Mad Men, Season 4

Week 3: Will Lane Roam Joan's Hillsides?
Talking television.
Aug. 10 2010 1:59 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 3: Will Lane Roam Joan's Hillsides?

John:

Re: your bold prediction. I can see Joan getting pregnant and the show giving us another tour of duty through the benighted birthing practices of the time. And, now that I think about it, Mad Men would probably do a fine job depicting Dr. Rape's tour of duty in Vietnam, as jarring as it is to imagine the show heading into Apocalypse Now territory. Or, more likely, Catch-22 territory. The scenes in Korea of Dick Whitman becoming Don Draper had the satirical, absurd flair of that novel.

Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris (right).
Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris (right)
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The show doesn't seem to know what to do with Joan. As we've noted, she has more responsibility at the office this season, and this episode gave us some insight as to how she still imagines herself: the alpha girl among the gaggle. She always seems to overdo it in the domestic sphere. That late-night dinner and the fresh orange juice that led to her wounding was classic trying-too-hard behavior (Has she been reading too many magazines? What did overzealous wives read before Martha Stewart Living?)

So here is my bold prediction: Lane will roam the hillsides of Joan at some point this season. Think about it. They both share a passion for order (loved her removing the pencils in the ceiling) and accounting. They both seem a little too adherent to social norms and niceties. They instantly agreed about firing the one unattractive secretary in the office. They understand that advertising is a service profession. And, like no one's business, they can fill out an … expense report.

Julia wasn't the only defender of the show's California dreaming—commenter "gary g" avers that the episode was a "mannered melodrama in the style of films of the 1950s, i.e. All That Heaven Allows." Perhaps that trippy couch sequence was a reference to Douglas Sirk. It certainly flew over my head, but then I've only seen the Sirkian homage Far From Heaven (which Mad Men certainly owes a hat-tip to.) Circles within circles!

Several people also informed me that the secrecy surrounding Anna's diagnosis is entirely believable. In fact, bad news is still sometimes withheld in hospitals today. I also received a note from Slate's own Fred Kaplan, who wrote the book on 1959, about the countercultural style. According to Fred, we can expect a clean-cut counterculture with jackets and ties until at least 1967 or '68 (when schools started relaxing dress codes).

Over to you, Julia. What do you think the chances are that someone on the show will actually write an ad next week?

Stepping out to that place with the beer and the abalone,

Agger

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

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