Mad Men, Season 3

Week 1: What Was With Those Wackadoodle Flashbacks?
Talking television.
Aug. 17 2009 5:51 PM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 1: What Was With Those Wackadoodle Flashbacks?

John, you're a gentleman for declining to take me up on that ill-conceived JFK bet. But I can't agree that Trudy's hat was the episode's sartorial highlight. I did love the scene in which she wore it. The Campbell marriage seems to be on the mend, and we see how Trudy's rich-girl entitlement makes her a perfect match for Pete: She can empathize with his I-want-it-now petulance but has no qualms about bossing him around. Still, the hat didn't top my list. It was certainly the showiest bit of "Can you believe people used to dress like that?" apparel, but I preferred the uniform pants of Salvatore's eager bellhop, which proved once and for all that a high-waisted cut can be flattering to the derrière.

And one quick note on the eagerness of that bellhop: The pass he made at Sal was remarkably devoid of preamble. I wish he'd still been in the elevator when Sal made that uniform comment; the makeout scene would have made more sense if we'd first seen him notice Sal noticing him.

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Patrick, thanks for defending Don's awkward soliloquy on the plane. I think you're dead right that he was reaching out to Sal the only way he knew how. But this episode and particularly—let's face it, we have to talk about them—the wackadoodle flashbacks at its outset left me wondering how long Don will remain committed to, as you put it, "double lives and discretion."

Because as John smartly points out, these aren't flashbacks—they're visions. The Don of seasons past didn't want to think about Dick Whitman or even acknowledge his existence. (Hence his effort—more successful than intended—to get rid of his pesky brother with a tall stack of bills.) But the Don of Season 3 seems intrigued by Dick. Indeed, he's become a daydreamer. Even the detail John cites about how Dick got his name—at the moment of his conception, his sassy, smut-mouthed prostitute mother threatens to Lorena Bobbitt-ize his father if he knocks her up; at the moment of his birth (and her death), she feverishly repeats the threat and is overheard by the midwife—is pure fantasy. Somewhere in Ossining, N.Y., Don is conjuring up a sassy, smut-mouthed prostitute mother for himself and inventing his own convoluted nickname-origin story.

My beef with these visions is twofold. First, there's got to be a subtler way to convey Don's new interest in his own past. Compared with Mad Men's fully realized '60s, these gimcrack evocations of the '30s look half-baked. Second, what are we going to do with a Don Draper turned introspective? I'm dying to see how Weiner and Co. will handle that turn this season.

Julia

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.