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May 06 2015

Mad Men @ the Movies: "Lost Horizon"

Lynn Lee,back again with Mad Men at the Movies.

With just two episodes left,"Mad Men"still has too much business to wrap up to spend much time on or at the movies.But it's surely no accident that the title of this week's episode was"Lost Horizon"– a reference that's popped up before on this show,but never with such direct resonance.

Lost Horizon,a bestselling novel written by James Hilton (who also pennedGoodbye,Mr.Chips) between the two world wars,was made into a successful 1937 movie starring Ronald Colman and is most famous for introducing Shangri-La,fabled utopia of blissful ease and tranquility.But while Shangri-La may be a haven,it's also a prison—and,even within the narrative ofLost Horizon,possibly an illusion.The entire plot is driven by a plan to deceive and kidnap a small group of random strangers and bring them by force to Shangri-La,where they each react very differently to what it offers them.

The parallels are obvious as our Sterling Cooper survivors gingerly transition to their new roles at McCann Erickson.More...

As I predicted,Ted and Pete (and Harry,but who cares about Harry?) seem to be adapting reasonably smoothly,at least so far.  Roger,by contrast,has been put out to pasture and knows it.  Joan and Don experience fleeting glimmers of hope that they might find their groove after all,only to suffer a rude awakening: Don's gone from being Jim Hobart's "white whale"to one of many small fish in a large pond,while Joan receives fresh evidence that her perceived best assets arenother accounts but the "fun"and "good time"she's expected to provide.

Significantly,Peggy remains the wild card,despite an unpromising start.  Marginalized from the get-go and righteously pissed off about it,she gets her mojo back from the unlikeliest of sources – Roger Sterling.If last week was SC&P's wake,Peggy and Roger's surreal final hours in the old office felt like its funeral,or a graveside visit,complete with ghostly organ music and physical remains and mementoes.Their interaction also felt like a passing of the torch from Sterling Cooper's first generation to its last.  Perhaps Roger knows Peggy's his best hope for keeping that light alive,in the face of all McCann's efforts to extinguish it.

Sadly,Roger's unable to do much for his other colleagues,even the ones to whom he's closest.Although I cheered Joan for standing up to Jim Hobart,realistically she had no choice but to capitulate.  And as between leaving with half of the money she's entitled to and having to continue fending off Ferg Donnelly and his ilk,it's clear which is the lesser of two evils.

Christina Hendricks is a powerhouse.Is this her Emmy episode?

Don,for his part,is confronted with the reality that he's fundamentally not needed anymore.  However much McCann may have been willing to pay for him,his skills are hardly indispensable—a point underscored by his diminished position at the Miller meeting,engulfed in a sea of shirt-sleeves,listening to a pitch from theclient's side.  The research is done,the message predetermined,and the ad men just there to roll it out,not offer their own vision or personal stamp,the very thing that gave Don's work any meaning.

Outside the office,Don's become equally superfluous on the personal front.  Megan's long gone;Betty has her studies,and even Sally's found a ride elsewhere.On a Don-like whim,he goes awol in search of the one person he hopes does still need him: Diana,his own white whale.  But the idea of helping her turns out to be a fantasy that her bitter ex-husband is quick to savage.

In response,Don keeps driving west,à la Kerouac.  Perhaps he'll end up in California after all.  But more than likely,the horizon will keep on moving,without him finding his Shangri-La.

Random observations:

-The ghost of Bert Cooper returns!No dancing this time,but still calling Don on his BS.

-It was both touching and a little sad how happy the SC&P folks were to run into each other at McCann. Not only did Joan and Don look genuinely pleased to see each other in the elevator,but even Pete lit up at the sight of Joan.Alas,their promises – whether to get drinks or have lunch,or to get Joan on an account – seem more than likely to go unfulfilled.

-Ted's silent sideways glance at Don leaving the Miller meeting spoke volumes.He knows his onetime rival is close to leaving the game altogether.

-I admit to enjoying the prospect of Jim Hobart getting no value out of the prize he stalked for so long.His white whale is turning into a white elephant,and there's nothing he can do about it.

-Relatedly,the line of the week belongs to Hobart: "Are any of you planning to work here,or is this the con of the century?"

-Runner-up from Roger,in elegiac rather than quippy mode: "This was a hell of a boat,you know?"

-Shot of the week: No contest – Peggy striding coolly down the halls of McCann in shades,cigarette dangling from her lips,Japanese tentacle-porn print tucked under her arm,and no fucks to give.

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Reader Comments (14)

Another mesmerizing episode.I loved the energy between Moss and Slattery.Too bad they didn't have more scenes in the past.

It's definitively Christina's episode.Her competitors are fierce this year though.Jon hasn't got his big scene yet.Am I being paranoid or was he double-checking his office window?I always thought he would have a heart attack,but now he seems healthier.Will he jump out of the window?Will he retire to the countryside?The next two episodes are going to be an emotional roller-coaster.

