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Apr 28 2015

Mad Men 7.11 "Time & Life"

go speed racer,goLynn Lee,reporting for Mad Men at the Movies.

This should be a short report,considering there were no movie references this week – unless you count Lou Avery's surprise bonanza with storied anime studio Tatsunoko Productions.But that sounds like a TV deal,especially with Lou's reference to the studio's best known serial,"Speed Racer."(Which the Wachowskis did try to make into a movie almost four decades later,starring Emile Hirsch.It flopped spectacularly.) Still,this was the kind of character-rich,office-centered "Mad Men"episode (directed by cast alum Jared Harris,aka the late lamented Lane Pryce) that begs for discussion.

In a sense,there wasn't time for the movies because there was so much going on,as Sterling Cooper tries yet again to reinvent itself and preserve its independence from the big bads.We've seen this particular movie before,and as the players keep reassuring each other and others,it can happen again...

We've done this before.You know we can."

Except,this time,it can't – an outcome I suspected as soon as Don latched on to the idea of Sterling Cooper West.California,in this show,has always been more dream than reality (for Don in particular,as Ted observes),a promise of liberation that's never quite delivered.So it's no real surprise that their bid is cut off before they can even begin.The goal,for McCann,has always been assimilation,and resistance is futile.As Don acknowledges,this has been in the cards ever since they sold out to McCann.Despite the plum accounts their evil angel dangles in front of them to placate them (well,except for poor Joan),they know everything they've worked for is being erased.Their gathering at the bar feels,more than anything else,like a wake.

And yet,what a lovely wake!The death of Sterling Cooper somehow ends up being much less depressing than one would expect,mainly because it triggers so many exquisite,emotionally layered interactions between the characters that reach deeply into their histories.For an episode that prominently featured all of the major Sterling Cooper-based characters acting as a team,it was overflowing with one-on-one scenes,each more affecting than the last.Roger and Joan.Pete and Peggy.Don and Ted.Pete and Trudy.Pete and Joan.

surely,Moss's Emmy clip this yearAnd of course Peggy and Stan,which hurt my heart,and fittingly,Roger and Don,getting soused together – like old times.

I don't know,but it's not because I don't care.I don't know because you're not supposed to know.Or you can't go on with your life."

I especially loved how each of these interactions reaffirmed the fundamental underpinnings of the characters' relationships.Some of them have a romantic history that is now firmly in the past,yet a thread (of affection,loyalty,or perhaps merely the ghost of these feelings) still connects them.Just as Pete's child with Trudy will always tie them together,the child he never knew will always tie him to Peggy,and will always haunt the edges of Peggy's consciousness,despite her best efforts to put it behind her.And,circling back to the very beginning,Roger and Don,comparing their different outlooks: Roger is envious that Don is "always reaching,"while Don envies Roger for never having to reach (or perhaps more accurately,never feeling like he has to).

In a touching,if sodden,moment,Don kisses Roger on the cheek and tells him "You are okay."But is he?Is either of them?Unlike Ted and probably Pete (who resigns himself to his fate,commenting that "for the first time I feel like whatever happens is supposed to happen"),neither Don nor Roger seem ready to fold themselves into McCann,Coca-Cola or no Coca-Cola.Perhaps this is why,when they try to rally the unsettled troops and assure them that everything's going to be fine,no one's listening."This is the beginning of something,not the end,"Don insists,vainly trying to be heard above the worried buzz.We all know Don likes the beginnings of things.But what if this is,in fact,the end?

This is the beginning of something,not the end.

Random observations:

-How heartbreaking was Stan's expression as he started to figure out what he'd never know about Peggy?I know there are Peggy-Stan shippers out there,but I like them as friends.He's the one person she can trust with no fear that it will come back to bite her.

-Peggy may not hate kids,but it continues to amuse me how little natural affinity she has with them.Am I a bad person for laughing when she unplugged the organ instead of telling the little girl to stop playing?

-This week showed Pete at his best,from his random Scottish clan-feud with the school headmaster and his defense of his family's honor (but,since this is Pete,he can only do it with a sucker punch),to his heads up to Peggy,to his securing a necessary account,to his really rather sweet cab conversation with Joan,when she quite rightly points out that she's never going to be taken seriously at McCann,and he equally rightly responds: "They don't know who they're dealing with."Pete can be a putz and worse,but I have a confession to make: he just may be my favorite character on "Mad Men."

-Ken's revenge is complete.Wonder if we'll see him again?

-Line of the week: Oh,so many,including all of Roger's toasts,but I'm going to go with "The king ordered it!"No one can deliver a truly ridiculous line quite like Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell.

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Reader Comments (13)

I loved how they dealt with Peggy's tricky experience with motherhood.Moss has really good chemistry with Jay R.Ferguson,just as good as with Jon Hamm (and they have tonnes!).

Sadly,in terms of Emmys,the scene lacked of tears and a lot of sobbing.Moss won't get the Emmy but her character remains untarnished.Chapeau Mr.Weiner!

April 28,2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I don't watch Mad Men but my brother does,and when he told me that the name of the episode was "Time & Life,"I couldn't help but remember Ruth Gordon and Mia Farrow agreeing to meet in front of the Time-Life building in Rosemary's Baby.I always think of the movie whenever I see that building now.

April 28,2015 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

A shame Don Draper hasn't gone after Pepsi Cola so that he could have a memorable run-in with a latter day Joan Crawford!

April 28,2015 | Unregistered Commenterrick gould

Elisabeth Moss is genius.

April 28,2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

cal & peggy --- still i bet it's her submission episode.It's just too bad they split the season because she had good stuff at the end of the first half of the season too.

rick -- LOL.imagine it.and Betty hates her as we saw in i think the second season ;)

April 28,2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Line of the night for me was the McCann guy's near-erotic pronunciation of various major companies.So funny/depressing.I like that the show's clearly not going to give us a happy ending (IMO).

April 28,2015 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

Good stuff?She KILLED in The Strategy and Waterloo.The dance,the reconciliation with Don,Julio,and THAT pitch?Awesome acting,best performance on tv.

April 29,2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

They're all rich,but none of them seem to be enjoying it -- except Ted.He's ready to let go.That was interesting to me.

April 29,2015 | Unregistered CommenterBia

"The king ordered it"is going to go down as one of the funniest moments in Mad Men history.

April 29,2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I believe it is Roger who kisses Don on the cheek and not the other way around.

April 29,2015 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I've been hoping for a "Boys in the Band"reference this season.This episode might be the closest we get...when Don goes searching for Diana and discovers a gay couple in her old apartment.Too bad they couldn't convince him to step inside for a nightcap.

April 29,2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Sean Troutman: Appreciate the Rosemary's Baby reference but it was actually Hutch (played by Maurice Evans) whom Rosemary was to meet in front of the TIme Life Bldg.Only...he never GOT THERE (insert music cue).

April 29,2015 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Roger kissed Don on the forehead in the bar,not the other way around.

Stunning episode!It's what I've been waiting for in these lackluster first three episodes prior.No one's getting a happy ending,so I hope that isn't expected from Weiner (not that he gives a shit what his audience thinks about anything,but that's another matter).I don't think Don CAN have a happy ending here,so I'm more than readynotready to see where the series finale takes him.

April 30,2015 | Unregistered CommenterIan

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