Mad Men: Love Leave

MAD MEN: 5.06 “Far Away Places”

A fellow blogger tweeted about last night’s Mad Men: “This episode is Matthew Weiner daring weekly reviewers to make sense of it. I’m totally convinced of this.” That was only about halfway through the episode, right around the time Roger had his LSD, I think. Of course, having just watched a horrific and confusing episode of Game of Thrones right before, I felt like I was in my own hallucinogenic daze watching Mad Men. Toss in three different timelines, so to speak, and my mind was reeling. But one things for certain: This was one episode that was so funny, so sad, and so grim that you know it was well done.

We started with Peggy. In retrospect, Peggy really had the most normal of all the storylines, which is saying a lot since she got drunk and high and gave someone a hand job in a movie theater (ew). Facing the clients at Heinz again, Peggy was tense; after all, they didn’t like her bean ballerina idea a few episodes back. But as it turned out, they didn’t like her new idea either. And much like last time, Don wasn’t there to support Peggy — in fact, he wasn’t there at all. So Peggy tried to pull a Don. Only, being pushy and, well, honest doesn’t come across the same way from a woman. And she was removed from the account.

And you’d think that’d be it, except that we had a mysterious phone call from Don, asking if he had gotten any calls. And then we had an interesting interaction with Ginsberg, where we discover that he was born in a concentration camp, where his mother died. He believes himself to be a Martian, since it’s impossible for anyone to be born there. It was a sad story, and it was a big moment for Peggy, putting aside her petty fight with her boyfriend and asking him to be with her.

Meanwhile — and I literally mean meanwhile, since this happened at the same time — Roger is going to a party with his wife Jane, who looks more like Cleopatra than a 1960s housewife. Roger begrudgingly went to his wife’s friends’ party, and to his surprise, she was serious when she said they’d be taking LSD. Now, I’m sure that there is some rather severe significance of everything that happened to Roger during this time — the music in the liquor bottle, the 1919 baseball game — but really, it was all just damn funny. Sure, we can see his battle with a younger and older self when he looked in the mirror, but would the phrase, “Don’t look in the mirror,” mean more than that? Could it be that none of the people in this episode — Don, Peggy, and Roger alike — should be looking too introspectively for fear of what they’ll see.

For Roger, it was divorce, and while he was thrilled with the result, once the drugs wore off, Jane wasn’t. It was a sad realization — for us and her — but it looks like we’ll get our old Sterling back again.

Finally, we had Don and Megan, who were going to Howard Johnson’s for the weekend. Don pulled Megan away from the Heinz post to do it, and she wasn’t too pleased. In fact, I loved seeing her actually stand up to Don. Megan and Betty are two totally different people, and this was both proven and disproven in this episode. Megan has no problem with lashing out at Don, telling her what’s wrong. But her outbursts are accompanied with a little bit of the same childlike tendencies that Betty had. I’m thinking of her gulping down every bit of that orange sherbet.

But Don’s not without his own tantrums. Leaving Megan at that Howard Johnson’s was certainly a low point, and I’m glad we got to see the regret on his face shortly thereafter. And then, the panic. True, Don did eventually find Megan safely at home, but the chase around the house and angry words clearly show that there’s trouble in paradise. Don shrugs it off but Megan knows the truth: Each one of those moments just makes another dent in their marriage. And her implication is that it won’t last, no matter how desperate Don is to keep it.

It’s grim times ahead, especially with the final scene. We’ve said it from the start of this season: We’ve got a different Don this year. And frankly, it’s time to stop. The agency needs Don back at work, and his “love leave” is over. His department is in the hands of Peggy, and she’s not doing well.

So what’s next for Don? Will we see him in his advertising glory all over again? And what about Peggy? By the way we saw her walking away, going the opposite direction from the rest of her creative counterparts, I’m thinking she’s got some trouble ahead as well.

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Game of Thrones: A Garden of Bones

GAME OF THRONES: 2.04 “Garden of Bones”

Game of Thrones can be a pretty dark show; “Garden of Bones” was probably its most grim episode yet. The battlefield carnage, Lannister torture techniques, Joffrey’s sadomasochistic tendencies, and demon birthings helped remind us that Westeros is a nasty place.

Joffrey’s treatment of the prostitutes sent to him by Tyrion was brutal; I can’t be the only one who looked away when he handed that spiky looking scepter to Roz and ordered her to “use it” on the other girl. Tyrion knows that Joffrey is rotten, but I don’t think he knew quite how psychopathic his nephew really was. He’ll know once Roz reports back to him, and I assume that will make him a little more cautious around the crazy kid. It’s nice that we get to see Tyrion’s noble side, as he protects and covers up Sansa after her humiliation in the throne room. Interrupting Joffrey’s cruelty only made him more angry; he’s still too afraid to challenge Tyrion directly, but you can tell that the two prostitutes are suffering in part because of Tyrion’s nobility.

Meanwhile, Arya and Gendry are in the clutches of the Mountain, who’s torturing people to try to get information about something called “the Brotherhood.” The torturer asking the questions, though, doesn’t seem to interested in the answers; I think he’s more interested in their screams. Arya and Gendry are spared by the arrival of Tywin Lannister. Ever practical, he orders the prisoners to work, and recruits Arya (who he immediately identifies as a girl) to be his cupbearer. While still a prisoner, she’s no longer in danger of becoming rat food. At night, she takes Yoren’s advice and clings to dreams of vengeance, listing off the names of those she wants to kill.

Halfway across the world, Dany and her band come across the city of Quarth. They are denied entry until the city’s leaders can see her dragons. Dany blusters and rages at the merchants, threatening to burn the city down for their lack of hospitality, but she doesn’t let them get a peek at her scaly children. Instead, another foreigner named Xaro invokes some kind of ritual, taking (I would assume) responsibility for Dany and her people while they are in the city. The doors open, revealing a very interesting looking oasis-like city in the middle of the desert.

The episode ends with Davos smuggling the red priestess ashore for some mysterious purpose. They chat about morality a bit. Davos thinks that people can be bits of good and bad mixed together; like a true fanatic, Melisandre asserts that people are either all good, or all evil. They arrive at a cave, where the priestess drops her robe to reveal that she is suddenly very pregnant. As Davos watches in horror, she begins to give birth to a nightmarish shadow creature. We’ll have to wait until next week to see what that creature actually does, but its arrival can’t be a good omen for Renly and his knights of summer.

A few other things:

  • I noticed a fair number of departures from the book here; some new characters, some stories melded together or cut short, but it still all seems to work for me. The changes make sense, and are necessary.
  • We see the aftermath of another battle, when Robb and his army vanquish another Lannister force. I would love to see a battle scene at some point this year, but I understand that sort of thing is expensive.
  • Tyrion cutting down his cousin Lancel’s arrogant attitude was about the only bright spot I had in this grim episode. His wit really makes the show shine.
  • A quick note on last week’s episode: The montage of Tyrion telling Pycelle, Littlefinger, and Varys different versions of his plan was really smartly done. It might have been my favorite scene of the season.