality and size on their side, how could they have lost – and return to New York triumphant, but with a lot of work left to do.
This last minute game-changer throws up a lot of questions as we go forward. First among these is centered on Peggy. She left SCDP, in part, to get out from underneath Don’s shadow. Now that CGC is merging with her former boss’s agency, where does that leave her? She’s coming on board as Copy Chief, but will she still be under Don or adjacent to him? Secondly, we have to wonder what this will do to the public offering and, following on from that, what it will do to Don and Joan’s already fragile friendship. She was about to be worth a whole lot of money. If the merger puts the kibosh on public offerings, will she ever forgive him? And, finally, will any of our ‘beloved’ characters be making the move to Detroit to be the ground team for the Chevy account? Will they set up a whole new shop, with new employees, or will we be saying goodbye to some familiar faces? Perhaps the show is about to go bi-locational? But one thing’s for sure – the next episode should be interesting. – K
“Don’t you feel 300 pounds lighter?”
“I don’t. Honestly, Don, if I could deal with him you could deal with him. And what now? I went through all of that for nothing?”
“Joan, don’t worry. I will win this.”
“Just once I would like to hear the word ‘we’, because we’re all rooting for you from the sidelines. Hoping that you will decide whatever you think is right for our lives.”
– Don, Joan
PS Who is Bob? He’s in the show every week, but seems to have no purpose other than lurking, schmoozing, and ass-kissing. We feel that there’s more to him that is yet to be uncovered. A corporate spy, perhaps. Or someone who doesn’t actually work there at all. Are we reading too much into things? Have we got our paranoia hat on? Years of Chekhov’s Guns (and Chekhov’s Gunmen) may have made us over-sensitive to new things…
PPS Pete falling down the stairs with angry excitement was our personal favorite moment of the episode. Just watch: