TV in Review: Mad Men, “A Little Kiss”
March 27, 2012 5 Comments
Exactly as hoped for Sunday morning on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show, we start to see more of the Civil Rights struggle as Mad Men progresses in the ’60s. That’s not to say that the show has shifted its primary focus away from the privileged folk at the advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but the season premiere on Sunday night opened with shots of black people protesting against economic injustice…
…while the white guys in the fancy offices above get annoyed. (Yeah, the more things change…)
These ad guys at a rival agency throw water bombs at the picketers down below. Of course, then as now, the anti-black violence was much more than water bombs, but I’m glad that Mad Men is including these scenes. I’m also glad that they don’t portray the good guys at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as enlightened when it comes to all issues of race. They’re a step up from the bigots at the rival firm, but they also have a lot to learn.
As with the racism, we’re also going to have a growing awareness in the series about war issues. I remember an older episode mentioning, in passing, that more “advisers” were heading to Vietnam. Here, we even have an argument over it at a party, and yes, capitalism is the perfect explanation for war-mongering.
BERT: The Domino Theory is not a joke.
ABE: The Vietnamese are fighting a civil war. There is no monolithic Communism. It’s an excuse.
STAN: Come on, Bert, it’s for profit. Bombs are the perfect product. They cost a fortune and you only use them once.
So, what about our main cast of characters? How are they reintroduced into our lives? (To those of you worried about spoilers, I will be talking a little about the plot, although this is certainly not a full recap.)
When last we left off, there was Don Draper’s marriage proposal to Megan Calvet. One of the aspects I most appreciate about Mad Men is that they eschew a lot of traditional television gimmicks, so I was hesitant about the proposal, but they don’t do anything like turn this into a wedding episode or draw out the will-they-actually-get-married drama.
We quickly say hello to a topless Don, opening the door to his daughter Sally…
And we say hello to a backless Megan, which lets us at least know that the two are still together, and that there are certain ties which bind them.
Sally’s obviously a bit perturbed by the new girl in town, although she’s not saying anything. At times I’ve been bothered by the low level of acting by the children. Yes, they’re kids, but it’s still possible to coach kids, as we saw with a big difference in the acting of the Harry Potter young ones, depending on which director they had on which film. Sally’s acquired a resemblance to her mother’s behavior that seems simultaneously natural (in that children really do develop mannerisms of their parents) and eerie (in that this particular mannerism implies a lot of turmoil underneath all the restraint). I like it.
Vincent Kartheiser is one of the actors who’s impressed me the most on the series. His character, Pete Campbell, started out as such a little bastard, and he can still be that, but Kartheiser (and the writers) give Pete an incredible depth and nuance. Although he still parrots idiotic lines about the rules of business…
PETE: “Stable” is that step backwards between successful and failing.
Annie comes back from playing with Troy and Abed and…sorry, that’s Alison Brie’s character in Community. In Mad Men, she plays Pete’s wife Trudy, and she also has a penchant for empty aphorisms.
TRUDY: Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition. It’s the coal that fuels the fire, you know that. Do you really want a dog?
In a reflection of the show’s capacity for subtlety, we learn that Don and Megan did get married through an off-hand reference while some co-workers are preparing a presentation Heinz and refer to Megan as Mrs. Draper.
Reconciling career and marriage is an issue for the women of Mad Men, and Joan Harris is not going to take it lying down when her mom suggests that Joan’s doctor husband might not want Joan in a job.
JOAN’S MOM: Joan, he’s not going to allow you to work.
JOAN: Allow me?
I love that Mad Men does awkward. Not just the typical histrionic yelling-at-each-other awkward that most dramas delve into at times, but the subtle, quiet, unarticulated awkward such as when Peggy lets her gripes about work come out with snark, also in the party setting. Those are looks of disbelief donned by Don and Megan.
While Megan’s musical performance is charming, but also oh-so-uncomfortable.
I haven’t looked at the critical response to “A Little Kiss” yet, but I loved it, and can’t wait for the next episode. I’ll leave you with two of my favorite lines from Sunday. First, Lane Pryce…
LANE: The two of them together couldn’t operate a parking meter. They’re imbeciles.
And last but never least, Bert Cooper…
BERT: Did you buy him a pony?
Never change, Bert, never change.
I give this episode a triple double martini on my Scale of Mixed Drinks. Welcome back.
Mad Men Season 5, Episodes 1 & 2, first aired on AMC on Sunday, March 25, 2012
Writing By Day: I’ve never met a Don Draper
Primetime with Peiser: Mad Men in a Mad Era
PagsPages: March Madness: Don Draper’s Ad Pitch, from Badger Brushes to Newsweek
The RepubliKa: Mad Men Season 5 Episode 1 and 2 Review: A Little Kiss