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Apr 21 2015

Mad Men @ the Movies: "Forecast"

Lynn Lee,here again to discuss this week's Mad Men

Glen is off to Vietnam but wants a proper goodbye from Betty

Maybe Don Draper should have been a movie director.  His best ads have a film-like narrative and emotional pull,and going to the movies (something we,perhaps tellingly,haven't seen him do in a while) seems to recharge his creative batteries.  Even now,as he appears increasingly disaffected with the business of selling either his work or his home,he yearns for the kind of high concept that sounds better suited to the big screen,whether it involves the World's Fair or a fantasy about the inventor of the Frisbee making a million and moving to France.  After all,he's managed to rewrite his own life story – the public version,at least – like the brashest of screenwriters: from poverty to the penthouse.

[Jane Fonda,Vietnam and moreafter the jump]

It's got to get better.  It's supposed to get better."

"Forecast"finds Don struggling to map out the rest of that story.  (Let's hope this isn't a meta-commentary on the "Mad Men"writers.)  Tasked with writing Sterling Cooper's prospectus for Roger,he keeps circling back to the question,what next?where is it all going?or in the words of an earlier episode,is this all there is?  "Let's assume that it's good,"he says,ostensibly about the firm,but almost certainly about his own life.  "It's got to get better.  It's supposed to get better."  But why?  And how?

His colleagues have their own dreams – bigger accounts,fame,love – that Don finds lacking.  Peggy,when pressed,comes closest to meeting his vision ("To create something of lasting value"),only to be justifiably frustrated by what she sees as his devaluation of her work.  While Don didn't mean to slight her,he's clearly far too preoccupied with his own quest for fulfillment to understand that others are just looking for theirs.

Joan has a new love interest in Bruce Greenwood

He's not the only one guilty of this error.  The episode is rife with characters who seem to be acting out the movie in their head,only to discover that the other people in it are reading from a different script.  Joan's new admirer,envisioning his retirement as a permanent vacation,full of adventure and romance and free of obligation,is upset when his new lover proves to be anything but.  Glen casts himself and Betty in a love-and-war melodrama that's undercut by Sally's angry disgust,as well as Betty's own complicated feelings about their relationship.

Mathis tries to play the part of Don Draper and predictably ends up further alienating an insulted client.  Even Sally,squicked out by the sexual fascination her parents exercise on her friends,fancies herself the rebel without a cause who becomes someone entirely different from her hypocritical parents,only to be told she'll always carry their legacy with her.  (At least Don leaves her the hope that she can make different choices from them,which is more agency than he allows others.)

Melanie: I'm using everything I have.  But this requires too much imagination."

Don Draper: That's the best opportunity in the world."

In the end,though,it comes back to Don.  Just when the show seems ready to write him off,his vision comes through when we,and sometimes he,least expects it.  Melanie,his realtor,has been needling him about the emptiness of his apartment,which she sees as redolent of sadness and failure.  He argues that the emptiness is a positive because it leaves room for people to "imagine their own things"in it.  Though unconvinced,she apparently finds subconscious inspiration in his words,as she manages to sell the place at its full asking price.  "Now we just have to find a place for you!"she says pertly to Don.  If only she knew how hard Don's been trying to do just that,this entire series.

Movie references: Sadly few for an episode that takes a major character to Sterling Cooper's L.A.office and puts her up at the swanky Beverly Wilshire!  Joan doesn't run into Warren Beatty (though she does hook up with Bruce Greenwood),and whatever the receptionist believes,it's pretty unlikely that Lou Avery will ever sell his Gomer Pyle-like monkey cartoon to Hanna Barbera.

The Gomer Pyle reference is interesting,though,in juxtaposition with the Glen-goes-to-Vietnam storyline.  His fight with Sally over enlisting serves as a reminder that the simple-minded good soldier act is being rendered obsolete by the real war (Gomer Pyle's TV show had just gone off the air),even if "Full Metal Jacket"(1987) is still a decade away.  Betty the reactionary refers dismissively to Sally as Jane Fonda,who was well known at the time not just for her movie stardom but for her antiwar activism as 'Hanoi Jane'.  The Glen-Betty-Sally storyline also carries faint echoes ofThe Graduate(1967),though Betty ultimately declines the opportunity to play Mrs.Robinson.

Other random thoughts:

  • I don't hate Glen and Betty as much as most people,but I wasn't exactly longing for closure of that particular subplot.  Still,the shot of Betty pitching Bobby's toy gun into the trash was a nice callback to her season 1 foray into bird-shooting.
  • Those '70s fashions are not growing on me.  Who ever thought leisure suits were a good idea?
  • Lots of profanity in this episode – a sign of the times?
  • Would a realtor really be that rude to her own client?
  • We learn that Joan was married (and divorced) before Dr.Douche,something the show's only referred to elliptically.

Line of the week(as only Pete could deliver it): "We have a peanut butter cookie problem."

