Wednesday, November 4, 2009
"There's no point Don".
From the moment "Mad Men" began, it was obvious that there would be an episode featuring JFK's assassination and the repercussions it would have on the characters.
However, I never expected it to be half as brilliant as "The Grown-Ups" was. Unless "Lost" has one helluva final season and Emmy voters get sudden geek nostalgia, it bagged a third consecutive win for them in the Best Drama category.
With this and last week's astounding "The Gypsy and the Hobo" the show finally transcended the "is it about anything?" veil it had cast over itself.
Now its relevance becomes obvious in a subtle way; when one of the characters asks reluctantly why is Lyndon Johnson President when nobody voted for him I couldn't help but think of the harsh political situation going on in my country.
The best thing about the episode was how they underplayed the whole event to show the passing of time and the fact that we never know what's around the corner.
Peter (Vincent Kartheiser) for example is so caught up with his work that he doesn't even notice what's going on in the TV set.
Director Barbet Schroeder knows we know what's going on, but doesn't let the characters become selfconscious about it.
When they do, it turns into something so chaotic and emotional that you can't believe it's hitting you in the way it does.
Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) for example was busy having an afternoon delight with Duck (Mark Moses) and their television wasn't even plugged in as the events unfolded.
The world does not stop moving just because you do is the message and this plays to an even greater effect when in the last scenes Betty (the brilliant January Jones) comes to terms with how this suddenness can not prevent her from living her life.
In the episode's most poignant scene, as Betty watches the news their maid Carla (Deborah Lacey) comes in, asks if anything has happened as Betty begins to sob and tells her the President is dead.
In a moment worthy of Norman Rockwell she sits down next to her employer-without being asked-and lights up a cigarette.
Very few moments in television have made me hold my breath like that did.
When Don (Jon Hamm) gets home he explains to his children the events "everything's going to be OK. We have a new President, we're all going to be sad for a little bit".
This ambiguous certainty becomes the episode's, and the decade some might say, central theme as all the characters begin to question their very existence.
After Betty unravels Don just says "you'll feel better tomorrow. You'll see."
This might not be true for any of them, but this show just made it clear its brilliance won't stop at nothing.