Monday, August 9, 2010

Mad Men - "The Good News"

Don (Jon Hamm) and Anna (Melinda Page Hamilton) share the end of 1964 together.
Credit: AMC
Review by Paul Steven Brown

'Mad Men'
Season 4 - Episode 3
"The Good News"

Structurally, "The Good News" is an odd little episode of 'Mad Men'. For the most part, this is very Don Draper heavy installment, but we get sprinkles of Joan's private life interspersed throughout. Also, via his interactions with both Joan and Don, Lane Pryce is given more illumination. Throw in a very brief and concise ending scene (Joan asking the partners of SCDP "Gentlemen, shall we begin 1965?") and we're left with an impression that the epilogue portion of season four has concluded and the real Texas belt buckle sized meat will start hitting the plate next week.

As we've seen over these first three episodes, Don is not in a good place mentally or emotionally. He's divorced from his wife and isolated from his children. He's resorted to prostitutes and sleeping with his secretary for some form of physical comfort. Now, the one person that truly knows Dick Whitman, the real Don Draper's wife, Anna, is living on borrowed time and doomed to die of cancer. Don is entering 1965 with potentially no support system or home life.

Don's bedding batting average has been pretty terrible so far this season. His advances have been spurned by Jane's friend, his nurse neighbor, and now Anna's college student niece. Don's only sexual encounters have been with Candace the call girl and Allison, his personal secretary. Part of this can be attributed to Don's current mental and emotional state and drinking habit dulling his edge. Also, this is the part of the century when women are becoming more assertive and more comfortable saying "no" to a man's advances with out fear of social consequence.

Don's drunken evening with Lane was an interesting study of two men from completely different lives and countries bonding through the despair of their very similar personal situations. Ironically, the pair almost couldn't stand each other back in 1963. But, misery loves company and no one wants to be alone on New Years.

Lane's separation from his wife comes as no surprise. She has never been happy living in New York. Lane on the other hand seems to relish his experiences in the New World. This fondness for New York City led to his abandoning his former employers for the adventure of starting up SCDP with his American co-workers. While generally reserved, Lane's drunken escapades with Don further demonstrated an underlining lust for life and an appreciation for his new home. Of course, Jared Harris is an amazing actor and is able to make Lane's sudden cavalier moments just as natural as his restrained ones.

Joan's moments are brief, but significant. She and Dr. Rapist are want to have children and Joan is worried that the two prior "procedures" that she underwent earlier in life may compromise their attempts. The homelife for the Harris' is still not ideal and Greg still doesn't seem to understand what the hell Joan does at SCDP or how important she is there. When he quickly stitches up her cut finger, it's evident that he is capable at his job. Unfortunately, it will still take more than a few stitches to make up for his past wrong-doings. I'm still waiting for him to get called up for a tour in Vietnam.

I'm sure that a lack of a major story arc has probably frustrated some viewers so far. Also, this episode barely allowed for any of the other regulars to grace the screen, other than brief moments involving Peggy and Harry. However, if my suspicions are correct, we're about to enter the heart of the season and the build up of these past three episodes is about to pay off in some form.

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