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Spoiler Alert Thursday

Mad Men:  The Good News”

I’m not sure I get the title to this week’s Mad Men.  Anna’s niece complains about her roommate, a Berkeley Jesus freak who keeps talking about “the good news.”  Maybe it’s that the roommate, along with Anna’s niece, really are good news, the harbingers of the new era?  In this episode, we see the onset of what we now think of as the “Sixties” — religious cults, hippies, love beads and drugs.  But they’re not in New York — at least for now, they’re all in California.

In California, even when Don learns that Anna is dying, the world seems new and wholesome and healthy.  It’s bright and warm; they hang out in Anna’s sunny living room and smoke pot; they go out to a club and watch youngsters dancing to surf music.  Anna’s niece, fresh back from Berkeley, is smart and pretty.  She unselfconsciously wears a bikini top with her shorts, and deftly — and compassionately — rejects Don, who, next to her confident youth, seems like a clumsy, lecherous old man.

In contrast to L.A., New York seems depressing and old.  This impression is confirmed when Don returns to New York.  Even when Don’s supposedly celebrating the New Year, the scenes are all dark, sad and markedly unhealthy seeming.  They hang out in dark basement comedy clubs, they sleep with hookers, and everyone drinks too much.

Don has escaped New York for California once before.  I suspect he’s too old though, to do it for good.  If L.A., in this episode, represents the future, it’s a future that has already left Don behind.

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August 12, 2010 - Posted by | Spoiler Alert Thursdays, television

5 Comments

  1. Several Christian bloggers have claimed that Anna’s statement, “I know everything about you, but I still love you,” is a summary of the gospel. Given the baptism imagery toward the end of season 2, again in connection to Anna, maybe that was purposeful.

    You’re right about the sharp contrast between California and New York in this episode — The Girlfriend noted that Anna somehow seemed younger than the last time we saw her, and we decided it might just be the lighting.

    When Anna’s niece claimed she would hitchhike home, I thought we were meant to remember the couple Don picked up, who then drugged and robbed him — except in this case, the drug was much more innocuous, and what was “stolen” from him was much more important than his wallet.

    ON OTHER SHOWS:

    It’s remarkable to me how often True Blood has preempted the slash fanfiction community this season — first Sam’s sexual fantasy about Bill, and now Eric’s murder-motivated tryst with Russell’s partner.

    We watched a few episodes of Sports Night, part of our ongoing effort to become Aaron Sorkin scholars, and a new Sorkin theme became clear: people in his shows bend over backwards to find a way of doing the right thing that will benefit them least or, preferably, actively harm them. I also started to wonder if Snuffy Walden knows where the bodies are buried or something, because his music for Sports Night is absolutely hideous, yet Sorkin kept him on. I mean, synthesized hand-claps?!

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 12, 2010

  2. I think the contrast has something to do with the duality in Don’s character, pretty obviously. In contrast to Don Draper, who enjoys fucking prostitutes and drinking his way into oblivion, Dick Whitman is a generous, kind human being who selflessly paints walls and even whose chatting up is relatively respectful. I just wonder how this tension is going to pan out – the Don Draper ‘character’ has messed up his entire life and seems to be getting further and further messed up – perhaps Dick Whitman might emerge more strongly?

    Suffice to say, this series is headed to a very dark place.

    Comment by Alex | August 12, 2010

  3. re: true blood

    to be honest i think part of the success of the show is how it’s integrated slash-ery into the show itself.

    Comment by sarah expletive | August 12, 2010

  4. Several Christian bloggers have claimed that Anna’s statement, “I know everything about you, but I still love you,” is a summary of the gospel.

    Oh, this makes so much sense — it was Anna who allowed Dick to be reborn as Don, by giving up Don’s name and identity.

    Anna’s line here worked on a couple other levels as well. It suggests that Anna is herself in love with Don — IIRC, the statement comes at some point after Don says that once Betty learned the truth about him, she rejected him, and Anna sets herself up in contrast to Betty’s conditional affections. And of course it underscores the magnitude of the loss Don faces — Anna is the only person, other than Adam, who knows Don’s secret and loves him anyway. Unlike Adam, Anna never even wanted anything from him.

    Comment by jms | August 12, 2010

  5. The most recent episode of “True Blood” maintained the pace that it had set thus far, making it by far the most consistent season to date. Again, a number of secondary characters are killed off, including Talbot (who I really liked) and some of the werewolves. Jessica finding happiness in violence was quite nice. The Sookie/Bill plot was, as always, overdone. I really don’t like Sookie. However, given how often she dumps him and then gets back together again (usually about twenty-five minutes of showtime later), it is abundantly clear that she never had a boyfriend in high school. This is the key to Sookie’s character: as she approaches her thirtieth birthday (I have no idea how old she is supposed to be), she is emotionally prepared to enter grade ten; the reason why she acts in such a juvenile matter is that, fundamentally, she’s realized that she can win president of student council at Supernatural High on the basis of her popularity (and, presumably, looks, as well as her willingness to take her bra off).

    But, returning to the issue at hand: it is clear that Russell will remain the primary enemy through the season, possibly into the next one as well. It is also clear that our rag-tag band of heroes are in no position to actually kill him–even Godric would not be able to overpower Russell. Bill has attempted to fight Russell twice now (making him the bravest and dumbest of the vampires) and Eric hasn’t tried yet, but Eric is likely smart enough not to get into a fight he can’t win. Either he has a plan to kill Russell or he is going to have to find a way to trick Russell into blaming an unknown third party (perhaps Sophie-Anne?).

    It would seem clear that Eric is the one who will have to cause Russell’s death on account of the vengeance angle, so this would preclude third parties from doing this (e.g., supervampiresoldiers sent by “the Authority). But this will have to be through some sort of trickery, like getting him out into the sunlight (as older vampires are more susceptible to the sun than younger vampires–a possibility: Bill didn’t burn up as quickly when he was thrown out of Alcide’s truck as in the first season, might a property of Sookie’s blood be temporary resistance to the sun? Will Eric have to nearly drain Sookie so as to be able to survive in the light?)

    I feel that the fanfiction community (something I have no familiarity with at all beyond the basic idea) will love the scene with Eric and Talbot. Their dialogue is fantastic. The same goes with the Bill/Sam encounter at the start of the season. It would seem that there are definite “nods” without the show becoming a parody. I’d credit this to Sera Gamble’s role in the production. While she was no longer involved in the show when the episode aired, “Supernatural” had a fantastic episode last season where they ended up at a convention dedicated to them (long story: the episodes from the first two seasons had been published as novels by someone who turned out to be a prophet who was unwittingly writing the “Gospel of Sam and Dean”). No one at the convention believed that they were real; everyone there was pretending to them; and the two dopplegangers they were closest to in the episode were actually gay and had met on a “web board” devoted to the novel. There were also the standard “panels” on the “homoerotic undertones of the Sam and Dean relationship” and so on. A few episodes earlier, when the discovered the existence of “Chuck the Prophet,” they were accused to LARPing and found slash devoted to them online (“As in Sam slash Dean.” “Don’t they know we’re brothers?” “It doesn’t seem to matter.”) I understand this particular brand of fanfiction is called “Wincest” (their last name is Winchester).

    Comment by Craig | August 12, 2010


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