Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: Mad Men "For Immediate Release"

Non Spoiler Review:
For Immediate Release seriously shakes up the series as Don is summoned to a dinner to repair the hard feelings with Herb at Jaguar. Meanwhile, Roger has been using a stewardess to get information on potential clients and comes up with a doozy. Pete finds himself in an extremely awkward situation. Peggy's new apartment prompts daydreaming.

After last week's lacklustre episode, For Immediate Release was a return to some of Mad Men's classic storytelling. Mad Men's plot twists generally sneak up on me, and this was no exception. The hints were all there for the astute observer.

Aside from the game changing plot developments, the pacing was much more even, there were some memorable scenes, including one of Joan's best, and the series really feels like it picked up momentum.

Spoilers Now!
Pete, Bert and Joan are in negotiations with the bank to take the company public. Pete and Joan chat about it afterwards, revelling in the knowledge her own piece of the company will be worth a million. But both worry what Don will say. 

On the Sunday morning of Mother's Day, Pete crawls into bed with Trudy, but is quickly rebuffed. She's noted his efforts so Pete teases her that big things are on the horizon.

Megan's mother Marie is visiting. Arnold pops in for a visit to borrow wrapping paper, which prompts an introduction. Marie offers up the flowers Megan gave her for Arnold to regift to Sylvia. Megan later confesses to her that she and Don have grown distant. Her mother points out it's very hard to stand next to someone giving an autograph, and suggests she not dress like his wife.

Roger informs Don that Herb from Jaguar wants a private meeting to smooth things over, excluding Pete. Roger suggests they bring Marie along. Herb brings his wife, but Roger ends up not showing. The women leave Herb and Don to discuss business. Herb called the meeting because he wants Don to look at some of the work one of his employee's has done, believing it might help the campaign. Don instead gives him the name of the man handling his account from now on, raising Herb's ire. Don tells him to buy him one last meal as he's tired of taking it out of their account. Herb declares he's finished with all of them. 

Feeling his oats for telling off Herb, Don is turned on by Megan's sexier attire. Roger calls the house to talk urgently to Don, but Marie answers. She's annoyed he never showed and she had to endure the tedious evening. Marie hangs up on him twice.

Bert informs Pete they may get $11 a share, so they share a drink in celebration. Pete and Bob visit a brothel, but Pete has an awkward run in with his father-in-law, who is emerging with a black prostitute. The next day he tells Ken what he saw. Ken suggests he won't say anything because it's damaging to both—mutually assured destruction. Ken then gets a call from Jaguar.

Pete storms out to confront Don in front of the office about his behaviour that resulted in them losing the account. Their public offering is ruined, which comes as news to Don. Joan escorts both inside the board room. Don is equally furious he wasn't aware of their dealings. Pete reminds him he had tried to tell him. Roger comes in with more news—they're giving a presentation on Chevy's top secret new car (a contact he made courtesy of a stewardess he's been sleeping with). Don gloats to Pete and tells him to box up Jaguar, then instructs Joan to get creative into his office. She snaps back to get it himself. If she could deal with Herb, he can. Was it all for nothing? Just once she would like him to use the word we, she says, because they all root from him on the sidelines deciding what's right for their lives. She storms out.

Don gets creative in with Roger to hear the job. CGC is also pitching. Roger is beaming for scoring new business.

At CGC Jim and Ted are having a partners meeting. Ted is informed by his partner/artist Frank he has pancreatic cancer, which means they will have to buy him out when he cashes out. Ted is shaken but tells him he'll beat this thing. Peggy comes in to find Ted worried about losing the foundation Frank has provided all these years. She gives him a pep talk and he kisses her, but he apologizes. She goes home for the evening. 

In the elevator, Arnold announces to Don he just quit his job given he's been unable to practice medicine as he wished. Don tells him to make his own opportunities. Later Megan tells Don she loves him when he's fearless and proceeds to seduce him. The next day at the airport Don and Roger wait to fly out to Detroit to their pitch to Chevy, along with their rival agencies, one of whom makes a joke about SCDP having no cough syrup.

At SCDP Joan and Pete try to get a hold of Roger to inform them Vicks is dropping them. Bert is sure Roger will handle it. Furious, Pete charges in to see Tom, who berates him for cheating on Trudy and can't bear to think of him around his granddaughter, then throws him out. 

Abe and Peggy have moved into a rundown apartment that he's busy fixing up. Peggy isn't pleased with the noise and craziness of their new neighbourhood. She finds herself fantasizing about Ted.

Unable to sleep, Don goes down to the bar for a drink only to have Ted walk in and join him. Ted realizes they brought SCDP in at the last second, and both  are too small to get the account. Chevy will take their creative and give it to a larger firm. Don sees his point. They commiserate and deliver their pitches to each other. Don gets the idea that their firms should merge, and given their partners aren't sitting in the bar with them, he and Ted conspire to pull something together. The next day CGC and SCDP go in to make their pitch together.

Trudy comes home to find Pete, who needs to talk, informing her her father pulled his business and ruined their public offering. When she tells him not to criticize her father, he admits he caught him in a mid-town whorehouse with a negro prostitute, and tells her to ask him herself. And he left him no choice. Trudy announces they're done and sends him out.

Peggy is surprised to learn Ted is back, but Don is waiting in the office to tell them they won Chevy. Ted explains they went in together. They've merged. Peggy is confused. Don admits he did this wrong before. He tells her how great it will be and she can decide if she wants to come along as copy chief. They want her to write the press release and ask her to make it sound like the agency she wants to work for. Peggy returns to her office, shuts the door and begins writing.

The Verdict:
Mad Men does it again. The subtle threads of the climax have been sown the last several episodes, leading to the merger of SCDP and CGC. It should have been obvious in hindsight, given the attention the latter agency was getting and the introduction of more characters

Joan gets the prize for the perfect snap to Don, summarizing everything that every person at SCDP must think. It obviously didn't get through to him given he went ahead and merged the company without consulting the other partners anyway.

I'm interested to see how Pete reacts to this, in particular. He's quickly become more likable than Don, and the poor twist of circumstance that put him face to face with Tom derailed not only his trajectory in reconciling with Trudy, but the public offering for SCDP (though that is likely back on). He's completely burned his bridges with Trudy. It's ironic that the public offering was handled by the three partners who never get any respect, while the merger was conducted by the two who act whenever they think they know best.

It's certainly an exciting development plotwise, especially when Peggy's flirtation with Ted is brought into the mix. While it's early to judge, this merger doesn't look like it's a match made in heaven. Ted is struggling to fill the void he feels is going to be left with Frank's departure, and he sees that in Don. In his own way, Don seems to think he's making amends for firing Jaguar when he's just running roughshod over Pete, Joan and Bert as he always does. The one person he appears to be doing right by is Peggy, asking her to join them rather than just assuming.

Interesting that Don finds renewed spark with Megan just when this crisis is unfolding. But he handles clients just like his relationships. Last year Jaguar was the jewel in the crown, just like Megan, but he dropped it the moment Herb didn't worship him. That has me wondering (given Arnold's announcement and Don's encouragement that he make his own fate) that Sylvia might suddenly find herself out of a husband. With no safety net of marriage between them, I would guess Don would drop her just as quickly.

However it unfolds, I'm excited to watch it happen, with so many character dynamics thrown together—Jim and Roger, Ted and Don, Peggy back with Michael and Stan. Something tells me Don and Ted both might regret their decision, even if it takes until next season.

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