Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: Mad Men "Tea Leaves"

Non Spoiler Review:
Mad Men brings us up to date with Betty and Henry, who face an unexpected crisis that eventually gets Don involved. Meanwhile, Don is having difficulty understanding all these crazy young people (not to mention his wife), when he has to try to get the Rolling Stones to do a commercial jingle. With the return of Mohawk Airlines, SCDP needs an additional copywriter, and it falls to Peggy to find a suitable prospect.

Generational themes played heavily this week, and it's a clear line between Roger and Don's perspective and their inability to relate to anyone in their twenties anymore. There's also some job-related concerns, as Roger and Peggy both wonder if they could be replaced by their own proteges. 

Betty's reappearance stole the show and was an unexpected way to deal with January Jones' real life pregnancy. It will be interesting to see how this plot fits in with the season as a whole. But it was a pretty good episode overall, aside from some unusually erratic pacing in how the scenes cut back and forth. 

Spoilers Now!
Betty has changed—a lot. She decides not to attend a political function with Henry given she can't fit into her dress. That prompts a visit the next day from her obese and icky mother-in-law, who suggests she get control of her weight through diet pills. Betty goes to a doctor to get a prescription, but he insists on an exam to rule out other causes, then finds a lump on her thyroid. So she phones Don in a panic and he manages to calm her down somewhat. Henry gets her in to the specialist sooner with his connections, and at the hospital she runs into an old acquaintance there for treatment herself, and they have lunch. With discussions turning towards cancer, Betty laments the mess she'll leave behind. A psychic walks by and offers to read their tea leaves. She tells Betty she means so much to the people around her, which only upsets her.  

Mohawk has returned to SCDP and Pete thinks Roger should handle the day-to-day matters of the account. They'll need a dedicated copywriter (male). Peggy reviews portfolios and is impressed with a Michael Ginsberg (also a Jew, which Roger says is the in thing at the moment), but Stan hopes she likes him as he'll likely be her boss someday. 

He's brought in for an interview, but really only wants to meet Don. His erratic attitude fails to impress her and she warns him he can't act like that with Don. Roger pops in to see Peggy after drinks with Mohawk and tells her to hire him given he's already told the client and the man's a Jew. Roger assures her no one will replace her, and he'll handle Don if there's any problem.

Megan and Don have dinner with Heinz, who has a bright idea to try to get the Rolling Stones to do a jingle. Harry manages to arrange a meeting when the Stones play in New York. Backstage, Harry and Don have to wait for the band, so Harry chats up some young girls, who get him in to see them. Her friend is doubtful Don can get them to do a TV ad, and while they wait Don tries to analyze why she likes the Rolling Stones, but it just cements how difficult it is for Don to relate to young people anymore. Harry comes running back, saying he got the deal. Except the Stones come down another hall and he realizes he was talking to some other group, the Tradewinds.

Don fills Megan in that Betty could be very sick, and he balks at her more optimistic attitude about them dealing with whatever comes their way (more generational divide).

Don meets with Peggy and Michael. He's more subdued than his initial interview, and has admired Don since the letter. Don seems impressed and tells Peggy good work. She's still unsure about the hire, but gets him set up. Michael returns home to let his father know he got the job.

Betty and Henry wait at home for the test results and learn the tumour is benign. Henry is elated, but Betty just gets snippy about being fat. Don calls Henry to ask about the tests, and is told (curtly) that she's fine, and Henry is not happy that he's aware of their crisis.

Pete gathers the staff to announce Mohawk's return, but uses it as a sideways insult to Roger, passing the account off to him to look after now that he's done all the initial work. Roger remarks to Peggy to forget everything he just said about Michael, given Pete is the last guy he hired. Roger vents to Don and is tired of having to prove he has any value. 

Betty and Sally seem to be getting along much better, sharing some ice cream. As her daughter leaves to watch TV, Betty finishes hers, as well.

The Verdict:
Following last week's civil rights storyline, we now find Don with a new black secretary, Dawn, and the source of many Don/Dawn jokes. Hopefully she gets some airtime next week so we can get to know her better.

Don has never come across as young at heart, but he's certainly showing his age these days. If the Rolling Stones didn't prove it, then his odd adversarial tone with Megan says he's really finding it hard to adapt to the world of the late 60's. Both socially and in the work world (with Roger being usurped by Pete) it's evident that his generation is losing ground and can't accept the new reality. Even younger Harry doesn't recognize he's not even talking to the Rolling Stones.

Betty's obesity was quite a surprise, but perfect for her vain character. After just six months, that's quite a weight gain, and I imagine it has a little to do with Don marrying a younger wife. I wonder what Don thinks of all that. They do seem to have eased into a more relaxed relationship with the divorce finally out of the way (much to Henry's chagrin).

I admit I was expecting cancer, but it remains to be seen how this might play out over the season. In fact, I believe Betty was almost hoping it was cancer, because having that be responsible for her weight gain would get her off the hook for letting herself go (especially given her angry reaction at the news the tumor was benign).

Like Peggy, I didn't like Michael at first, but I think he'll grow on me as Stan did. Though I do hope that Peggy isn't shoved to the background like she fears. There was a lot of teasing about a potential boyfriend, so it could easily go in that direction, too.

My only real criticism was the pacing—especially the numerous cuts back and forth between Betty and Don's stories. There were just too many short scenes. It was a shift from what we're usually used to, but this was also Jon Hamm's directorial debut.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...