Monday, 26 July 2010

Mad Men - 'Public Relations' - Put It On The Expense Account So We Can Charge It As Whores

At times I have an adversarial relationship with Mad Men. No-one in their right mind can call it anything but a great show, but for me it has the tendency to sit on its laurels a little bit, and the third season in particular wasn't enough of a step forward for me and I don't think for many other viewers either. I think it was this that started the rumblings of the great usurper Breaking Bad being called the better show, whereas in the past to pose the question in regards to anything being better then Mad Men would be in itself ridiculous. Thankfully though, this stellar premiere suggests a sense of the re-vitalized, a new status quo suggesting a new energy.

- Somewhat tellingly, the first line of season 4 is ' Who is Don Draper?'An encouraging tack for the show to take, because the mystery surrounding Draper, so fascinating in the early years had began to feel like a bit of a crutch. And Don, despite consistently great work from Jon Hamm, becomes a bit of a cipher for all the sociological points the show is making, putting its philosophies over its characters and that has always hacked me off a bit. So I was very, very happy to see the show get into this a little bit, and many ways acknowledging that, with Don essentially being the public face of the new agency, the veil has to come down a bit.

- This was brilliantly portrayed in the opening and closing scenes of the episode, the first seeing the 'my ideas speak so I don't have to' Don in full effect, conducting an interview with a reporter, shall we say reluctantly. Dodging questions and presenting himself as enigma, or a cipher depending on your point of view. To use a particularly hilarious metaphor, pulling a Kristen Stewart, enjoying and reveling in the work his success allows him, but affronted by the exposure that comes with. But the one-legged journalist called him on this, even using the word cipher in his article. Thus putting an end the good grace earned by Don's Glo-Coat commercial.

- That commercial was awesome by the way.

- The bookend saw Don in the same situation, only this time he has to talk himself up, doing justice to the mythic mutiny in the finale of season three, and like any great storyteller, building up his own myth in the process. A great piece of acting by Jon Hamm and just a great fucking scene. And I'm even more in love with the implications it has for the rest of the season.

- What is worrying, is where Betty Draper seems to be heading. Betty was never the warmest person, always kind of bullied her kids, but married to colossal dealhole Don always had her maintaining our sympathy. Because with the possible exception of Henry VIII, there's no one less suited to marriage then Don. However, with that taken away the woman is coming across pretty loathsome, humiliating her child at thanksgiving and not allowing her daughter to call Don on thanksgiving. Right now she's a cruel entity, and while that can last for a while, too much of this is going to take the character to a place that perhaps it wouldn't be wise to go. Still Jones is still putting in some good actressing.

- I loved how Henry's mother called Betty a silly woman. I get the feeling that the ex-Ms Draper might be the Don to Henry's Betty.

- I love Elisabeth Moss on this show these days. She and Vincent Kartheiser (who will always be Conor from Angel to me damn it.) made her caper like subplot almost the most enjoyable thing about the episode. I do it love it when the show allows me to enjoy it as much I appreciate it, it doesn't happen too often but it worked here.

- " It was going great...Until it wasn't."

- Another hall of famer for great client confrontations, and it tied well into the themes of the episode. A swimwear company wants to somehow sell bikini's without selling sex, yet complain that their competition is making more money then them. Like Don wanting to sell everything else yet complaining when asked to sell himself. You can't have your cake and eat it I guess. Anyways whilst Don comes to grips with this, the company doesn't and Don awesomely kicks them out on their ass.

- Not nearly enough Joan Holloway in this episode. Can you say glorified extra?

- I liked the scene with Don's date with Bethany, but didn't love it. I liked there being a woman not falling for Don's aging tricks, but I didn't think it was the best performance or the most fascinating character. Still loved the opera story.

- Overall, I think this was a very solid reboot episode. Mad Men did need to re-vitalize its universe, and while the 'moving house' trick seems a little thin on paper, it worked a treat. New dynamics present new opportunities and this episode fills me with confidence that Mad Men is going to be good to itself.

Rating: 8/10

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