Mad Men, Season 4

Week 3: When Mad Men Goes West
Talking television.
Aug. 10 2010 2:00 PM

Mad Men, Season 4


Week 3: When Mad Men Goes West

Lane from "Mad Men".
Jared Harris as Lane Pryce in Mad Men

Poor Laura Linney! She comes down with terminal cancer, and now she has to suffer Turner's comparison to the middling work of Melinda Page Hamilton, who can barely sell a broken leg, never mind the complicated emotional makeup that would lead a woman to offer unconditional, platonic love to a man who opportunistically stole her husband's identity and now stops by once a year for some psychological R&R when the strain of being a rich, successful ad man gets to be too much for him (and when he can get a decent connecting flight to Acapulco). Jeepers!

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

We'll have to agree to disagree about the Anna plot, Julia, but I thought your explanation for the role it plays in the larger Don Draper narrative was spot on. It's significant that the one person with whom he can be completely honest is now gone, and I suspect that absence will guide Don's actions (especially with women) in episodes to come. I just wish Mad Men had gotten to the same point with a brisk phone call from Anna's prim sister, as opposed to a 30-minute trip to California. Several of our commenters have made strong cases for that trip, but for me, the series loses its sense of pacing when it heads out West, downshifting from snappy to sluggish. (Speaking of pacing, what was with that time-lapse footage of Don on the couch? I felt like I was watching a National Geographic special on ad men in the wild.) The series sacrifices some of its vaunted style when it goes to California, as well. I get that the Pacific pastels are meant to contrast with the darker hues of Mad Men's Manhattan. But compared with the richly observed New York sets, the California ones look to me like they're on loan from Picket Fences. Yes, yes, I'm sure they're all just as period correct as everything else on the show. They're just boring to look at. Did you get a load of that slum of legs at Anna's house? Get me back to the land of Saarinen!


A couple of commenters have made the good point that Mad Men's visits to the West Coast offer Don a peek into the cultural future: the sit-ins, the grass (though Don's sampled that before, in the Village), the mild contempt for the advertising arts. "By dipping his toes in it out there," notes reader Timothy Gregorek, "he'll be ready for it when it comes home to roost—both in his personal life, but more importantly, in his creative life."

A final note on Don and Lane's movie night: Several commenters have noted that I apparently can't tell a giant lizard from a giant turtle—they say all those hand jobs were being doled out at a screening of Gamera, not Godzilla. Though as reader Dallas Wood notes, Gamera doesn't seem to have come out till late '65. A rare anachronism from Matthew Weiner? Egregious!

Bold prediction on the Jo-Jo/Dr. Rape front: She gets pregnant, and he ships out to Vietnam, where he's promptly deployed to the shit and catches a bullet, leaving Joan a single mom. You heard it here first.

How long has that bird's nest been up there?

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