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Mad Men: "Waterloo" OAD 5/25/14 ***SPOILERS***


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 26 May 2014 - 03:37 PM

MM707-01.jpg

 

The moon belongs to everyone

The best things in life are free

The stars belong to everyone

They gleam there for you and me

 

The flowers in spring

The robins that sing

The sunbeams that shine

They're yours, they're mine

 

And love can come to everyone

The best things in life are free

 

The casting of Robert Morse as Bert Cooper, the eccentric oldest partner, always seemed a bit of a puzzle. Not that Morse wasn't great in the part, but it seemed like the talents best seen in the 1961 Broadway musical and 1967 film How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying were being wasted though Without Really Trying made for an amusing inside joke. But Matt Weiner does like to make us wait. And so in this episode we got to see Morse as the ghost of Cooper do a soft-shoe-in-socks version of "Best Things in Life Are Free" directed at Don Draper.

 

As I noted two episodes ago "Mad Men" is many things to many people, but at its core it is the story of Dick Whitman aka Don Draper. And at the end of this season "7A", 10 years of American life portrayed in "Mad Men" has put a man on the moon and transformed Dick/Don, giving him more humility, less fear, and a better understanding of his relationships with women.

 

This transformation began last season when he acknowledged at work and even more importantly to his children, who he is. Dick Whitman rose from an impoverished life (impoverished in term of wealth and the emotional support usually found in a family life) during The Great Depression. He took advantage of a situation in war to become Don Draper, whose background he put to good use, if a rags-to-riches life story is "good."

 

At the end of this "half-season" we see him simultaneously become rich and secure in a career that until Bert Cooper died seemed at the end. We see him losing Megan but choosing not to take advantage of the women throwing themselves at him, whether the young secretary or the mature sophisticate on the plane, in contrast to the Don Draper we came to know.

 

And in this episode we see him step back to give Peggy the limelight in the presentation to Burger Chef, another remarkably effective pitch scene among the ones we have watched over the years.

 

So before "going into the light" Bert reminds him that the best things in life are free and love can come to everyone. No one with Dick's background is going to fully embrace the idea that "the best things in life are free" can be an adequate substitute for having enough money to keep you out of poverty.

 

Also I can't picture Don and Peggy as an enlightened couple, so how love will come to Don is unclear, if it does at all. But in another one of those extremely effective intimate scenes with few words, Don tells Megan he's about to be fired and maybe could come out to California. Megan let's Don know their marriage died with just one word "Don...." (I guess I can quit worrying as it was Bert who died and Megan is still alive in her bikini.)

 

Anyway, in this episode Bert Cooper's death allowed Roger to step up and take control at SC&P, defeating Jim Cutler's machinations, though I had to smile at the description of Cutler downsizing the firm to himself, Harry Crane and the computer.

 

Roger has been "elsewhere" all season until his showdown with his daughter last episode. But realizing he could lose the firm and Don, his last friend from the partnership, Roger goes back to McCann Erickson and pitches a buyout giving McCann 51% ownership of SC&P while SC&P would operate independently under Roger's direction.

 

At the end of the SC&P partner's discussion of the buyout, even Cutler wants to be a millionaire. But McCann wants both Don and Ted. Ted, who early on in the episode cut the engine on his plane while in the air with some clients, is suffering a mid-life crisis and isn't sure he wants to stay in advertising. But Don comes through with a pitch that gets Ted to acquiesce.

 

As an aside, poor Harry Crane. He missed out again. Even if he were to become a partner next year he won't get a piece of the buyout.

 

Which brings me to the background activity that dominated this last episode - the Apollo 11 mission. As always, it is important to note how history is used in "Mad Men." And in this episode the family, dysfunctional and/or peculiarly extended, was the theme surrounding the Apollo 11 moon landing. As Neil Armstrong, a Korean War vet like Don, stepped out onto the Moon's surface, we saw each of these scenes:

 

MM707-02.jpg

 

My old brain cannot remember a televised live event that created this type of American "coming together" in a shared pride of accomplishment. It was important enough to worry Peggy that the astronauts might not make it, thereby delaying the Burger Chef presentation.

 

And I don't remember anyone so self-involved that they were grumbling about the cost during the landing. I suppose the older kid in that top scene offers us a hint that there will arise a "self-actualizing" generation that will use all the underlying technology created by the space program to prevent any future such national effort offering shared economic benefits.

 

There was one scene associated with the "coming together" that was poignant and important. The neighbor's kid Julio is back at Peggy's apartment to watch the Moon landing mission (he doesn't have a TV). As we now know that the character Julio is there to remind us that while Peggy may have made one giant leap at the office, there has been a price.

 

Julio: I don't want to go to Newark.

Peggy: Nobody does.

Julio: My uncle has a house and he got my mom a job. I don't want to leave.

Peggy: You're moving?

 

Julio then hugs Peggy.

 

MM707-03.jpg

 

 

Peggy: Well that's ok. Maybe you'll have a yard. You want you're mom to have a job, don't you?

Julio: She don't care about me.

Peggy: Yes she does. That's why she's moving.

 

Mother's do many things for their children. Peggy wipes a tear from her eye. We know that tear is not really about Julio moving.

 

Through Peggy this episode continues to raise difficult questions about American culture and the family. Part of Peggy's strength in the Burger Chef presentation is her standing in for the mothers of America simply because she's a woman. And yet, by its very nature the Burger Chef booth is being sold as a replacement for the family home dining table. And it's being offered as a way to recover the traditional family dinner. We can see it as the ultimate TV commercial - promising a chance to capture something that isn't there and maybe never was for most.

 

This "half-season" may have had its weak moments, but with this episode as a season finale it compares well with many of the 13 episode seasons. Sure it had its weaknesses and odd episodes and moments, but that has been true for every season.

