Review: Mad Men — The Rejected

By  · Published on August 17th, 2010

by Josh Radde

For those of you who read this weekly, I apologize. I was in Texas for an August wedding last week and was unable to expound on what I kept hearing was sort of a polarizing episode.

Last week’s “The Good News”, was pretty excellent, I thought. The first half with Don in California and meeting Anna.

These episodes with Don in California have always been a good change of pace because we get to see Don sort of drop his guard.

The knowledge that Anna is dying, however, surely added a sour note to the low-pressure goings on. Then I loved the drunken scavenging and frolicking with the ladies of the night with Lane Pryce. It’s always nice when the writers get to expand on characters we don’t really know that well, and it almost always delivers. Jared Harris was funnier and definitely more charming/nervous than we’ve ever seen Lane, so it was a nice change from the stuffy British man we always see. Plus we got some good Joan-time, and I can’t fault last week’s episode for that.

But on to this week’s which was very Peggy-Pete heavy. Peggy sorta gets hit on by what appears to be a lesbian (and then confirmed before episode’s end) and even makes out with a random dude in a closet. Love the direction they’ve been taking with Peggy this season. She’s very strong and independent and the change from how she was in Season One seems to have been so subtle, but consistent that you’d think two actresses were being paid to play the same role. Elizabeth Moss shined in the episode, from getting momentarily lost in the company of a wedding ring, to her reaction to finding out Don slept with his secretary (and the accusation she receives), and finally her inner-hippy coming out to play at a concert / art exhibit.

On the other side of things was Pete Campbell finding out that he’s going to be a father. Kartheiser seemed to play the episode with real joy as Pete finds this out. We usually see Pete Campbell as this whiny, snively, do-anything-to-succeed shark but to see him be warm is a welcome change. Also nice is anytime we’re reminded about Pete and Peggy’s “love child” and that final shot of them looking at each other through the glass spoke volumes about how well this plotline is carrying over from season to season.

It’s one of the great things about Mad Men. It bugs me when people say “that show is so hard to get through because nothing happens.” A. That’s not true; stuff is always happening. B. The writers are so good at subtly building characters and not forcing plot that it appears more realistic than your average TV show. And C. Stuff like the Peggy and Pete exchange is allowed to be a BIG DEAL because they don’t constantly hit us over the head with their fractured romance all the time that it still feels fresh when we get glimpses. It’s great writing and great acting, if you want action and a complex plot, go re-watch LOST.

Finally, I’ll touch on the Don plotline. We knew he had to deal with sleeping with his secretary at some point, I’m just glad they handled it in hilarious fashion.

That’s also something I’m noticing about this season. They’re dialing down the number of plot points they need to hit in each episode. If you remember Seasons Two and Three (specifically), there was always like 4–5 plot lines that would be marginally advanced in each episode, whereas this season they seem to be doing Don’s ongoing struggle with his inner monster and then coupling that with two other characters’ plots. We’re still too close to it to see how it will eventually unfold, but for a show that has always taken its sweet time taking EVEN MORE time to develop its characters, you’d think we’d be bored.

I’m not bored. Not even close. Are you?

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