April 15th, 2010
|07:28 am - Mad Men Blogging: the Great Escape (1963)|
To my surprise the finale of the third season of Mad Men - 'Shut the Door Have a Seat' - was a comedy. Excellent. It was like the sequence in films like The Dirty Dozen or Ocean's Eleven where a motley crew is assembled. The ad agency business has betrayed our heroes, so the wacky guys at Sterling Cooper stage a weekend escape bid, assemble all our old friends such as Joan, and start a new agency - in a hotel room for now. The episode drifted away from realism into comedy in the second half, with the wise-cracks coming thick and fast, and the familiar faces piling onto the screen, all being themselves in various adorable ways.
Although it was a surprise, it all made sense, and fulfilled the movement of the series towards the great dividing moment between the old world and the new. This final episode is the first in the new world. Pete and Peggy are sixties people, and Don has learned enough from his marriage breakup to stop trying to bully them, and start trying to adapt to them. As always, he learns it too late for his family but just in time for his work.
The early sixties aesthetic, the authority and the restrictions, which seemed to be established for all time were actually just the transition period between the old and new - as Larkin put it 'In 1963... between the end of the Chatterley Ban and the Beatles' first LP'. The Beatles turn up in New York soon. Don will be the older generation in the new world, but he should be smart enough to cut it.
The final credits played out to Roy Orbison singing "Shahdaroba", "The future is much better than the past." Roy Orbison was one of the few crooners of the pre-Beatles period who thrived in the new world. In fact I just thought - he actually ended up forming a group with
Paul McCartney George Harrison (thanks gummitch) many years down the line. There are so many layers of meaning just to a single song.
I think Mad Men is such an important show because it isn't just clever, it suggests hope and ways to escape. I often feel it speaks directly to me, giving me new ways of looking at my own circumstances - for instance that my own ten year working environment will probably close down in the next few months - in a positive way.
Oh, yeah. Those loveable mop-tops all look the same to me :-)
ETA and with Jeff Lynne who in 1963 lived a few doors up from me in Shard End Crescent
Edited at 2010-04-15 07:13 am (UTC)
I think everyone who watches it agrees it's well made, and it's also slow. Some people think one outweighs the other. For me the emotional impact is intense. I think like The Wire you have to take a lot in, on trust, and then after a few episodes your brain has assembled enough of a picture that it then starts to be more rewarding than your average show.
Interesting. I didn't think it became a comedy, but it was definitely an awful lot lighter. It felt like a huge weight lifting, as they moved from under the pressure and darkness of the things constraining them into the possibility of freedom. It was one of the most hopeful things so far, and if it had been the end of the show, I'd have been happy that we had an arc that led there (in that way it felt a lot like the end of Skins season 2).
As it is I'm intrigued to see where we end up next - because the sixties bring freedom, but also (in some ways) increased oppression, as there's a backlash against the changes. I'm also curious to see which cast members return - I'm sure Betty will pop up, but will she be as central as she has been?
Apparently it'll be on in the US in July.
Perhaps not a comedy like Dad's Army, but it did make me laugh. A dramatic comedy where insoluble things are all suddenly solved. And all the loveable people like whatsisname the TV guy, the luckiest fool in New York. Lane getting fired 'Very Good! Happy Christmas!' - OK it's not exactly Frankie Howerd but it made me laugh. I felt the same lifting of weight as you, or breaking up of a blockage. Don calling his wife a whore was the nastiest he has been, it was horrible, and then telling her she should 'see a doctor' - how ridiculous that was, made you realise how far he and Betty have come since season 1. So that bit was horrible, but overall the episode made me feel very good.
Yeah, the relationship between Don and Betty has changed dramatically since season 1 - largely due to Betty's growth - because Don doesn't seem to change unless he's forced into it. Not that Betty is a paragon of light either, but she does seem to have a better grasp on things like self control.
I'm so glad Betty seems to have made it to the exit - I was afraid she'd cave in and stay with him again.
The other really despicable thing Don did this season was sack Sal, and I did wonder whether they'd try to get him on board. On the one hand, there is no way Sal should agree to have anything to do with Don or Roger again, even if they go down on their knees and crawl for his forgiveness. On the other, he looked pretty desperate last time we saw him, and I've been worrying about it ever since.
I actually felt slightly sorry for Paul at the moment he realised what had happened, and that they hadn't taken him.
But all in all, a happy ending. Betty out of a bad marriage, and Don seeing that his colleagues are his true family.