Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: Mad Men "A Tale of Two Cities"

Non Spoiler Review:
Discord is flowing freely at SCDPCGC, as A Tale of Two Cities takes Roger, Don and Harry on a California adventure to meet with Carnation. Meanwhile, Jim wants to secure the firm for his own people in their absence and Bob finds an opportunity. Joan strives to solidify her position as a contributing partner which upsets the hierarchy—and Pete.

As anti-war riots rage outside, the characters are in the midst of their own turmoil. The world feels completely off kilter and everyone is struggling to work it out for themselves and find their footing. While A Tale of Two Cities wasn't top notch like last week, it did bring another great Joan/Peggy team up, and settled the ongoing question of what the newly merged firm will be called.

Having just rewatched the first episode, I'm continually struck by how much the look and feel of the show has evolved over the nearly 10 years of Mad Men time. The music was effective, and the ongoing world events running alongside the storylines continue to add to the experience.

Spoilers Now!
It's late August and the news of the day is the Democratic Convention. Don wants Megan to go with him to California, but she can't get away, though the two of them appear to be much closer than they've been.

Chevy continues to be a problem for the agency, but Ken believes he met the man responsible for their travails, so Ted plans to meet him personally. Jim brings up the contentious issue of the firm's name and the ongoing difficulty it is dealing with clients who don't know what to call them. They can't come to a decision, so opt to discuss it later, leaving Jim irritated.

He goes on to get into a political argument with Ginsberg. Michael flies off the handle and calls him a fascist. Bob steps in to defuse it, prompting Jim to order him to get back upstairs. Jim finds Ted and suggests they fired the wrong employees. He wants to remove the rest of SCDP's people while they're away. Ted reminds him it's not our people and their people, and Jim needs to start holding hands with creative, especially since he'll be taking Michael with him the next day to meet with Manischewitz.

Bob later apologizes to Jim for intervening, explaining he hates disrespect. Jim ignores the matter and wants him to come along with Jim and Michael. Bob welcomes the chance to shine. Later, Michael has a panic attack and calls Bob because he's too nervous to make the pitch. Bob gives him a pep talk and tells him to pull himself together. 

Joan is out for dinner with Andy from Avon, on the recommendation of her sister. He's looking for advice on how to deal with ad agencies. She thought it was a date, but Joan realizes he's looking to her to pitch her agency. Pleased, she picks up the bill.

Joan confides in Peggy about her client meeting. She needs to set up another meeting before Andy leaves. Peggy takes her in to chat with Ted. He thinks Peggy and Pete will be perfect for Avon, but Joan wants to be there. Pete dismisses the idea, despite Joan explaining that Andy will be expecting her. Peggy agrees, but Pete explains that's not how it's done. 

Depressed, Joan watches the ongoing protests around the Democratic Convention which erupt into violence. Don is watching it as well, and gets a phone call from Megan. She's equally upset with the political situation and tells him to be careful. 

Joan calls in Peggy for a breakfast meeting with Andy, explaining Pete couldn't make it. Peggy apologizes for how Ted handled it, but Joan explains Pete actually wasn't invited. It's just the three of them, and Joan wanted him to meet Peggy. Andy confesses sales are flat and women are working and hippies don't wear makeup. Joan attempts to talk up Peggy's creative genius.

When they return to the office Peggy is apprehensive about Pete finding out. Joan wants to know what Peggy is planning to do. Peggy knows how much Joan wants the account but now she can't have it, reminding her she's not in accounts. Joan knows she can do this. Peggy points out she needs to work her way up like she did. Joan implies Don carried her along, forcing Peggy to counter that she never slept with Don. Joan snaps that she's just like them. 

On the flight to California, Roger urges Don to be a slick big city ad man when they meet with Carnation. Harry meets them there and as the riots weigh heavily on the meeting, Roger inadvertently puts his foot in his mouth by commenting on Nixon. Both Carnation executives mention their New York City attitude.

