by Josh Radde
Mad Men Airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC
Synopsis: Betty starts writing letters to Henry Francis; Don starts to see Conrad Hilton as a father figure; a Sterling/Cooper account makes advances towards Sal.
Review: I need to air some grievances toward Matthew Weiner and the rest of the Mad Men writing staff. I spent the first 5–6 episodes on this web site blabbering on and on about how great the writing is – how even though much isn’t “happening” it’s all a part of some larger plan and we’ll start to see some conflict rising up any moment now. I’m sad to report that I think I’ve seen the hand you’re playing this season. Essentially, Don is unhappy, Betty is unhappy, Roger is unhappy, Joan is unhappy, Pete is unhappy, and Peggy is embracing her independence after so long of being unhappy. The new British owners have made Don mad but they haven’t really done anything unreasonable. Roger has been pretty much MIA the entire season (and his feud with Don doesn’t really make sense, anyway). I miss Joan. Pete has gotten more screen time this season than last season, but at least last season his limited screen time was more packed with character-study (all he did in last night’s episode was cough, pretty much). BAH!
But what made me more angry with last night’s episode was the direction and the writing. The writer’s really dropped the ball on a few moments. When Conrad Hilton says to Don that he’s “maybe more than a son” since he doesn’t have the wealth that was bestowed upon his old children, it was the first time we saw something child-like come out of Don. He looked like a kid, glowing, in that moment (which is what made Conrad’s disappointment later in the episode so eye-opening for Don), and something about just didn’t feel right. They’ve been trying to give Don a father figure this whole season, they even had him imagining his father sitting there in a motel room at one point. It was just sloppy to have that scene in there, mixed in with Jon Hamm’s reaction shot, that for the first time I felt like this show belonged on Lifetime (but again, I will give credit to the writer’s for striking Don down because he didn’t give Conrad “the moon” – but even that was a little too silly as well).
Two people said to Don that it must be nice to get whatever you want, whenever you want it and THEN he goes out and beds the school teacher, doing what he wanted when he wanted. Come on, writers: Where’s the subtlety that I loved so much?! In the next episode, is someone going to say “it must be nice to be so independent” to Peggy and then we’ll see her at the end of the episode being lonely, pining for something more? I just wish they’d dig deeper, because that’s what we’ve come to expect. If they can’t do that, and we have to settle for this “we’re going to tease you with conflict, and then pull back” like an idiotic show like Smalliville relies on every week, then they might want to start wrapping this series up before it gets Season 3 and 4 of Six Feet Under forced.
One more thing: We know Sal is gay, but why do all of his sub-plots have to be about being gay? We understand that back in the 60’s, concealed sexuality was a big thing; I just refuse to believe that it entirely defined someone’s life. Give Sal something to do on this show other than not go all the way with another dude. We’ve seen him be confronted by 3 or 4 men, have a crush on another, and be unamused by his own wife because he can’t satisfy her heterosexual needs. There has to be more to Sal than just how distractingly gay he is!
Alright. Grievances aired. Hopefully next week Weiner will show us why he’s the best writer in television right now. Plus, don’t get me wrong, even with the setbacks we’ve seen with Season 3, Mad Men is still one of the best shows on television. It kind of reminds me of the fourth Sopranos season, lots of people were put off by it, but it was still one hell of an entertaining show.