Mad Men: The Mountain King

Mad Men Airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC

Episode: “The Mountain King” (Season 2, Episode 12)

Synopsis: Pete’s father-in-law may be affecting a business deal reflected by how Pete treats his wife. Don visits the “real” Don Draper’s wife. Betty begins to treat Sally like a grown-up girl. The partners at Sterling/Cooper have to meet to agree on terms of a merger. Peggy gets her own office. Joan brings her fiance to the work.

Review: The episode reveals some new wrinkles as they show the sides to characters that we don’t normally see. We get to see a nice moment between Pete and Peggy that’s not bogged down by their collective neuroses. We get to see the care-free Don in flashbacks establishing a friendship with the wife of the man whose identity he stole, as well as a significantly changed present day Don who shows no signs of wanting to return to his east coast life. Joan is given a few human moments as her fiance doubts her sexual honesty and even made to feel bad for Joan as something awkward happens in Don’s office. Joan’s shell has some cracks in it, and we’re beginning to see just how sad she may be. Betty finally admits to her daughter that her Daddy may not be coming back, and Sally, in a real genuine moment, fully accepts it.

This episode did a nice job of showcasing the female talent of the show. Peggy becomes more strong and confident in her abilities, while Joan begins to look as if she could crumble at any moment. Betty is the head of the Draper household, and avoids temptations with the man at the horse stable, unlike her friend, while Pete’s wife Trudy goes behind his back to get adoption proceedings started and then runs to her Daddy for protection. I especially liked Melinda Page Hamilton as Anna, the real Draper’s wife. She is obviously confused by Don/Dick, but ultimately accepts him and helps him realize the man Don will become. And through the shear genius of Jon Hamm do we not only get a clear pre- and post- New York Don Draper, he also lets us in on what he’s thinking. Dick Whitman was an optimist who saw an opportunity to make something of his life; Don Draper is a man who lives a lie, even though the people he’s betraying fully accept the man he’s become. I’m hoping something sparks Don to get back to New York, simply because the scenes in the office suffer without him. Some of the plotlines at Sterling/Cooper continue to make me upset, including Harry’s constant whining and selfishness just because the head of the “Television Department” doesn’t get proper respect and Paul comes back from his activism in Mississippi without a scratch, allegedly without his girlfriend, and still very little to contribute to the office dynamic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the strongest characters at S/C are Pete, Peggy, Joan, Roger, Bertram (who looks like he’s on his way out) and now Duck (who’s entirely absent from this episode). The others are decorations at best, yet half the storylines in this season have been dedicated to half-baked characters Sal, Harry, Ken, Paul, and now Jane, since she’s Roger’s “other woman.”

But, I digress. “The Mountain King” doesn’t really linger on any useless storylines. It’s a very solid episode with some dynamic acting by Hamm, more Vincent Kartheiser brilliance as Pete Campbell, and January Jones continuing to solidify that Emmy push for 2009. The episode ends with Don walking into the ocean, waves crashing on him, yet he is as serene as a baby with a bottle. Don Draper is refueling–and when he returns to New York to see that people are gunning for his job and his wife has written him off, we’ll see a “new” man with refined goals and the means to accomplish what needs to be done.

Next Week: THE SEASON FINALE!

For more coverage of your favorite shows, check out the Control Freaks Archive.

Did you catch this week’s episode of Mad Men? If so, please feel free to discuss is below.


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