May 6,2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I LOVE that last shot of Peggy,I've been looking at it all day.(Because the fate of Joan Harris has caused me to need cheering up all day long.)
And about that fate - I think it's really interesting and beautiful how what would have been seen as a happy ending in other fictions - she meets a rich guy that she likes who wants to take her all over the world and allows her to quit her job and leave behind all the jerks - is so tragic because of all the work that she's put in and how much credit we know she deserves.

May 6,2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I think Jon Hamm should win the Emmy for the whole cast.It's been a spectacular performance,front and center of a very demanding show and a extremely complicated (and sometimes frustating - so human!) character.In my opinion they should all win (Hendricks,Moss,Hamm) and other actors deserved in the past (Jones,Kartheiser - he wasn't nominated for Signal 30!) but I'll be very happy if only Hamm wins.Is that realistic?

May 6,2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

It is just so shocking to me that Mad Men has won NO acting Emmys.

May 6,2015 | Unregistered CommenterRahul

Cal -- i've been thinking this as well.It would be just tragic if there wasn't some sort of symbolic win

Mike -- right?And the fact that she's so extraordinarily capable that McCann Erickson,however small fish the SCDP people are in their big pond at first,she would have become a huge assett.

Lynn - thanks for another lovely writeup.This final season has been so good that if it hadn't been split in half (sigh) people would probably think it was one of the very strongest seasons.

May 6,2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I was angry watching Joan get pushed out of a job she loved doing,but at least money is no longer an issue for her and her man seems decent.

Dick appears to be done with Don Draper,no?I feel we may see him next with a new life.

May 6,2015 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Thanks Lynn for another great write up on MM.

About Betty and her studies...does anyone get the impression that she'll be successful and will re-invent herself,going on to graduate school and a high end career in her own right?That's the vibe I'm getting,Betty all successful and rocking the 70s power leisure suits/dresses!

I could see that being her arc,going from the bored housewife,so long defined as a wife and mom,to being a successful career woman (without sacrificing her personal relationships with hubby and/or the kids).

May 6,2015 | Unregistered CommenterBlinking Cursor

I was fantasizing a similar Emmy moment,with the statue going to John Slattery as a "get"for the whole cast.Not only is Roger Sterling the (last) head of the firm,Slattery has been the most versatile of the central cast.He's played comedy,villainy,con artistry,buffoonery,blackface and naked acid trips.I will miss this character -- it was such a treat to see him and the equally wonderful Elizabeth Moss get some unforgettable screentime this week.

May 7,2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Roger plays "Hi-Lili,Hi-Lo"on the keyboard as Peggy roller skates in the deserted office.The tune is from the film Lili where Leslie Caron plays a young woman who falls in love with the characters of a puppet show and begins to believe that they're real.Her illusion is broken when she feels the hand of the puppet master when she hugs one of the puppets,and she runs away.Perhaps McCann was an illusion for many of the characters and when that illusion is broken,some must break away.

May 7,2015 | Unregistered CommenterPat

What a wonderful final season this has been.I can't think of another show that could come up with something as satisfying on a character level as Peggy's stride down the McCann hallways in its seventh season.

I'm desperately trying to resign myself to the fact that this show will never get the awards love it deserves.If Jon Hamm couldn't win for The Suitcase,and that neat trick they pulled a few years back where every actor submitted the Jaguar episode,then it's unlikely now.But what a wonderful episode for Christina Hendricks this was.

May 7,2015 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

I LOVE all the subtle wringing and performances in Mad Men,the show always has been genius.One thing I love about Jon Hamm is that the character could be an one-note act,but instead,he has a different relationships and multiple levels with every other character,while he manages it to always be the iconic Don Draper,Jon has so many wonderful nuances in his stoic face without losing his damn hot dashiness.

I am not expecting "ACTING!"scenes in the next two episodes,but I hope for more meaty performance,because I want at least the Emmy for Hamm.Moss and Hendricks is too greedy,and it´s a shame.

May 7,2015 | Unregistered CommenterLuiserghio

Brilliance,through and through.I'll have so many withdrawal symptoms when the show's gone forever this month.:-(

May 7,2015 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Thanks,Nathaniel!Reading this over,I just realized that it doesn't completely express how much sympathy I felt for Joan.My heart bled for her,though I also almost literally stood up and cheered during her scene with Jim Hobart.I'm just glad she didn't have to take it back directly in his presence.

And yes,the whole cast continues to be at the top of their game,even if I'm not optimistic about their Emmy chances.Jon Hamm has the best shot of the lot,but it's really an ensemble work.

May 7,2015 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Oh man,if Hamm,Moss,Slattery and Hendricks all win Emmys in their respective categories,I would stand up and cheer.Not gonna happen,obviously,but still.Long overdue.

I haven't loved every episode of this half of the season,but this week was pretty great.

Hopefully that's not the last we see of Joan,but I wouldn't be surprised if it is.

May 7,2015 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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