 

Regarding this episode, it's worth remembering the character Bert Cooper in another scene involving death. When in season 4 Don's old secretary died, Bert offered a eulogy: "She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She’s an astronaut." And so it was fitting that a significant event in this episode was that Bert died while watching the Apollo 11 mission. And his ghost sings to Don "The moon belongs to everyone."

 

Which leads to the big question about next year's half season. Can Don lose his negativity about his life as expressed in last week's episode. Will he end up consigned to live alone on a metaphorical island without anyone despite his successes? And so we must wait to see.


Edited by phrelin, 26 May 2014 - 03:47 PM.

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#2 OFFLINE   Gloria_Chavez

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Posted 26 May 2014 - 10:14 PM

Bravo, Phrelin.

 

Enjoyed your insightful review.


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#3 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 05:07 PM

Excellently done, and I regret I only have a moment right now.I hope to flesh this out tomorrow.

 

-Megan's probably gone, and that's a good thing since if you looked at the way she was written you'd think she had multiple personalities. She was back to "mopey megan" this episode, with no sight of the happy woman who had a 3-way with Don.

 

-Hopefully Lou Avery's gone too, they didn't know what to do with him. 

 

-Liked the episode and the way it paralleled a real life event into the lives of the SC&P crew.

 

-Overall though, this was just too easy... the guy from McCann must have worked all night to write up the deal which is basically impossible, and how lucky was it that he was lurking around all season. Don's back, Peggy even likes him now, and even Jim Cutler changes his mind way too easily. 

 

If this were a real final episode I'd be unhappy about the way they tied this up in a neat little bow. Great to see Robert Morse with a musical sendoff, even if it made no sense. Totally willing to forgive that.

 

Oh, also since we're into this week and not last week, I never did get to ask, who the heck thought Bob Benson should propose to Joan? Isn't she, um... ALREADY MARRIED TO GREG MARMALARD HARRIS? Was it ever fully decided that they got divorced? 


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#4 OFFLINE   David Ortiz

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 06:23 PM

Joan was served with divorce papers just prior to test driving the Jaguar with Don. So we can only assume that they aren't married anymore.

#5 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 01:59 PM

Oh well that makes some sense. Must have missed that. Still hoping we'll find out he was killed in Viet Nam.


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#6 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 03:52 PM

I doubt he'll show up as the CEO of a rival ad firm! And don't think he'll show up at all.... I am waiting for Sal's return. And will we ever learn what happened with the creepy kid played by Weiner's son? 

 

That character and the kid that shows up across the hall from Peggy's are similar in my mind, and they must mean something, but my brain hasn't rummaged across it yet. Phrelin? Stuart? 


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#7 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 04:53 PM

I think both of them are avatars for the young Matthew Weiner. Perhaps Glen's role was cut short because young master Weiner did not want to be thought of as creepy by the whole country, and this is a way for Weiner the elder to bring in some of the same themes. 

 

Looking back on the season as a whole, yes there were times I was disappointed and it's largely because most of the supporting characters were written so inconsistently. Even Roger, riding the season's white horse toward the end, never showed for a moment what he was capable of until Cooper died. I get it, people change when a loved one passes but that's pretty darn dramatic. 

 

I guess that even though my favorite episodes were the ones with "happy megan" those episodes didn't really follow the season's arc and are probably best left forgotten. 

 

A bit of a note from last week about "Burger Chef"... the abandoned hamburger stand that was used is in one of the most horrendous areas of Southern California, an area so full of misguided leaders that their city-wide 8th grade class was required to write essays on whether or not Holocaust deniers are actually right. I had heard for some time that the restaurant was used for a Burger Chef, although all things considered if you really look at it, they've masked out all the surroundings and it would have been just as easy to mock it up in a studio. 

 

It does seem perhaps that the network was tightening budgets, at least talent-wise, for look at who we've likely seen the last of: Ginsburg, Cooper, Megan, Lou, Bob Benson (admittedly his role this year was a cameo), Trudy Campbell and I do think Henry Francis is teetering on the edge. I wouldn't be surprised either to see very little of Cosgrove in the final half of the season. All that suggests we're never going to find out what happened to Sal Romano, which is a shame.


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#8 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 11:40 PM

Logic would suggest that the last seven episodes focus on Don and Peggy, with some emphasis on Roger,  Pete, and Joan. But my logic doesn't work when attempting to anticipate Weiner. I really can't imagine the last episode of the show because I have no idea what the six episodes leading up to it will be like. In an interview Weiner says:

 

The second half of the season is a continuation of what you saw. What's happened in the show is going to be taken into consideration as we move forward. We tell the story on a very human scale — there's no explosions or gunplay. The only ammunition we have is the mystery of what we're going to pay attention to. There are going to be stories in there that people probably think are frivolous that I've always wanted to tell. Stories like Betty and Bobby going on the field trip is something I've been talking about in the room since the first season. It's nice to find a place for something, but there's going to be a lot of stuff that never ends up in the show. We're dealing with that now. All I can tell you is everyone here has every intention of engaging the audience through the end of the show.

 

And so I scratch my head and wait....


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#9 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 07:34 AM

My rebuttal is from my review several weeks ago... this show doesn't just belong to "you" anymore Mr. Weiner, we've all invested in it and maybe we don't what the same things you want. 


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#10 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 30 May 2014 - 06:05 PM

My rebuttal is from my review several weeks ago... this show doesn't just belong to "you" anymore Mr. Weiner, we've all invested in it and maybe we don't what the same things you want. 

 

Perhaps not, but if you don't care for the direction the show is going

or other perceived shortcomings, you are free to change the channel.

As for me, I watch MM but I'm certainly not "invested" in the show.


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