Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review: Mad Men "The Phantom"

Non Spoiler Review:
Season five comes to an end as Easter approaches, and SCDP deals with the lingering fallout of Lane's death. But Don's renewed boldness seems to have brought oodles of money into the firm and they stand on the precipice of hitting the big leagues. Pete sees Beth against his better judgement, while Megan asks Don for a big favor.

The Phantom was a very nice note to end the season. While Lane's shadow continues to fall across SCDP, no one at all commented on Peggy's absence, which seems rather odd. However, she isn't gone from the show, so that's a relief.

SCDP ends up at an interesting point by the end of this season, in stark contrast to last years' ending. But so does Don, and the fade out for this year leaves us with a lot of questions for what season six might bring for him.

Spoilers Now!
It's Easter. Don's got a toothache. Megan's mother is back for a visit. Howard is travelling with Beth on the train when they find Pete. She's off to stay with her sister. Harry hits up Joan on information if they're buying more space in the building.

Don thinks he sees Adam (his dead brother—who also hung himself) get into the elevator. Later Michael's pitch to Topaz falls flat, so Ken summons Don to answer questions. The client is annoyed as they want a girl's opinion, which he used to take as a given around there. Don berates Stan and Michael for not doing their research.

Joan informs the partners they are in their best quarter ever. Bert wants an office. Joan is meeting with the building manager to discuss space. Lane's seat is noticeably vacant, and she feels she needs to voice some of the negatives of buying more space.

Pete gets a phone call from Beth who wants to meet him at the hotel where she stood him up. It could be his last chance, she says. He hangs up on her. But of course he goes to meet her and learns Howard checked her into the hospital that morning for depression and she needs electro-shock treatment. She wanted to see him  one last time because it will be different after. She's had it before. Pete can't deny her.

Megan is getting a heavy breather on the phone, who calls while she's entertaining Emily from class. Megan's paid for an audition reel but has had a series of rejection letters that has her depressed. Emily asks a favor, as her agent put her up for a part for a commercial for Butler Shoes, a SCDP account. She wonders if knowing Don will help her get an audition. Megan doesn't know how much help that will be given Don won't be in control of who they hire, but she'll see what she can do.

When Don comes home, Megan brings up the commercial, but instead pitches herself as perfect for the role. All she wants is Don to put her name in a file (even if Stan and Michael will recognize her). He finds it interesting she wants to do a commercial given her attitude about advertising. She tells him to forget it. He adds that it's for the best, as she wants to be someone's discovery, not someone's wife. Megan takes a bath before dinner, and breaks down in the bathroom. She stays in bed in a funk, and her mother is less than helpful, telling her to be happy with her rich husband and abandon her foolish dreams.

In the morning, Joan meets with Don about the office space issue and confesses more money is flowing into the company than they know what to do with. The death benefit from the company insurance policy is $175,000, and she wonders why Lane would do that. She wants to know what she could have done differently (she thinks he killed himself because she spurned him), but Don assures her it had nothing to do with her. Don tells her to cut a cheque for his wife after they pay back the Lucky Strike collateral.

Don suffers an uncomfortable visit with Lane's wife. She had declined their offer to have a memorial. He gives her the cheque which she takes without a word. She tells him he had no right to fill a man like Lane with ambition. She also found the picture of the girl in Lane's wallet (from the wallet he found in A Little Kiss), and doesn't know who it is. She tells him to go.

Roger calls posing as Marie's husband to get her on the phone. He wants her to come over, and admits he hung up on Megan about a dozen times that day to get a hold of her. She agrees but has no guarantees on what may happen between the two of them. When they meet up Roger is still thinking about Lane's suicide. He wants her to do LSD with him so he can find some sort of enlightenment, but she refuses, opting for sex instead.

Don comes home to drunk Megan. She challenges him that he has everything he wants—her waiting for him at home. Marie comes home, so he asks where she was given Megan was drunk out of her mind. That's his job, she points out. It's what happens when you have the artistic temperament and are not an artist.

Don's toothache is still getting the best of him so he acquiesces to go to the dentist. While he's put under he has a vision of Adam telling him he's in bad shape. It's not his tooth that's rotten. Don doesn't want him to leave but wakes up with the dentist telling him to take it easy the rest of the day. He sees his extracted rotten tooth.

Pete comes home to Trudy, who is planning on building a swimming pool. He's not impressed and sparks another fight. The next day he shows up at the mental hospital posing as Beth's brother to see her. He quickly realizes she has no memory of him, but she asks him to keep her company. He explains he's there to see a friend who got involved with another man's wife. He realized the life he had with his family was only a temporary bandage on a permanent wound.

Don goes to the theatre and finds Peggy there. They share a hug and sit together. She's there knocking out the cobwebs, but her job is going well. Ted has given her  Philip Morris' top secret lady cigarette as her new account. That also includes a tour of the factory in Richmond. He tells her he's proud of her, but he didn't know she would move on without him. The lights dim and she suggest they all get together sometime.

On the train home Howard wakes up Pete. He wants to go out and get into some trouble given he's on his own. Pete is disgusted with him, and what he did to his wife, which makes Howard realize it's him who is the other man, and says Beth always goes for the first chump she finds. They get into a fight and are pulled apart by the conductor. Pete refuses to apologize so gets punched in the face and thrown off at the next stop. He comes home and tells Trudy he was in a car accident (but the car is fine). Trudy tells him she can't live like this, wondering what condition he'll come home in. He was right, and needs an apartment in the city.

Don reviews Megan's screen test video and is enamoured by the woman he sees. Joan takes the partners to their new offices on a higher floor and they look out on their view. Pete points out he and Don will share the same view.

Don pulls some strings to get Megan the commercial. She's elated and tells him she loves him. He leaves the set as they prepare to film and goes to a bar to drink alone. Pete relaxes at home to music. Roger, on LSD, looks out over the city. A content Peggy has her hotel room in Richmond and sits down with a drink. An attractive woman asks Don for a light and inquires if he's alone. He turns to her.

The Verdict:
The Phantom takes Mad Men out on a high note, ending a season that has been as much about who Don Draper is now amid the generation gap and the increasing chaos of the 60s. The final scene was such a beautiful shot of Don leaving the stunning set into the darkness, and emerging into the bar scene where he orders up an old-fashioned. It could have been season one again, and we're left wondering if he'll accept the woman's proposition. Given his conversation with Peggy, he seems to think that helping Megan will set her on her own path away from him. So will he take her up on her offer?

I'm glad Don and Peggy got such a nice scene of closure, and that Peggy is happy in her new job, fulfilled that she gets to travel, even if it is to Richmond. But I would have hoped we would get some mention of her from her coworkers. She's one of the few characters who is actually getting what she wants out of life.

Pete has gotten beat up a lot this season, but it's ultimately brought him just what he wants—his Manhattan apartment. He survived the season, which is something early on I thought was highly in doubt. But he had such a profound statement about his marriage being a temporary bandage on a deeper wound. Even with his downtown digs and spectacular office view, I think Pete will still be struggling to find happiness.

Marie is quite the mother, and now that Megan has her big break, will it take her away from Don as he suspects? Or is it just a self-fulfilling prophecy on his part? I'd forgotten Adam had hung himself, and so Lane's death would have all the more impact on him. The rotten tooth image was anything but subtle (as has most of the themes this season).

We leave SCDP on the verge of great success. It seems to have happened overnight, so the prestige of a car account has come to pass. It's been a season of big changes, and as we enter the final years of the 60s I'm excited for what season six will bring.

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