And so, after a year and a half hiatus, last night was the season 5 premiere of Mad Men. ZOOBIE ZOOBIE ZOO, indeed. We got to see Don’s new apartment, and black people, and Joan’s secret love baby, and we got to hear Sally Draper’s new Melanie Griffith voice. But, like, can we talk about how that was a pretty terrible episode? I say that as someone who not only was very excited for the episode and is a fan of this show, and who also happened to watch it in California time and so was avoiding SPOILERS but did happen to see at least one Facebook status update before the show started about how the episode wasn’t good but was therefore even more inclined to like it, just as I was when I saw Star Wars Episode The Phantom’s Menace weeks after it opened (long story, not important) and so saw the movie in the full flush of Public Jar Jar Binks Rage but was determined to prove everyone wrong and say that it was actually pretty good and they were missing the point only to find that it was obviously so terrible and everyone was right on the money. What I’m saying is that I sure wish last night’s episode had been good but boy oh boy it sure wasn’t. Mainly, if I had to point to one real problem it was the. Pacing.
What was that pacing? So many crazy long pauses between everyone’s dialog. Imagine a scene where someone was supposed to just be casually walking down a hallway, but so the first thing you see is them just standing right at the edge of the frame looking for the signal to start walking and two seconds go by and then they sort of half-nod and walk so casually down the hallway but you’re like, well, wait, what were those two seconds of stiffness all about? That was the whole episode. This is mostly a problem from the directing/editing side of things, which, holy moly, I mean, guys, did you watch the episode before you turned it in? And it didn’t feel consistently so jarring and weird and off-putting to you? Huh. Fair enough. Collect your paycheck from the girl on your way out.
Also, hey, I get it, Don didn’t like his party. How many conversations are we all going to have in real time about him not liking it? Oh, 100 billion? Great. Where are we at this point? Where’s the season going? Is the cleaning lady ever coming over? Will Meghan have to throw the rug off the balcony now that they RUINED it with their weird, disjointed, “don’t look at me, please look at me, why are you looking at me” revenge sex? Peggy hardly even recognizes Don because he’s “happy,” which is odd considering how unhappy he seemed to be all episode. But she said he was happy and unrecognizable so I guess he’s happy and unrecognizable. Good character development. It’s just like how Peggy can’t hold a baby because one time she had an abortion. No, totally, I know, right?
Two whole hours and not a single minute of what’s up with Betty? Fair enough. She lives in a castle now? I don’t know. We don’t know yet. Wait another year and a half, you’ll see.
Easily the most ridiculous and impossible thing to believe was that Pete’s weird Staten Island 6AM Coca Cola meeting prank would actually work. Come on! Roger is just going to wake up and go to Staten Island in the middle of the night? He thinks that is how business with a major client is actually conducted? Nonsense. Nonsense! No. It’s not even clear what is going on with him and Pete anyways. Why IS he always swooping in on his meetings? I understand why he wants to have a big office, because big offices are nicer than tiny crappy offices where you are constantly awkwardly and unbelievably prat-falling your way into broken noses against support beams (WOMP WOMP!) but what’s with the sabotage? Who knows. Did Don like his party or not?
To give you a sense of how problematic last night’s episode was, despite scenes between Joan and her beleaguered mother, and discussion of the impending civil rights movement, and any other of a number of real dramatic things, the best scene was the one where Roger told Harry Crane to give up his office. HUH?!
But, so, I think that all of the problems with last night’s episode, which, again, were largely due to some very weird directorial and editing choices, although there were also just some weirdly written lines of dialog and some stuffy acting to be sure, but all of it can be traced back to one thing in particular, which is not the actual Problem itself, but seems to be indicative of something that’s going on here that we should be concerned about. You see, in the first four seasons of this show, we were led to believe that Don Draper was a dashing, horrible womanizer. He had his way with everrrrryone. Clearly, women found him attractive, and we saw the results of this through their actions (sex). But people didn’t constantly TALK about how handsome he was, because that would be a bit ON THE NOSE. We know he’s handsome, we have eyes in our heads, too. But on last night’s episode there were giant clunkers not once but TWICE in which women on the show would point out how handsome Don was. The first was at his party (which I think he didn’t like, but I’m not sure, hopefully we will find out in the season finale whether or not he liked his party) when Roger asked his young wife why she never did the Zoobie Zoobie Zoo dance and she asked him why he didn’t look like Don. And then later in Price’s office, when he is telling Joan about all the fun she missed at the party, she says something to the effect of “I can’t even imagine how handsome that man is when he blushes.” OOF. What? Joan?! Mad Men?! Show don’t tell, Matthew Weiner. Show don’t tell and tell and tell and tell.
Fingers crossed for next week! Seriously! All of my best wishes for next week!