Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men” is a tough show to review on a weekly basis because many of the episodes are likely to gain more significance as the series progresses. For instance, the continual flashbacks to Don Draper’s early childhood, back when he was known as “Dick,” play a large role in advancing the mysterious backstory from episode to episode.
In the most recent installment, following the two-hour premiere of last week’s “The Doorway,” audiences are given a lot more story than symbolism. This, of course, includes the common infidelity theme that the show likes to toy around with.
However, the affairs are necessary in some way, specifically in regards to Don Draper, who goes from relationship to relationship almost as frequently as a sex addict in a whore house. That might have something to do with him spending his preteen years lurking around a brothel, which encompass the entirety of the flashbacks this week.
Jon Hamm is phenomenal as Don Draper and always will be, so if there are any flaws with his character, I would initially blame the writers. There are no flaws this time around as Don “accidentally” forgets his cigarettes just to go back upstairs to sleep with the wife of his friend, Arnold (Brian Markinson), who had been standing next to him in the elevator. Nonchalant moments such as these made the episode great throughout.
Since the ending of last season, I was curious if Don had been continuing his relationship with the very likeable Sylvia (Linda Cardellini), who fears falling in love with the suave Mr. Draper. Unfortunately for her, I cannot help but believe that the feeling is lurking in the distance, especially after some fantastic dialogue between the two at a tense dinner engagement that leads to a quick trip to the bedroom.
Pete Campbell, partner at SCDP, has his own marital secrets as well––except his extramarital affair manages to blow up in his face before the episode is over. Nonetheless, it would be uncharacteristic of the grimy Campbell if he did not hit on the neighbor’s wife, Brenda (Collette Wolfe), while remaining unaware of the next-door husband’s own come-ons to his spouse.
Pete may be sly in some instances, but he is no Don Draper. Yet, the talented Vincent Kartheiser, who interestingly enough lives ascetically in real-life, does great work as the insufferable schmoozer who is clearly dissatisfied with almost every aspect of his life. But, really, who in “Mad Men” isn’t?
I only hope that this doesn’t mean the end of wife Trudy, played by the charismatic Alison Brie. I don’t suspect it will since “Mad Men” thoroughly enjoys keeping the drawn-out drama around. Hence, why we have Don’s ex-wife Betty still in the picture.
The only character who seems to have no relationship issues, aside from anything work based, is the hardheaded Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss). Moss was perfectly cast for this role and as the years have passed has managed to work her way into a respectable position in the “Mad Men” troupe.
Olson is fun to watch on screen as she goes from the assertive creative director to the flirtatious dame that stays late most nights talking on the phone with former co-worker Stan, whose minor moments are the comic relief needed to balance out the rest of the show’s framework. There may be something developing here, but if a platonic friendship remains, there will be no need to complain. Their friendship may be at risk, though, after Stan reveals some pertinent information about an important client. The client may very well be a profitable opportunity for other companies since Don has decided to turn down “the Coca-Cola of condiments,” as the underappreciated Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) likes to put it. Hopefully, Olson will pursue the opportunity, or at least Stan, so viewers are not constantly stuck in her office, where 100 percent of her screen time has taken place thus far.
Unlike Olson, Don Draper hardly has the time to worry about conflicts between people in the Heinz Corporation. Besides from the infidelity that arises so delicately in every instance of the series, Don has to worry about his wife, Megan (Jessica Paré), and her emotional state after an unexpected miscarriage and a possible crumbling relationship with a Jaguar client––two circumstances that solidify Hamm’s aggressive and distant character.
Paré could be good here, but is always outshined by Hamm and even Cardellini. I guess I should give her some credit since she has no affairs to sweep under the rug. At the same time, Don’s relationship with Megan is slowly becoming increasingly distant for unknown reasons.
As for Herb, the representative of the car company Jaguar, it is assumed that audiences are supposed to despise the man. After a forced sexual encounter between him and the lovely Joan Harris, who can blame us? I only wish that the magnetic Christina Hendricks had more time on screen, especially after a well-written conversation between her character and Don last season that fortified their compelling friendship. We almost saw that here again, but perhaps Weiner is working up to it.
The last few minutes of the episode are reason enough to give it the highest rating. Don Draper’s talents in advertising are more than applause-worthy as he clandestinely sabotages Herb’s new idea at a meeting with all three of the Jaguar men. Plus, it is practically impossible to hate any scene with Sterling, Campbell, Draper and Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) all in a room together.
Rating: 5 stars