Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mad Men | “The Good News” Was Damn Good

Mad Men: Season FourSeason 4 of Mad Men has been some what of a lumbering giant. The first two episodes of the season established the shows new dynamic but lacked much of the qualities that have made this show so beloved by so many; until “The Good News”. This episode featured three of the show’s main characters Lane, Joan and of course Don Draper.  The episode begins with Don on a layover in L.A. on his way to Acapulco for vacation, while there he visits Mrs. Anna Draper the wife of the long dead Don Draper whose name and identity was taken over by Dick Whitman (Don’s original name). Anna has known for quite some time that Dick/Don has taken her dead husband’s name and become a success in New York and is the only person in the world that truly knows Don. While visiting her Don finds out from Anna’s niece that Anna has advanced cancer and will not live long, and to top it off she hasn’t been told. Don’s reaction to the reality that his long time confidant will soon be gone is classic Mad Men, instead of Don doing the expected thing that you might see in a Network TV show, where he “does the right thing” and tells Anna that she is going to die soon, he tells her nothing and says his final goodbyes and heads back to New York to do some Draper style coping.
Meanwhile Joan and Lane are having a bit of a conflict in the office over holiday time which leads to a misunderstanding that puts a final nail in the coffin of Lane’s marriage. You see after a bit of a verbal scuffle over New Year’s holidays Lane has some flowers sent to Joan expressing his regret over their head butting, but due to Lane’s incompetent secretary the flowers are mistakenly sent to his wife with the note to Joan attached to it. There is nothing like finding a note to another woman in a bunch of roses to tip a rocking marriage over a cliff.
This isn’t the only thing on the voluptuous Joan’s mind, her husband has recently joined the military and will most likely be going to Vietnam as well she has been checking in with her doctor about her fertility and whether or not the “procedures” she undertook in the past will affect her ability to conceive a child.  The subtlety of Joan’s struggles in this episode are a testament to Mad Men’s ability for subtle expression which peaks after Joan cuts her hand while preparing food  begins to cry while her husband charmingly tends to her wound; revealing the more fragile side of her character usually not seen on the show.
Things are bleak up until the second half of this episode. Once Don makes it back to New York he and the martially challenged Lane go on a gentlemen’s night out. Fueled by smooth drinking spirits and a sense of loss both men begin a rather lighthearted evening with a getting to know you kind of feel. These two characters haven’t had much of a rapport in the show and there is a real sense of solidarity between the two while Don makes lewd comments in a late night cinema showing of Godzilla about handjobs and then later Don hooking Lane up with a prostitute to console his newly single heart.  It is interesting as always how Mad Men illustrates how Don and company cope with personal issues, drinking, laughing and of most important whoring. A bleak if not entertaining look at a bygone era.     

No comments: