Mad Men, Season 4

Week 11: Stan's Good Side
Talking television.
Oct. 5 2010 3:23 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 11: Stan's Good Side

John, completely agree with you re: elision. A good season of Mad Men is like a skipping stone; each episode suggests the trajectory of the next, all leading to a satisfying, final plop. This year, we've been treated to a lot of "whoa" moments that leap too far ahead. Don coolly turns down Faye in the cab. Next week, Don and Faye are having supersex. Not that I envy the Mad Men writingjob: The characters have to be not only believable, but also surprising and period-correct.

Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton). Click image to expand.

As commenters have pointed out, the secondary characters have been underdeveloped this season. You already mentioned the two-dimensional Stan. What about Danny? He's basically a sight gag at this point.

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There's also some debate over whether Peggy's pitch to the Playtex team was successful. I downloaded the episode on iTunes, pulled down the shades in my room, placed a towel under the door, turned on captions, put on headphones, drank some coffee, duct-taped my eyelids open, and watched the scene again.

My initial sense was that Peggy botched it. The Playtex executive tried to signal to Peggy that she had lipstick on her teeth, and the way the clients cleared out of the room with Cosgrove suggested that they were skirting the scene of an accident. But now I think it turned out well and that the interlude was meant to show Stan's good side. Yes, his good side. Perhaps this isn't the most obvious way to interpret what happened, but I think Stan doesn't tell Peggy about the red streak because he calculates that the executives will pity her—that they'll feel too embarrassed to be hard on her. And that's also why she's not upset with him at the end.

Do you buy that? I also have a defense of Roger to put before you. The (somewhat muddled) theme of this episode is the Chinese wall the Mad Men characters erect between their work life and their personal life. The most cutting strike against this came from the silver fox when everyone was dog-piling on him for losing Lucky Strike: "You're the one who dragged me into your amateur hour. I was perfectly happy where I was. And why did I do it? Out of friendship. But now that the account's gone, I guess that went with it." He states the real reason why they are all in the room. He knows that separating work from life is a fiction. This is in contrast to Don, who is willing to believe Megan's assertion that her attraction to him has "nothing to do with work."

I suppose the show was trying to capture the idea that work defined a man's identity more so in this period than it does presently. That, like David Montgomery, a man was expected to dutifully give over his life to his firm, and that he expected to receive praise for it. Julia, what do you think of the notion that "mad" men yearned for a better work-life balance? Was that what was going through Don's and Pete's minds at the memorial service? Or would that kind of thinking be completely foreign to them?

And, let's stop tiptoe-ing around the big question. Two episodes left. Julia, do you see any way that SCDP will be saved?

Nobody talk. I'm really stoned,
Agger

Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.