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Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by WickedBitch, Jul 10, 2010.
Who else would love to own a signed copy of Sterling's Gold? That title is so awesome.
Just watched the very first episode of Mad Men, and I have to say...I'm pretty damn impressed. I honestly can't think of a better first episode for any series; it was legitimately great. Not only did they really capture the "flavor" of that time period, or at least our perception of it, but the dialogue is easily the best I have ever heard on any television show.
Anyways, for those that have watched the whole thing up until its present point, does "Mad Men" suffer any lulls, or does it only get better from the beginning?
I won't lie, I thought a lot of the first season was rather slow. I ditched it midway through the first when I discovered Breaking Bad, then picked it up again after BB's 3rd season was over. It has steadily increased in quality ever since. Probably one of the top executed dramas in recent memory.
I wouldn't say the quality of every season is exactly par but there aren't any characters on the show that don't have engrossing, realistic arcs. Even Pete Cambell, who I hated in season one, turned into one of my favorites because of how much his character grows along with the audience. I love that they are referencing themes, characters, even some events from season one in season four. Even if an episode seems slightly dull or not as great as the previous one it's still completely watchable simply because there is so little wasted screen time...the writers/actors are marvelously efficient with words and nearly every scene has something happening on several different levels.
I wouldn't say that Faye's actions were out of character. She's madly in love with Don, she doesn't want to be that woman that ends up all career and no love. She has her career set and she sees in Don, who she feels is being more honest with her than he would be with other women, a chance. And what are business ethics really? Life is about people, without people, we're pretty much fucked regardless of what our business is. Business is a function to make money to live actual life and be with the people you want to be with. Of course she compromised her business ethics for Don.
Leave Megan alone...her teeth are so white!
So, in a show that features round-the-clock alcoholism, rampant adultery, rape, abortion, homophobia, overt racism, inappropriate sexism, and kids cooking with rum...is it even possible for this series to take a dark turn? Of course. Say it with me: Heroin.
Also, I liked how Don stepped up and paid Pete's partner share. The looks at end - Pete's heartfelt relief, Don's acknowledgment of Pete's sacrifice - were far more satisfying than dialogue.
Was anyone else sort of thrown by the return of That Beatnik? I know it lead to the painting that inspired Don's big move, but I feel like they could've found some other way to get there if her scene wasn't important. I just couldn't really get anything out of it. For the first time in the whole show, it felt like simply filler to me. The most I can think of is it's showing the downhill progression of the characters in tune with the changing times, but then why choose the character that was least surprising? I didn't find it shocking that she of all Don's past girls is now the one addicted to heroin. Anyone else get something better out of it?
Also, I hate that creepy little kid. I get so upset every time I see that he's a part of an episode. Leave it to Mad Men to have the first character that makes me feel like I'm being virtually raped by an eight year old.
I just wanted to add that in 2009 dollars, the $50k Pete Campbell had to come up with was $336k per <a class="postlink" href="http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi</a>. In other words, Don Draper just wrote a check for a million dollars to help save his firm. Pete Campbell's 20k in the bank - 135k. Not bad for a 30 year old who already owns an apartment in NYC.
Oh, also, Draper was willing to write a check for two thousand dollars in 2009 value to the beatnick. She settled for the $800 he had in his wallet.
I say all of this to help make the following point - the money and lifestyle we see these guys living really isolates them from the change going on in the world at that time. As shown by the Roger and Joan's mugging a few episodes back, NYC is going to become a very different place in 1975 than it was in 1965.
Yeah, that's not bad at all. I've been rewatching Season 1 sporadically, and I just saw the episode where Pete and Trudy paid $30K for their apartment in 1960. I know it's been five years, and Pete has moved up from junior executive making $3500 a year at Sterling Cooper to junior partner at SCDP, but damn...
We already knew Don had that kind of cash: the sale of SC to the British earned him a nice windfall. I don't know enough about the inflation at the time, but it does seem like the relative dollar values have increased significantly over the course of four "Mad Men" seasons.
Was the apartment really $30k? Maybe I did a poor job following, but I thought it was just $3k.
