DESTINATION: RECAP. MAD MEN: SEASON FIVE. EPISODE ONE
The Draper It’s Printed On
So to begin with civil rights. That’s where the show starts and that’s where I start. In the pantheon of big things to talk about, civil rights is right, right up there. Anyone’s top tier. At the time of Mad Men, Martin Luther King was making speeches in which he summoned us to call on something Ghandilike inside ourselves to achieve the best angels of our nature. The ten best angels of our nature.
For many detractors (I won’t call them haters, but you might) the fact that Mad Men for its first four seasons had almost no non-white people on it proved that it was a show about white people. I have always said this is ridiculous. The fact that they didn’t talk about civil rights proved how much the show was about civil rights. It was the giant blue elephant in the room and it became the room itself. Anyone who can watch Don’s trip to Palm Springs and tell me that civil rights is not the subtext of every second of that show is either fooling themselves or fooling me.
Anyhow, the lie was put to the match tonight when the episode opened front and certain, with civil rights right there on the table. BOOM! Kowabunga. And now civil rights can never be an issue that Mad Men never once mentioned again. Even when they when they didn’t mention it again for the rest of the episode, it was there, lurking in the first scene and we can only imagine how that first scene will change everything, if not in this episode then in some later episodes certainly.
The other thing is the furniture and the costumes. By which I mean, don’t you want them all? Have you ever looked at a furniture magazine and said I wish this magazine was a TV show? Well, tonight you got your wish! Again! Mad Men delivered the goods and upholsteries.
The third thing about tonight’s episode was the brilliance of how boring it was. It might have been the most boring episode of TV ever filmed which only proves that it was probably the best episode of TV ever filmed. For two years, fans have waited for Mad Men to return and wondered what would happen. The tension built up to a crescendo approaching madness. Then it went down to nothing. Then it came back more powerful than ever. What had happened?!!!!!!!?? What, Goddamnit! Tell us!
Well tonight, Matthew Weiner returned, he looked all those people in the eye who thought that this show was Little House on the Prairie and you were going to get a nice neat resolution to all those dangling prepositions and he said, suck it jerkoffs. This is a novel not a Bazooka Joe comic strip. And novels as you know, sometimes go somewhere, but more often go nowhere, because they are art.
A few complaints though:
• It’s a little odd that Bert Cooper brings his robot daughter to work every day. That needs to be better explained.
• The rules for when they break into song need to be more clear. Don’s wife singing makes sense in context, but when the whole office starts singing Christina Argulera medleys, it’s not clear whether this is supposed to be really happening or just a dream. Never been a fan of the theme episodes.
• Alright already, Pete is adorkable, you got us! But does this message have to be jammed down our throats in every episode? Less pinatas, more plot please!
• Don can’t shoot the Samarillions with a Varon T-disrupter because we know from the episode when they went to the future to stop 1987 stock market crash that the Varon T disrupter didn’t get invented until after the Challenger explosion.
• Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern understand they are in a play? If not, doesn’t their ignorance in fact make them able to control the narrative in ways that Hamlet in his hemming and hawing can only dream of. And if they do realize they are in a play, isn’t it this very consciousness of the narrative structure the thing that paralyzes them within it? I really thought we would achieve some resolution in this via the psychic rupture created in the Don/Betty split but apparently Matt Weiner after putting this elephant on the table is as confused about it as R and G themselves.
Other than that: best episode of television I ever saw.