Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Mad Men "Signal 30"

Non Spoiler Review:
Two weeks after the serial killer murders, Pete is taking drivers education. He and Trudy are hosting an intimate dinner completely centered on Don attending. Ken has a secret. Lane manages to bring in a prospect for SCDP, but struggles with closing the deal himself, versus letting the more seasoned veterans in the office take it over.

Signal 30 was an interesting episode that set an ominous tone right from the start. I was fully expecting a shocking event—a death—and that anticipation hung over the entire hour. Did it happen? There was definitely quite a moment in the final act that still has me wondering at the fate of a couple of characters.

Once again, Lane and Joan are show stealers when they get on screen together. I really enjoyed their camaraderie. The party scene was also quite interesting in how Don dealt with socializing. A lot of great moments this week.

Spoilers Now!
It's August, and Pete is taking driver's ed at a local high school (complete with scary crash films, from which the name of the episode is derived), but is enjoying eyeing up the cheerleader sitting in front of him. He's finding prolonged time at home is driving him crazy, prompting him to fix the leaky tap. He finally chats up the cheerleader who muses about the recent Texas university shooting (the killer's name just happens to be Charles Whitman), and how her parents might not let her go to college because of it. Pete suggests they should go visit some botanical gardens in the Bronx his family helped build. However, later on a new handsome male student arrives (who is actually nicknamed Handsome), and she immediately turns her attention to him.

Lane's wife wants to associate with other English ex patriots in the city, but Lane would prefer to just stay home with her. But they do go to a pub and watch Britain win the World Cup, where he meets new friend Edward and his wife. At SCDP, Joan is back and heading the partners meeting. Lane announces that he's managed to strike up a relationship with Edward at Jaguar, who are shopping for a new agency. 

Pete immediately tries to rain on Lane's parade by sarcastically warning him they'll need to hire so many more people to handle that account, but Lane counters this is a $3 million one, so he has no problem with that. The partners suggest he's best to handle the dinner and they can bring them in later if he wishes. Roger offers some tips on how to get through the meeting—not to drink much and let him talk, allowing Edward to connect with him. However, Lane tries the tricks but can't seem to hit the right notes to establish a rapport.

Ken is meeting with someone when he runs into Peggy at a diner and kind of gives her a brush off without an introduction, which she calls him to task for later. He admits it was personal—the man might be interested in publishing some of his short science fiction stories. His pen name will be Ben Hargrove.

Pete and Trudy are having a dinner party, and it's essential Don come, so Trudy manages to get Megan to agree, with the suggestion Don already accepted. He tries to get out of it but she'll hear none of it. Ken and Cynthia are also coming.

The evening isn't all that bad, as it turns out, and talk turns to Ken's side hobby writing science fiction, which Cynthia chats up to the rest. They want him to talk about some of his stuff, so Cynthia does a poor job explaining the story of The Punishment of X4—about a robot who causes the death of everyone—the robot had no power to make decisions, Ken explains. 

When the women take the dishes the tap explodes in the kitchen. Don takes over and fixes it to their delight, as Pete struggles to get the toolbox open. At the end of the night Megan drives Don home. Drunk Don gets her to pull over so they can fool around.

Given Lane's failure to bond with Edward, Pete wants to step in, with him, Don and Roger taking him for dinner. Edward is open to having more fun than a boring dinner. He intends to give them the business, but just wants to ensure he can have fun with them (something Lane may not share). Roger invites them to a party, which is just a brothel. As Edward and Roger get lucky, Don is playing it cool. Pete goes off with his own girl, but can't seem to get turned on by her until she calls him her king. The madam is thinking Don is a cop. He admits he grew up in a similar place so she joins him and they chat the rest of the evening.

Edward is happy with his night out and is dropped off. Pete and Don share a cab. Pete thinks Don was behaving like a nun and suggests Don might be looking down on him for cheating on Trudy. Defensive, Pete warns him to wait until his honeymoon is over. Don counters that had he had Megan to start with he never would have looked elsewhere. Pete gets home to the country and has a shower.

Rogers calls Ken in to ask about his writing (thanks to Pete) and warns him his attentions are divided. His job should satisfy his every need and tells him to stop. Ken says he will.

Lane gets a call from his wife, then storms into the partners meeting and sends Joan out. Edwards' wife called Lane's and informed her about his activities (given she found some incriminating evidence). He doesn't believe Edward wanted that. Pete says he was doing his job. Lane is furious and says it's his account. Pete retorts that their need for him disappeared the day he fired them from Sterling Cooper. Lane has enough of the insults and challenges  him to a fight. As the others watch, Pete rises to the challenge and the two box. Lane knocks him down after they spar a bit, and lets him know that's his last piece of advice. 

Joan and Peggy eavesdropped on the goings on in the board room, and afterwards Joan goes in to see Lane with some ice. He asks her what he truly does there, and she assures him he's essential. But she can do it all, he counters. She tells him he's different than them and that's a good way to be. She fixes his hair and he kisses her. A little shocked, she gets up, but just opens the door, then goes back and sits down. He admits he continues to humiliate himself and apologizes.

As gossip spreads through the office Ken tells Peggy that Pete told Roger about his writing. He's done with it. Peggy is sorry to hear that. A bruised Pete leaves, but has to share the elevator with Don. Pete tells him he has nothing now. Ken continues to write. Pete sits in the class watching his favorite girl make out with Handsome.

The Verdict:
From the opening crash film, I was fully expecting a drunk driving accident connected to Pete and Trudy's party. When Don and Megan pulled off the road to fool around, I was certain the moment they moved their head we'd see headlights (or a train) in the rear view mirror. So it was quite a good fake out. That then left me wondering about Pete, and the sudden mention of his rifle that he keeps at the office. Given his humiliation, was he going to off himself? Might he still?

All that aside, it was a great twist and the real prize of the episode—Lane's knockout punch—made all the more fun given it came out of left field. Follow that up with more classy Joan. I loved it. The new Don also continues to impress by maintaining his fidelity with Megan. Is it a complete change? Or is he still in danger of slipping up?

Roger even started out rather likeable by offering Lane what appeared to be sage advice, but then he showed his bruised ego by deciding to rob Ken of the same dreams he's lost as a failed author. Nice to see Ken ignored it.

Both Roger and Pete are struggling to hold onto their influence. Both do so by bringing down those around them. Pete sees his power coming at the expense of everyone else, but at the same time he wants to become Don, only to find his idol is now a different person and doesn't offer his approval. Pete's suffered some serious humiliation now, so it will be interesting to see the direction his character takes this season.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...