March 26th, 2010

breaking bad

Mad Men Blogging: two for one

I have watched Mad men season 3 episodes 9 and 10 (Wee Small Hours and The Color Blue) since I last blogged about Mad men. In episode 9, Don was so bloody unpleasant that I was wondering whether to demote him from being my lj icon. That'll learn 'im. In episode 10 things turned around a little.

Episode 9 wasn't very nice at all. It was all about the bullying of the weak. Don was foul to everyone, particularly Sal who was sacked for rebuffing the advances of a male client. 'What if I was a girl?' he says to Don with tears in his eyes. 'That depends what kind of girl I knew you were.' Don himself is grovelling/whoring to Conrad Hilton to keep his job, and starting a new affair which at least in this episode seems cynical and cold. Martin Luther King gives his 'I have a dream' speech, but later Betty tells the black maid that the church bombing in Birmingham has made her think 'the time isn't right for civil rights yet'. If Mad Men dramatises the dialectic in capitalism between ruthlessness and creativity/empathy, this episode was all about the canny indifference of the strong, and the emptiness of acquisition.

Episode 10 was much more hopeful, and generally a better and more complex episode. Don's affair begins to touch him emotionally, and he reaches out to his girl friend's epileptic brother. The brother says 'I can't pull myself up by my bootstraps like you can'. Don remembers his own brother who died. Peggy and Paul Kinsey stop competing and experience some kind of breakthrough to creative space, and somehow everything becomes resolved at a new level, and this is the magic I want to see in Mad Men. Don's bad decisions of previous weeks - his cynical affair, his harshness to his staff - seem to bear fruit in forcing empathic connection. But as one brit says to another 'Is it Churchill rousing or Hitler rousing?' Next week there will be hell to pay.