Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Mad Men "The Good News"

Non Spoiler Review:
It's New Years, and the agency is preparing for the holiday. Don is planning a trip to Acapulco with a detour to California to visit Anne. Lane is unusually resistant about flying back to London to spend time with his family. And Joan is trying to find a way to plan anything, much less a family, with the crazy schedule of her husband, Greg, who is still awaiting orders to go to Viet Nam.

This episode was considerably darker compared to the previous two, as several characters come to grips with bad news. The New Year causes all of them to reflect on the past twelve months, and they're left wondering what lies ahead. There is a really tragic surprise here for longtime viewers. Despite that, there are some laugh out loud moments and really heartwarming stuff between characters who have not as yet shared a lot of scenes together. 

Spoilers Now!
Wow, a bit of a downer this episode. A lot of endings, and a good-bye to one of my favorite characters.

Don pops by to see Anne on his way to Mexico, and she's hobbling around on a broken leg. Her sister and niece are taking care of her, and both know Dick, though it's not really made clear how much Anne has told them about Don. Anne and Don take the girl out on the town, leaving us wondering if he will actually make a pass at her? Sure enough, he does that on the car ride home, but, as with all his previous encounters with women lately, it's a hot mess. She rebuffs him completely, and worse, tells him a secret—she and her mother have been concealing tragic news from Anne—that she has advanced cancer. Don is absolutely devastated. In fact, it's rare that I've seen such emotion from him, even when Betty found out his secret.

Don at first goes back to Anne's to help her out around the house, wanting to fix things, but her sister coldly tells him pointblank that he's just the man with a chequebook and to go home. So he sadly leaves with a final good-bye to Anne.

Joan's in turmoil, trying to plan a family around Greg's erratic and unpredictable schedule. We see her visiting the doctor that she had recommended Peggy visit in the first season, and we learn she's had two abortions. But he assures her there will likely be no problem with conceiving.

With Greg possibly going to Viet Nam in a year, she's trying to maintain some semblance of a family plan. He's still an ass to her, but when she cuts her hand getting him dinner, there's a nice scene where he bandages her up, which makes one briefly forget how much he belittles her.

The end of Lane's marriage was pretty much a given considering his wife's disdain for Manhattan, but here it's revealed as final. He remains an outsider in the firm, the money man, unwittingly insulting Joan, and not fitting in with the celebrations going on around him. When his secretary messes up flower deliveries to Joan and his wife, it provides one of the many laugh out loud moments of the episode, and he and Joan find something to agree on in jointly firing the incompetent woman.

Don returns straight from California and comes in to work to find Lane still at his desk, and the two embark on an adventure for New Years Eve...dinner, a movie (Gamera!), a comedy club and $25 hookers. Lane confides in him the state of his marriage, and subsequently cuts loose for the rest of the evening. Don wakes up in the morning and after sending Lane home, collapses on his bed, emotionally exhausted from the weight of 1964.

What Worked:
The character moments made the episode, striking a balance between moments of tragedy and comedy. Don confessed to Anne his pain at losing Betty, revealing that he knew from the start if she ever learned the truth about him she would no longer love him. He has yet to reconcile with that and move on, and until he does that, it looks like his love life is going to be one train wreck after the other.

So rarely do we get to see Don on the verge of losing it, but it was evident the news of Anne's condition was as heart wrenching, if not more, than losing Betty. Their final good-bye, when it's only Don that knows he'll not see her again, was very sad for both him and the audience. He has so few people in his life who know him for who he really is. Anne is Don's true wife, after all.

Lane and Don's night on the town was hilarious from the start. From Don's suggestions for a movie as Lane notices Don spilling his drink all over his carpet, to going to dinner and the comedy club, being mistaken for a gay couple, and Lane's shock that such a high class hooker was only $25. The two men commiserated a lot over the course of their adventure, and hopefully they will become good friends now. Despite all the financial turmoil, Lane's comment to Don that "though the finances are precarious, it's been a magnificent year" spoke volumes.

The final scene was a nice end cap—the partners sitting around the table with Joan at the head, announcing the beginning of 1965.

What Didn't Work:
No Betty and Henry, and a quick, but funny scene with Peggy was okay, but hopefully the rest of the cast gets more airtime next episode.

I'm going to miss Anne.

Best Line:
Lane's shout out at the comedy club: "We're not homosexuals, we're divorced!"

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