Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mad Men: "Forecast"

Spoilers ahead.
Everyone's looking ahead this week in "Mad Men," predicting futures and extrapolating potential fates.  Some have everything planned out and are resistant to any complications, like Joan's new beau Richard.  Some are resistant to the path they see laid out for them, like Sally.  And then there's Don, who's been tasked with writing a forward-looking statement for SC&P, and comes to the conclusion that he has no idea what he wants his future to look like.  Don's great at using the amorphous concept of the future to sell things - note his advice to his realtor.  But when it comes to the concrete details of his own plans, Don's stuck.  He'd better figure it out quickly, though, because his Megan-less apartment has just been sold, closing off the past behind him, while the final shot pulls away inexorably, threatening to leave him behind.
Joan finally makes it out to California, and finds someone to enjoy it with.  She sees a happier future for herself with the charming retiree Richard, played by Bruce Greenwood.  And she's willing to go to some lengths to secure it, lying about Kevin and then telling Richard that she's willing to give him up so they can be together.  After last week, Joan seems determined to put her own happiness first.  There's a cost to this though, which she is made painfully aware of.  Though Joan is a rare bird in her era who doesn't have to worry about her security, she can't be free the way that a man can be free - at least not in the role of single mother.  It astounds me that Joan would be willing to give up Kevin so quickly, but then we also have to remember that Peggy made essentially they same choice way, way back in Season One to secure her own happiness.
Joan's trip also confirms the staffing moves that happened during the break.  Lou Avery is now in the stagnant California office, replacing Pete and Teddy.  Don's the de facto creative boss in New York, even though that may not be his title at the moment, and he's still technically on probation, as Roger reminds him.  I'm going to make the prediction now, with all the chatter about McCann's demands over the past few weeks, that SC&P is going to end up on the chopping block.  The tagline for this season has proclaimed that it's the "end of an era," and I'm betting that means the end of the firm and possibly the end of a few careers.  Don could certainly still take a swan dive off the side of the building in the finale, but symbolic deaths are more important than literal ones in "Mad Men."  
Don remains on good terms with Sally but his womanizing is still a sore spot, especially as Sally has to watch both of her parents flirt with her friends in the same episode.  Poor Sally just can't catch a break.  Glen means a lot to her, but it's uncomfortably clear that he maintained the friendship with her in large part because of Betty, who he finally shares two tense scenes with again after years of maintaining his distance.  Glen is still playing grown-up, still out of his depth.  This time, though, Betty is unexpectedly kind to him, in stark contrast to how she handled their first encounter.  It's a solid endpoint to the Glen storyline, and a measure of Betty's slow maturation.  As Glen notes, she's still largely unchanged on the surface, but the ice queen has softened just a little.
Glen also brings Vietnam and the resulting peace movement close to home, after scattered references earlier on.  There are more hints of the '70s youth culture everywhere, from Joan's sitter to Sally's shoutout to Kent State to Sesame Street.  As much as the adults here fret about the future, the '70s aren't their time.  There's only one person whose future is wide open in this episode.  It's Sally, and she's fairly blase about it - maybe she'll be a lifeguard again.  The only thing she knows for sure is that she doesn't want to be like her parents, and Don's advice to her on that subject is excellent.  Of course she's going to be like her parents, but she has the ability to be more than her parents.  That could be the takeaway for the entire show.
The one storyline this week that struck me a little oddly was Mathis and the peanut butter cookie account.  Don also dispenses advice to him, as he did with Sally and his realtor.  When Mathis makes a mess of it, he blames Don and throws barbs about his success being the result of surface looks, nothing more.  Not true, of course, but it does prompt Don's self-examination.  Is Mathis supposed to represent the up-and-coming generation blaming his mistakes on the past?  Is he the product of the firm's toxic work culture?  Is he just another jerk?
There are a lot of jerks in "Mad Men," and we're not done accounting for all of them yet.

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