"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mad Men: Flight 1

On Mad Men a tragedy struck the office and set off a chain of events that further divided Sterling Cooper into two competing sides: the good (Don) and the bad (Duck). Or at least that's how I like to think of it, even though nothing is as simple as good vs. evil in the world of these ad men. For now, though, the show seemed to kick off what I bet becomes a struggle for the soul of Pete Campbell (of all people), and I'm probably in for some interesting office politics over the next several weeks.

The thing that continues to nag at me, though, is: What's wrong with Don? He's seriously lost his mojo and is constantly looking bewildered and sad. The previous show hammered on the fact that he's growing old and might be losing touch with those hip kids so important to advertising. This episode was all about watching him lose power and influence at the office and at home, and it clearly doesn't suit him. It's quite the departure from the cocky and ambitious philandering dreamboat I met in season one.

This episode also belonged to Paul, Joan, and Peggy, as I got some deeper revelations about what their lives are like outside of the office and what makes these people tick.

Pete Campbell: The office is shocked when an American Airlines jet crashes. Pete, being the class act that he is, jokes that there were likely golfers on the flight, so the bay probably turned plaid. He then learns that his father was one of those passengers and proceeds to be awkward the rest of the episode. At first he turns to Don for comfort (they have a strange father/son-ish relationship sometimes) but the next day Don is rude to him so he goes running to Duck. Together they use Pete's tragedy to try to get American Airlines as a client.

Don Draper: Don doesn't know Pete helps Duck, but he knows Duck isn't wasting time to woo the troubled airline, and he's rather repulsed. He's then instructed to dump their other airline client so, all in all, it's a bad time for Don. That night over cards with their friends, Betty tells a story about their son lying about a drawing he did. When Don says it's no big deal, Betty shoots back, "What about all that praise he accepted for something he didn't do?" Don's look of bewilderment indicated to me he was thinking something along the lines of, "Oh great, now my wife is thinking? What a crappy day!"

Peggy Olson: So, it turns out Peggy comes from a super Catholic background, and I finally get to see where her love child with Pete has been stashed: with her sister and mother. I know I'm supposed to feel sympathy for Peggy, being that women pregnant out of wedlock had few options at that time — not to mention she's right in the middle of a bona fide career in a boys' club industry — but her total inability to deal with her baby irks me. And then, when Pete gives her a tiny look that indicates he might feel something for her, it clearly still melts her heart. She's come a long way in terms of having a spine, but I still have trouble with her sometimes.

A few more thoughts:

Joan's reaction to Paul's girlfriend was deplorable. Makes her somewhat of a villain now. I loved how Paul's response to her evilness was publicly posting her real age (In her 30s! Gasp!) in the office.

How funny was that passive-aggressive battle between the Olson wives to comfort their mother-in-law at Pete's family home? I loved when Pete's sister-in-law said, "I like to offer a nice bouquet of my thoughts." I'm going to use that line the next time I deal with my cable company.

Poor Paul. His outfit, plus the way he held his drink at the party, plus his beard, plus his pipe was kind of ridiculous. But generally speaking, I like him as a character, even though he always sounds like he's delivering a Shakespeare monologue.

What did Peggy's sister mean when she told Peggy that neither the State of New York nor the doctors thought she was capable of making her own decisions? Did someone take Peggy's baby away from her? Were they allowed to do that back then? I've assumed she gave her baby to her family because she couldn't deal.

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