Mad Men: The Musical
by MOLLY LAMBERT
Great episode. The viewers at home breathe a sigh of relief as Mad Men hits its stride in the third inning after two wobbly-kneed and tedious first attempts. All the gears are finally whirring. Everyone (Joan!) has shown up. Characters are mixed up and re-matched in new social settings. And so many GIF opportunities.
So Many GIF Opportunities:
Roger in blackface
Peggy getting high
Don Draper hopping over the bar
Sterling's wife v. Joan
Pete and Trudy's dance routine
Joan playing the accordion
Sally Draper stealing from grandpa
The Tigertones reunion
So many chances for things to go horribly wrong, and yet for the most part it went alright. Matthew Weiner clearly thrives on the narrative tension of awkward situations, and yet he does not go straight for the banana peel every time. Jane's alcohol induced collapsed was not followed up with one of Mad Men's trademarked "vomiting in public embarrassment" sequences.
Pete & Trudy's Charleston: America's Next Best White Dance Crew?
Are they setting the characters up to be happy just to twist the knife later? Joan's husband's lack of medical prowess being revealed with the suggestion that patients die on his table seems pretty ominous. As does the whole "Grandpa Gene" situation. Or is it possible that after two seasons of turgid misery the Mad Men ensemble's lives will finally achieve that "freeness" the sixties is so often associated with. Probably not.
the other contender: Monica and Ross's "Routine" from Friends
There were some overly long poetic monologues. That Sam Elliott type (Chelcie Ross) in the empty bar served no purpose other than to make me laugh with his rambling about "taking a johnboat down past the old mansion." Peggy's overly mothering secretary who won't go home was neither here nor there.
"IT'S MOHAIR!!! HE'S LIKE A TOTALLY IMPORTANT DESIGNER!!!!!"
But the Breakfast Club bit with Peggy and the other creatives holed up smoking reefer at Sterling-Cooper on a Saturday was delightful. Christina Hendricks may not be a real redhead, but she really plays the accordion. How she fits it comfortably over her massive (real) breasts is a mystery for the ages.
The cut from Peggy smoking the joint to the hallucinatory nightmare of Roger singing "My Old Kentucky Home" was one of many such touches that made this episode feel like the show is the Sopranos successor it ought to be. At its finest, Mad Men is a slow-paced and richly rewarding character drama (like The Wire). At its worst it's a campy soap (like True Blood).
I see you Patrick Bateman, hitting on my Peggy Olson, don't even think about it man!
Here's hoping the season continues in this fashion. I'll admit the first two episodes left me a little cold compared to this one, which I loved. Mad Men — like The Sopranos — theoretically follows one antihero while remaining an ensemble show at heart. Don Draper is cool, but he is just one of the eight million reasons we love this show.
In the end, it's really Pete Campbell's show. We're just watching it.
"Soil, Soil (demo)" — Tegan & Sara (mp3)
"Burn Your Life Down (demo)" — Tegan & Sara (mp3)
"Call It Off (demo)" — Tegan & Sara (mp3)