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Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 14, "Person to Person"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 14, “Person to Person”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 14, “Person to Person”

Considering that “Person to Person” is the series finale of Mad Men, it’s best to start with its final images: the famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial from 1971 that married we-are-the-world humanism with an absurd and insidious kind of capitalism. Writer-director Matthew Weiner cuts to the ad just as Don (Jon Hamm) begins to smile, settling into his first meditation session at a new-age pavilion in Northern California. Is he imagining the ad? There’s not much to suggest Don is going to revert back to his life as a calculating ad man, especially after the way he reacts to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) saying McCann would take him back. More conceivable is the idea that even this seemingly positive-minded form of self-exploration will eventually be co-opted and dumbed down to sell carbonated sugar water to the masses. And as much as a way of processing existence, such as meditation, can be packaged and sold, so can people begin selling themselves as a product or a way of life, something that someone must choose over something else to prove their worth.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 13, "The Milk and Honey Route"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 13, “The Milk and Honey Route”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 13, “The Milk and Honey Route”

The title of last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Milk and Honey Route,” comes from a handbook for hobos written by Nels Anderson, who himself lived the hobo life in the 1920s before writing his sociological study of the behavior and function of homeless people. In essence, he argued that living homeless is as honorable and worthwhile a way of life as any other, and that’s the kind of life we might very well find Don (Jon Hamm) in by the end of next week’s series finale. Indeed, all the characters in “The Milk and Honey Route” seem to be closely examining how their lives should be lived, whether their death is imminent or the farthest thing from their mind.

Tribeca Review: Good Kill

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Tribeca Review: <em>Good Kill</em>
Tribeca Review: <em>Good Kill</em>

In Good Kill, filmmaker Andrew Niccol seizes on an unnerving and ever-relevant subject. It’s one thing to read of U.S. drone strikes daily in the papers and quite another to watch even simulated images of American pilots cramped in bunkers bombing Afghanistan, via consoles that resemble video games in aesthetic as well as mode of functioning. Real people are killed as casually as pixels in an Xbox game, and that distancing, yet another manifestation of the social media-enabled detachment that characterizes the amorality of modern life, arrives with an obvious, staggering price tag attached. With great ease comes little responsibility or accountability. If bombing 30 people from 10,000 feet above is a risk-free endeavor for the bombers, then it matters less to them, living half a world’s away, whether or not those people pose an authentic threat to their domain.

Logically, Niccol has fashioned from this subject matter a chamber drama that reflects the tight confines of the drone pilot’s trailer. Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a major in the U.S. Air Force who’s flown six tours in the War on Terror and is now uneasily resigning himself to a job at a console in Las Vegas. Despite the safety of his new occupation, and his newfound proximity to his wife, Molly (January Jones), and children, Thomas is beginning to exhibit signs of PTSD, most explicitly in his drinking, aloofness, and inability to sleep. The guilt spurred from the physical ease of the assignment is wearing Thomas down, as he misses the risk of actual flight, which blurs the political uncertainties of his part in the war through the sheer visceral fight-or-flight sensations of battle. In physical warfare, Thomas is extending his opponents the etiquette of endangering his own life; now, he can’t live with what he deems to be the cowardice of long-distance warfare.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 10, "The Forecast"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 10, “The Forecast”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 10, “The Forecast”

If there was something somewhat heartening about Don (Jon Hamm) not ending up with Diana, whose obsession and regret over her own past seems poised to haunt her to her final days, “The Forecast” makes it perfectly clear that the next thing isn’t always easy to pinpoint. In fact, the episode hinges on a series of actions and events that, depending on perspective, could be seen as backsliding or moving on. This, of course, begins with Joan’s (Christina Hendricks) meeting with Richard (Bruce Greenwood), an incredibly handsome, well-off older gentlemen who initially wants her to abandon everything and run off to Europe with him. His offer suggests a total abandonment of the past, including her child, but Joan, unlike so many of her co-workers, has a strong idea of what she wants out of life outside of her professional goals. Her son is a necessity, and part of the invigorating dramatic pull of “The Forecast” is watching Joan curtly reminding Richard that he is not.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 9, "New Business"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 9, “New Business”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 9, “New Business”

Before one can start new business, one must settle old business, and this is of primary import in last night’s episode of Mad Men. As Megan (Jessica Paré) returns to collect her belongings from Don (Jon Hamm), a number of ghosts get stirred up for more than one member of SC&P, and the episode hinges on what is the appropriate price for forgiveness and making amends with the past, or if there even is a price. In one of the more ghastly scenes, Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), in essence, attempts to rectify Megan’s marriage to Don and bungled career by offering her a good agent, but only if she’ll sleep with him. Just as Megan is trying to start anew, Harry is trying to reclaim an old crush, in the most crude way possible, and the episode makes a point of showing an array of ways the past infiltrates people and seduces them away from the present or, often enough, reason.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 5, "The Runaways"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “The Runaways”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “The Runaways”

