Mad Men: Babylon
"It was interesting...like watching a dog trying to play the piano." - ad guy Fred, about Peggy's great lipstick ideas.
Someone sent me an e-mail after last week's episode, and the person said that they didn't like Mad Men because "nothing ever happens." I disagree with this statement strongly, but I know what they mean. Nothing ever happens in the sense that there aren't any cliffhangers before each commercial, there aren't any explosions or murders, and there isn't some incredible event that pushes the show in another direction for the next episode. But to say that "nothing every happens" as a general statement about each episode is proof, I think, that we've been conditioned to expect all shows to be the same, and if they have a different pace then it's "boring" or "nothing ever happens."
If Mad Men is boring, then all shows should be this boring.
So Joan is having an affair with Roger. That slut! I'm talking about Roger. We met his wife and daughter this episode, and for some reason I just didn't think he was cheating on his wife. His daughter seems to have the hots for Don (wouldn't that be an interesting plot development down the road if that were to ever happen). I like how when Roger tells his daughter that he likes her pigtails because "it makes you look young," she responds by saying, "I like your hair daddy because it makes you look old").
This episode was about lipstick and Israel. Not necessarily in that order. Don and the guys have to come up with an ad campaign for Israel as a vacation spot ("How can we do that when Bermuda is only 3 hours away?"). This isn't easy, so Don calls Mencken for an "expert's opinion" on Jews and Israel ("Am I the only Jew you know in New York?"). He also wants to have an affair with her while he's having an affair with Midge and also taking care of wife Betty and his kids. All while smoking constantly. He's a multitasker.
This opens up some rather blunt and frank talk about Israel and Jews that you don't hear that much on modern-day set shows. Mad Men has gotten a lot of kudos for it's writing and dialogue, and this is another example. It's an interesting balancing act, trying to talk about people and society and places and products from 47 years ago without doing it just because it's so "cool" to contrast how things were back then with the way they are now. If it's too obvious it would seem gimmicky. This show does it just right. There's no hitting over the head with pop culture and music references. They do it through products in the background and ad campaigns and discussions of the book "Exodus" and Rona Jaffe and IBM typewriters and the clothes and all that cigarette smoke. Well done.
When Mencken leaves their lunch meeting after telling Don all she seems to know about her people, Don goes over to Midge's. They start to do it, and there's a knock at the door. It's Roy, another friend of Midge's. He convinces Don and Midge to go to a poetry reading with him. Don doesn't want to go, but ends up going. When he's there we're treated to a guy on stage reading wedding announcements from the paper and then a group of three Jewish men singing a song ("Babylon"), which I'm sure will give Don some idea about how to approach the ad campaign (one small quibble I have about this show is that there always seems to be a handy parallel in another plot to help Don with his campaigns - Betty even tells him about a Jewish boy she kissed once - but it's a small quibble.) The scene does provide some humorous moments. It's great to see Don in his clean suit and shoes hanging out with beatniks, and when he asks Roy, "So Roy, if you had a job, what would you do?" I laughed out loud.
Oh, back to the lipstick. A makeup company hires Sterling Cooper so Fred and Joan and the guys get a bunch of lipstick samples and let the girls in the office (or as Fred calls them, "the chickens") try a bunch of different colors (while being watched behind a two-way mirror - just when I thought of a masturbation joke one of the ad guys makes one too). They all try different colors except Peggy, who doesn't try any because her color was taken. She knows what she likes. Fred and Sal find this interesting, and Fred likes her description of a trash barrel filled with lipstick-stained tissues as a "basket of kisses," so she's going to get a chance to work on the campaign (side note: it was driving me crazy where I'd seen Fred before, and checking online I found out it's Joel Murray, who played Danny on Still Standing.)
I haven't mentioned the surreal flashback at the start of the episode, when Don falls down the stairs and looks across the room and sees his childhood "Dick" self on the floor, surrounded by his parents and his new baby brother Adam, who he paid off last episode to leave town. (Update: as readers have pointed out, this flashback shows that Don might be Jewish, which brings a whole new dimension to why he's keeping his life a secret).
So in this episode we have a flashback that shows Don is feeling guilty about his little bro, we find out that Roger is sleeping with Joan, we see the other part of Midge's world start to creep into her relationship with Don, and we see Peggy get some possible ad work at the office (and maybe a hint of jealousy from Joan?). Who says nothing ever happens on this show?
Next week: Nixon, Helen, and Glen the creepy kid!
|Yes, and this will illustrate how times changed in the 60s||56 (29.3%)|
|Maybe, but it will be short-lived and she won't be liked||60 (31.4%)|
|No way, they won't allow it||75 (39.3%)|