Afterwards, Harry takes Roger and Don to a party in the hills. They run into Danny Siegel (now a successful movie producer) and Roger takes pleasure in insulting his height. Don joins in a group doing hashish. Roger and Danny later vie for the same girl and Danny punches him in the stomach and walks away with her. Don makes out with the host but gets tapped on the shoulder by a very hippie Megan. It's California, she tells him. It's cool. She thought she'd surprise him. She lives here. She quit her job and she's pregnant. It's their second chance. She leads him through the house and says everyone is looking for him. Then PFC Dinkins (The Doorway) lights up his cigarette. He's missing an arm. He's dead, he explains. Dying doesn't make you whole. You should see what you look like, he tells Don. There's a scream outside and Don looks down at his body in the pool. Then he regains consciousness choking up water with Roger having pulled him out.

On the flight home Roger reminds a sick Don he caught a cold in California. And New York is the center of the universe. 

Ted and Jim are elated that Chevy signed off on the creative. Unfortunately Bob arrives to say that Manischewitz is putting them into a review. They haven't liked the work for months. Jim had opted not to go. Jim tells Bob to familiarize himself with Chevy. After he's gone, Ted berates Jim for splitting the place, and not in half. 

Pete summons Joan to the conference room when Avon sends over a box of samples. Furious, Pete wonders when she had a breakfast with Avon. She explains Peggy didn't know, just as she walks in. Joan adds that the point is making Avon happy, to which Pete adds that he bets they're very happy. Better than being screwed by you, she says. Peggy offers to handle Ted. Ted returns with Pete and wants to know if she purposely excluded him. Pete sends Peggy out, so she goes next door and listens on the intercom. 

Pete explains she's breached the fundamental rules of the business. Joan is silent but is interrupted by the secretary who (courtesy of Peggy) informs them Avon is on the phone for Joan. Joan joins Peggy and the two listen to Ted remind Pete they're all working together, and all agency business is his business. Joan is grateful, but Peggy says she'd better hope Andy really calls.

Pete catches Roger and Don as they arrive back in the office. But Ted, Bert and Jim interrupt before he can rant about Avon. Pete adds that they don't need to get Joan for their partners meeting. Chevy was a success, Ted explains, and Joan got Avon, and Jim adds that they've lost Manischewitz, but that really doesn't surprise Roger. Jim's real reason for assembling them is because he wants to call the agency Sterling Cooper and Partners. They're willing to do it given it's equally offensive to all. It's agreed upon.

Pete is the only one who throws a fit to Don after they leave. Pete declares it's a gravestone to their resistance, and it's not the same business anymore. Don tells him if he doesn't like it it's time to get out of the business. Pete heads into creative and takes a joint from Stan, sits down and smokes it as a girl in a miniskirt walks by.

The Verdict:
A Tale of Two Cities shared several similarities to previous travelling and drug episodes. We see Don and Megan appear to be making inroads to reforging their relationship, but it's apparent the real thing that will matter to Don is if she quits her job and has a baby. There's further death imagery, including the appearance of Dinkins, though it seems odd if this will be the only reminder we get of him in Don's head, rather than something more tangible. Does this all mean that someone is still going to die by season's end?

The ongoing theme of the roles of women brings another terrific Peggy and Joan scene. I've mentioned it before, but seeing these two working together without Joan's sense of rivalry is always a pleasure. I was concerned that Andy might actually have designs on Joan, but it was a relief to see it was a genuine client opportunity for her. Unfortunately Joan's struggle to define her place at the agency forced the two into conflict, but at least Peggy rescued a possible slide backwards with some quick thinking.

As for Ginsberg, I'm shocked that the man wasn't fired. I guess being a creative type in the 60s came with a big allowance for insubordination. But I wouldn't have faulted the conniving Jim for kicking him out right then and there. Pete's looking more like he might be on the way out. Unless he's just decided to relax and join in on the craziness of SC@P from that final awesome fadeout.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...