‘Mad Men’ Discussion: People Will Do Anything To Alleviate Their Anxiety

Well, well, well. We’re officially back with the Mad Men now, aren’t we? It feels kind of strange, yet familiar.

Anyway, I’m still not sure how I feel about last night’s episode. I was kind of “meh” on it when it was over but as I’ve had more time to chew on it I think I’ve come to appreciate it some. One thing’s for sure though: two hour Mad Men episodes are not my bag. That’s just too long; there’s too much to process. And it felt for a while — in the moment — that we were watching a bunch of nothing that led up to a final dramatic event. But again, I’ve come to appreciate it more after having slept on it and processed it a bit more.

So let’s get to it, shall we. As I’ve done in the past, what follows is a series of random thoughts, feelings and observations, interspersed with GIFs and screengrabs. Here we go.

– Okay, why the hell didn’t AMC show the season finale of last season’s Mad Men ahead of the show instead of Erin Brockovich? Like, seriously? ERIN BROCKOVICH?!?!?! I sure as hell would have watched last year’s finale to re-familiarize myself with the show, and I’m sure a million others, at least, would have too.

– I don’t know about you, but hearing the Mad Men opening credits theme music again made me feel positively giddy inside.

– The show referenced Dante and Shakespeare in the first half hour. Was this a bit of subtle product placement for Penguin Classics or something?

– “The worst thing after not getting what you want is someone else getting it.” — Roger Sterling.

– It probably shouldn’t be but it was so weird for me to see Don Draper actually smoke a joint. I still recall the disdain he held for artsy downtown hippies in the earlier seasons.

– For the first quarter of the show, Don looked utterly shell-shocked and confused to me, like he didn’t know who he was or why he was there. And when he got wasted and threw up at Roger’s mom’s funeral, I was honestly struggling to wrap my brain around what exactly was going on in his head. Thankfully, I think Alan Sepinwall nailed it for me.

Don tries to remember what’s real and what isn’t through the lighter he got in Korea, which is not only a reminder of the identity switch, but its cause, since he dropped the thing(**) and caused the fire that blew up the real Don. When he realizes that he accidentally switched lighters with PFC Dinkins — a man who had earlier talked of one day wanting to essentially take Don’s identity, and yet who seems very likely to die in Vietnam before his tour’s over — it completely unmoors Don. A wake for someone’s mother would never be his ideal scene, given what we know about Dick Whitman’s childhood, but having to attend it right after the lighter discovery turns him into a liquid, puking mess.

Additionally, we learn later that Don is boning the wife of a good man who contributes things much more important to the world’s greater good than the stuff Don contributes, and that has to be weighing heavily on him as well.

– Don barfing at the funeral reminded of that glorious time Roger barfed all over the office.

– So what the hell did Jonesy see when he died? Don long-dicking the wife of the man who was saving him?

– I kind of love that Megan landed a regular gig on a soap opera. The encounter she had with that woman who recognized her in Hawaii reminded me so much of encounters I’ve witnessed when hanging with soap actor/actress friends of mine. The people who watch those shows become so heavily invested in them — I suppose that has something to do with them beaming into their home on a daily basis — and they almost always would talk to my friends as if they were actually talking to the character when meeting them. “How could treat Shelly so terribly?!” It’s always been something I found rather fascinating.

– If Vegas would have placed odds on potential Betty Draper storylines for this season of Mad Men, her becoming a den mother to a bunch of homeless East Village hippies bedding down in a flophouse would have been the last one I’d have picked.

– Kind of loving the new Sally Draper who calls her mom “Betty” to her face and shuts the door on her when she’s on the phone.

– “She’s just in the next room. Why don’t you go in there and rape her. I’ll hold her arms down.” — Betty Draper.

– That scene in the car with Betty and her mother-in-law and Sally and her friend just slayed me. “I can’t imagine it getting any darker that this.” “My mom’s dead.”

– Seeing Peggy and Stan on the phone having a late night gossip-y conversation was kind of great.

– When I first moved to New York in 2002, just about all deli coffee was served in those Greek “I am happy to serve you” cups. You rarely see them anymore. I miss them greatly.

-Am I the only one who got chills during that AMC promo in which Walter White goes, “I’m in the empire business”?

– I had to rewind the scene of Don in his office with the photographer who instructed him, “I want you to be yourself.” Going back and looking at it a second time it’s clear that he has no idea what that means.

– Did anyone notice the A&P paper shopping bag on the counter in the Francis home? I swear my grandmother used to have the same bags in her home when I was a kid.

– I really enjoyed seeing the return of “The Wheel” and Don once again looking nostalgically at a person and a life he seems to barely recognize.

– I love how when his secretary burst into his office in tears the first thing Roger thought to do was go right for the vodka. Love that man so much. Roger Sterling awkwardly comforting his crying secretary by rubbing her back with the two tumblers of vodka he has in his hands is EVERYTHING.

– Conversely, seeing Roger Sterling’s not-give-a-sh*t persona come crashing down in a wave of tears was a punch to the gut. Not sure I wanted to see that.

– Something semi-off topic, but totally relevant: good lord Jessica Paré is a beautiful f*cking woman.

Just look at this old headshot of hers…


Okay, back to business…

– “What are the events in life? You see a door, the first time you come through it you say, “Oh, what’s on the other side of the door?” And then you open a few doors and then you say, ‘I think I wanna go over this bridge sometime, I’m tired of doors.’ But then you go through one of these things and you come out the other side and you realize that’s all they are. Doors, and windows, and bridges, and gates, and they all open the same way, and they all close behind you. Look, life is supposed to be a path, and you go along and these things happen to you and they’re supposed to change you, change your direction but it turns out that’s not true. Turns out experiences are nothing! They’re just some pennies you pick up off the floor, stick in your pocket, and you’re just going in a straight line until you know where.” — Roger Sterling

– You think Matt Weiner checked to see if it was snowing on New Years Eve 1967? Yeah, maybe.

– Let’s talk about the new, late 60s facial hair some of the guys were sporting last night, shall we.

First, if there is a such thing as impotent sideburns, Pete Campbell has them…

Stan’s power beard may have been the best thing about last night’s episode…

Ginberg’s stache is just so perfectly Ginsberg…

And finally, Harry Crane’s sideburns are just groovy, man…

File this away as a GIF to send to your ex whenever something reminds of you of them that made you want to tell them to f*ck off.

– Is Peggy the new Don Draper? Holy sh*t Peggy is the new Don Draper, isn’t she?! Seeing her dressing down a bunch of young creatives was just AWESOME.

– And finally, HOLY SH*T DON DRAPER IN BED WITH DR. ROSEN’S WIFE, AKA LINDSAY WEIR FROM FREAKS AND GEEKS! So it all led to this. Old swinging dick Draper is back, and he’s once again conflicted as all hell: “I want to stop doing this.” I’m still not sure how I feel about this.

– You have to admire the way the Mad Men folk have perfected creating “coming up next week” previews that tell the viewer absolutely nothing about what’s coming up next week on the show.

– By the way, if you watch the college basketball national championship tonight, I defy you not to look at Michigan coach John Beilein and not think of Duck Phillips.

Your thoughts are encouraged in the comments.

(Screengrabs and GIFs via Chet Manley, 30 FPS and the internet.)