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Reader Comments (15)

poor old creepy glenn couldn't even get another lock of hair to take with him - nothing could dint the 'do betty is sporting now

'Lots of profanity in this episode – a sign of the times?"

sally's outburst and a second hand reference to what mathis said - no need to break out the smelling salts just yet;folks were a lot more foul mouthed in old timeydeadwood

April 21,2015 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I don't know if anyone else found the scene between Glenn and Betty cringeworthy or funny?I fountd it to be both,I was laughing nervously through out the scene,I felt both actors were off in this scene but maybe it was intentonal the way it was so awkward...

April 21,2015 | Unregistered Commenterjjablo

I love this show.It's just too good.The old characters,the new ones...and the closing songs!Yves Montand,Roberta Flack...

April 21,2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I always loved the Glen / Betty story lines because they had a way of making the audience so uncomfortable (as they do in this episode).Poor doomed Glen.

April 21,2015 | Unregistered CommenterRami

I think that Kiernan Shipka is gonna win an Oscar someday

April 21,2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I love Betty.period.One of the great TV characters of all time no matter how hated she is.There hasn't ever been a character like her on TV and her psychology is stunningly mapped out.

Cal -it's really too bad they split up this season for Shipka because she had such a great episode in the first half and now this one.But you can't really get Emmy's attention on crumbs.You need the whole cookie.The split can't possibly help the actors finally win their gold except maybe Jon Hamm since he's front and center.

April 21,2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

But I mean an Oscar.This girl is pure greatness.It's abrasive,ironic,smart,clever acting.Nothing less than Mad Men can keep her doing TV.She is a movie actor.

April 21,2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I was thinking it'd be highly amusing if Shipka was Emmy nominated for this episode and then won somehow usurping the entire cast.But,then,that'd make a lot of sense since she's clearly the character the show has actually been guiding us to follow with the most consistency.Consider Peggy,who has been narratively absent from this season and,was it season 5?I remember there being another season where she was barely around.And Don...well,obviously he's the protagonist,but Sally is the audience cypher.She sees Don's flaws plainly and clearly and yet,as Don highlighted on this episode,she's just like her parents and its up to her to be more than that.I love that.I love to think that Weiner and co are slyly making a statement about anti-heroes and the mundanity of season 7.5 (at least so far) from Don's perspective is telling us that he wasn't the interesting one all along.

But,then,maybe I'm just projecting because I love Sally and Shipka in the role so much.

Meanwhile,do you think the actor that plays Glen (I believe he's Matthew Weiner's son?) and Nevil Longbottom from Harry Potter should start a group of child actors who started out awkward and ugly and then re-appeared to make a joke of people who laughed at them?

April 21,2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Will Shipka be in less than 50% of this half-season?(meaning 3 or less episodes).If so,it'd be awesome to see her get a nom for guest star,along with Elizabeth Reaser

April 21,2015 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

Oh,and I second Nat's love for Betty,too.She's been a fascinating character to watch navigate through this world and these eras.January Jones' performance in season two was,for me,all-time great.I will crow about it until the cows come home.The show hasn't really given her anything quite as meaty to do since - at least not over an entire season - but I do wish the writers had tried just an eensie bit harder to confront certain audiences with their obvious biases towards the treatment of Betty and their treatment of Don.

April 21,2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Lynn here - just wanted to clarify that I love the character of Betty,too!(At least until the writers decided to make her extra unlikable,round about season 3 or 4ish,I think?But she's rebounded since then.) And yeah,I've always been annoyed at how much more tolerant fans are of Don's faults as a spouse and parent than they are of hers.

As for Glen,I found her relationship with him interesting,though I didn't think it really needed this capper.Plus the actor's a little stiff,though I think people hate him disproportionately because he's Matthew Weiner's son and everyone smells nepotism.

April 21,2015 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

I loved this episode.Any scenes between Sally and her parents are the absolute best.

April 21,2015 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Bia -- agreed.and if this is Sally's sendoff from the show,boarding a bus with her father basically daring her to become her own person,it's a good one.With only 4 episodes left it feels so urgent like any scene might be any character's last one.

April 21,2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Part of me doesn't really care how significant Reaser's character is to the ending.I've admittedly always been bored by her acting,am flabbergasted whenever she's called in to do these juicy arcs on great TV shows,and already want to kill her character.Also the writers for sticking her in and taking away time from Sally,Ken,Pete,Betty,etc.

April 21,2015 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

I second,third,fourth,fifth,etc.the love for Betty!January Jones deserved an Emmy for season two -- her pas de deux with Jon Hamm when she discovers Don's true identity is an acting marvel -- and I love that Matthew Weiner had the foresight not to cast her as Peggy and then to create the character of Betty for her.Sexist double-standards (and maybe lazy writers) are to blame for audience enmity,in my opinion.

April 22,2015 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

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