He made 500 grand off that sale which is 3.3 million in 1965 and something like 3.5 in 62. And I don't think he was hurting for money before that.
Still, its not like they are saying goodbye to that money, is it? Unless I am completely unaware of how loans work, don't they get that money back when they pay back the loan? I guess at this point its not certain that they're going to be around long enough to pay it back, which makes Trudy's Titanic comment pretty on the mark.
3 grand in 1962 was worth $21,000 in present cash. You can barely buy a chinese takeout container in Manhattan with that kind of money. 30k makes Pete's qualms over taking that much from Trudy's dad a lot more realistic. Even for old money, a quarter of a million dollars isn't chump change.
So one of the the things I am trying to get to through all this money talk is this -
For "Don Draper", a guy who would be willing to walk away from everything in "his" life if confronted by the authorities over deserting the Army, he is showing an awful lot of character by ponying up all this cash. Or, do you think his personality is so fucked up that he would be just as "happy" if he lost everything and had to live like the Beatnick?
I still can't get a read on who this guy really is. Does he live every day thinking he is Dick Whitman pretending to be Don, or has he thoroughly convinced himself that this life he has constructed for himself is viable, actually his, and that he enjoys it?
The other question of the series is, would Dick Whitman ever have been capable of the success Don has earned for himself, or has it been an out of body experience for him? "Forget the boy in the box", indeed. No way Dick Whitman was as popular with the ladies. He was much dorkier - kind of like a Clark Kent/Superman thing...
Again, re-watching the first season really enhances a lot of what's happening currently, so this is something I have a better handle on than I would from ordinary memory.
First, Don is legitimately scared of being outed as Dick Whitman since he did desert the Army in a time of war, which is a crime that is ostensibly punishable by death...not to mention it would open him up to a slew of other possible lesser included charges including cowardice, fraud, and, uhhh...manslaughter. But remember, this is 1965 and Army records are still very much a paper enterprise. There's no such thing as DNA testing or biometric tracking, so barring testimony from someone with firsthand knowledge there's really no reasonable way for anyone to ever know that the "Pvt. Richard Whitman" that was buried was actually the real Lt. Don Draper. There are very few people that know the full story, and those that do either don't mind or have something to lose along with Don if the secret came out. He's not exactly tempting fate by taking out full page ads and dropping $150K checks now that the DoD has stopped the background investigation.
But to answer your other question, I don't think he's really Dick Whitman playing Don Draper at this point. He shut the door on his past life very quickly and very certainly. With Anna's blessing, he became a new Don Draper. How would he have ended up if he'd remained Dick Whitman, though? Hard to say, since he had a clean break. My gut feeling is that once he was clear of his stepmother and Uncle Mac the qualities that were beaten into submission as a kid were freed. Despite the stolen identity, our Don is still a self-made man; he's not using the real Don Draper's pedigree (engineering) nor his fortune. And to be completely honest, even the younger "Don Draper" that sold fur coats to Roger Sterling was much dorkier than the pussyhound we see now.
I saw it as very characteristic of who he is, actually. He is the kind of person who thinks he can buy off people's problems with money. He would rather part with $120 than be the guy who turns his back on an old friend in need—even though he knows it's pretty tacky of her to ask him the way she did (and that she will end up spending the money on heroin anyway). He sees himself as a benevolent guy, but is not actually willing to make any effort to help people—hence, he throws money at problems as an easy out. The money is an accessory to his ego (i.e. he uses it to build his image, not to live in splendor the way, say, Cooper does), so spending it on other people's problems is just as cost-effective for feeding his narcissism as the dashing suits he wears. Behind closed doors, he doesn't care about the money at all—hence why he is willing to live in a shitty apartment in Greenwich Village.
I think the Pete Campbell thing is a good example of that. On numerous occasions throughout the seasons he could have stood up for Campbell or made an effort to be a better boss/co-worker/partner/whatever, in the end it was easier for him to eat $50K than to have a direct conversation with Pete. The man-nod between them at the end was awesome, btw.
What was Peggy's line about "I thought you didn't go in for those kinds of shenanigans?" This seemed to be referencing something earlier but I didn't catch the reference.