It’s easy enough to say that “The Runaways” is the most substantial and refreshingly untamed episode of Mad Men’s seventh season so far, one powered by the strange ramifications of more than one eruption of repressed desires and hidden histories. Early on, Lou Avery’s (Allan Havey) dream of being a cartoonist is revealed and quietly ridiculed when Rizzo (Jay R. Ferguson) and the copywriters find a copy of his heroic-monkey comic strip. The realization that he’s become a laughing stock for the copywriters is a worst-case scenario for Lou, and when he lays down a scolding mid-meeting, Havey smartly accentuates the hurt and ruefulness of an artist scorned. He cites Bob Dylan as another dreamer and kindred spirit, but does so in a way that suggests a hurried deflection as much as cultural awareness.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 3, "Field Trip"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “Field Trip”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “Field Trip”

There are manifold parallels to be made between “Field Trip,” the latest installment of Mad Men, and Model Shop, the eerie Jacques Demy melodrama Don (Jon Hamm) is watching as the episode opens. The focus of the film is an essentially unemployed man who wanders aimlessly following an epic blow-out with his actress girlfriend, which is more or less what Don goes through when he decides to surprise Megan (Jessica Paré) by flying out to California. Even more telling, however, is the fact that Model Shop was Demy’s English-language debut and revisits Lola, the titular character of his smash first feature. Among other things, Model Shop served as a stern reaffirmation that you can’t go home again, and much of “Field Trip” revolves around an inability to notice that resilient adage.

Mad Men and the Empty Surreal

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<em>Mad Men</em> and the Empty Surreal
<em>Mad Men</em> and the Empty Surreal

So far, season six of Mad Men has been as sharply styled as we’ve come to expect from the series. As it makes its way through the ’60s, however, it feels ever more like a parade of red herrings. Each episode is an hour-long trance, seducing with crisp colors and sleek period details, offering clues that always lead nowhere. For the two-hour season premiere, it feels like the writers were playing a game of exquisite corpse, pulling “Betty,” “St. Marks’ Place,” and “goulash” out of fishbowls labeled “character,” “location,” and “prop,” then tasking themselves with making a scene out of their selections. These character/location/prop stagings have always permeated the series. For example: “Peggy,” “soundstage,” “Honda motorcycle”; “Sally,” “American Museum of Natural History,” “underpants.” It’s easy to imagine the writers creating scenes with almost any of the other characters in the same locations interacting with the same props; a Roger (John Slattery)/museum/underpants scene is, in the world of Mad Men, quite conceivable. There’s been lots of other randomness throughout the years: Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) doing the Charleston in 1963, Joan (Christina Hendricks) playing the accordion, Don (Jon Hamm) wearing a Jai Alai glove. Because the show’s characters are so fully realized, the discordant locations and props are all the more surprising and superficially interesting. What can you do with a character? Have them act out of character; drop them somewhere unexpected. Furthermore, the opportunities for prop gags in Mad Men are endless, focusing as it does on postwar advertising.

Mad Men Recap Season 4, Episode 13, “Tomorrowland”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Tomorrowland”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Tomorrowland”

Given that the third season of Mad Men came, with much fanfare, to an apparently ’game-changing’ conclusion, all eyes were on last week’s season four finale, “Tomorrowland” (written by Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner, and directed by Matthew Weiner), to one-up its predecessor. The episode turned out to be a much lower-profile affair; it confounded expectations by being shockingly not shocking. Fan predictions had ranged from the outright demise of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to Don (Jon Hamm) saving the firm at the eleventh hour by landing Disney as a client. Instead, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Ken (Aaron Staton) work to keep the company chugging along by signing a significant but relatively small-time pantyhose company as a client, and Don proposes to his secretary Megan (Jessica Paré).

Season three’s finale was exciting because it was the dissolution of the two institutions Mad Men had long centered on (Sterling Cooper and the Draper marriage), and the beginning of something new. We came into season four with endless expectations, not quite knowing what turns the show would take, but demanding that they be groundbreaking. When we were introduced in the season premiere to the new, modish, brightly saturated set, it was clear that things had changed, and excitement was bubbling.

Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 10, “Hands and Knees”

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<em>Mad Men</em>: Season 4, Episode 10, “Hands and Knees”
<em>Mad Men</em>: Season 4, Episode 10, “Hands and Knees”

A couple of times over the course of this season of Mad Men I claimed that Don Draper (Jon Hamm) didn’t have much at stake anymore in continuing to conceal his true identity. Turns out I was wrong. Well, at least half wrong. In my defense, in a key scene of this week’s episode, “Hands and Knees” (written by Jonathan Abrahams and Matthew Weiner, and directed by Lynn Shelton), Don confesses his identity switch to Faye (Cara Buono) with very little in the way of repercussions. Don confesses as if speaking into a void, like he’s not even cognizant of another person being in the room with him; he’s simply saying the words because he can, because he needs to say them, and perhaps the most shocking part of his confession is how easily the words pass from Don to Faye. Faye even seems pleased that Don trusts her with the information, and tries to play the role of caretaker, reassuring Don that everything will be alright. At one point even Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) expresses sentiments similar to Faye’s, telling Don that his past isn’t really all that scandalous, and that they could ride things out should the truth be revealed.