The shenanigans was refering back to the fake fight Pete and Peggy orchestrated in the season opener; they hired two actresses to fight over a Sugarberry Ham at a grocery store in order to get the brand in the news and force the company to spend more money. It caused a minor blowup when the actresses went too far and got arrested, forcing Peggy to ask Don for cash to bail them out of jail in order to keep them quiet about the stunt. It worked (Sugarberry increased their creative budget), but Don told Peggy thought it was cheap and tacky and that SCDP wasn't in that kind of business.
And by the way, I think your thoughts on Don and how he uses his money are spot on. Nicely done.
I think it referenced Don's scolding when she had to ask him for bail money for the Sugarberry Ham publicity stunt.
After rewatching the previous seasons, I only think Don's bailout check was further testament to his inability to grasp the concept of money. When Don tells Betty about his life after the whole Dick Whitman outing, she says something like "I knew you were poor. You don't understand money". Don tossing his belongings in the a back alley dumpster, giving away thousands of dollars, all point to someone who does not value money in the sense that most people do. I think for Don, spending money was part of how he was expected to act. He had to play the part, with a nice but not ostentatious house, a Cadillac, nights at the Ritz. I think he might have believed that he would have aroused suspicion if he didn't take part in these things.
Once he's divorced the facade kind of comes down. I mean, he's living in an apartment in the village that is obviously below his means, writing away huge chunks of his net worth. At this point I think he's more concerned about having a business and something to devote his energy to than acquiring any more money that he never felt much attached to in the first place.
edit: I should read the previous posts more carefully. Oh well.
Yeah, and I can think of a couple of other instances this season where Don's odd detatchment from money was featured:
- First, when he told Peggy that her paychecks were the "thank you"s she desperately wanted for her work
- Secondly, when he offered the woman that found Sally on the train cash in lieu of an apology/explantion
- Lastly, when he gave Allison her Christmas bonus the morning after fucking her on his couch. Not to imply that it was a payoff, but now it makes more sense if you consider he's not really sensitive to how other people view money.
There are also other examples in previous seasons of Don showing eagerness to offer cash in lieu of confrontation. I think the best one is when he offered his brother Adam an astronomical $5000 to leave town after he showed up at Sterling Cooper, and of course offering to pay for Anna's medical and funeral expenses.
But going back to what Harry Coolahan mentioned about what Don does with his money on his own time, it makes his night out with Peggy in "The Suitcase" all the more interesting. Rather than taking her out for dinner and drinks someplace fitting his executive salary, he takes her to a diner with roaches on the wall and a dive bar. Those are the kinds of places Dick Whitman would hang out, and it says a lot about how he feels about Peggy that he'd take her there with him. He'd never take Betty to places like that, nor any of his other girlfriends.
The more and more I think about it, I'm starting to think Matt Weiner is a fucking genius. "Mad Men" is already higher than "The Sopranos" on my all-time list of favorite shows, and it's catching up to "The Wire" really, really fast.
And on an unrelated note, the Season 1 episode I watched last night revealed that Glen was 9 years old in 1960, which would make him 14 in 1965. I'm not sure if we know exactly how old Sally is supposed to be (Kiernan Shipka is just shy of 11), but now I'm starting to think Betty isn't entirely a shitty mother; keeping her away from a creepy teenager seems like a pretty solid move in my book.
Anyone else going to be pissed if Cooper doesn't return? Though they have made him a real background character in the past season he's was always interesting and good for a laugh. The actor is pretty old but I'd hope they could come up with a better exit for him than the abrupt one this past episode...
I'm very curious why he let in Faye into his apartment so quick, though. You'd think having a nice apartment would go hand in hand with the suits and the money. But he has let down his guard around her rather fast, telling her about Dick Whitman.
And btw, excellent analysis all around, you guys are opening my eyes to stuff I wouldn't think of.
"Shitty" in this case is relative. Don's apartment isn't like something out of an embarassing "Horders" episode, but it also isn't in the "right" part of town where old money socialites like Pete and Trudy Campbell need to live to keep up appearances. But it is nice enough to bring a booty call back to, when the need arises.