Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mad Men - "The Summer Man"

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) making looking good seem so damn easy.
Photo Credit: AMC
Review by Paul Steven Brown

'Mad Men'
Season 4 - Episode 8
"The Summer Man"

While Don still has the occasional drink, it appears that he has turned the corner after last week's wonderful  episode "The Suitcase". Now he is writing down his thoughts in a journal, exercising regularly in the form of swimming, and not getting plastered every couple of hours. His change in pattern is rewarded not once but twice, when both Bethany and Dr. Faye get physical with him. Even they have noticed a change.

Maybe the reason that Betty is so upset after her run in with Don on his date with Bethany, is that she can see some of the man that she fell in love with over a decade ago peeking out from the haze. Or maybe she's just being childish. She allows Don to stay for Gene's birthday party not out of magnanimity, but out of the self-satisfying notion that she has everything she wants, while Don is alone. This makes her feel powerful, having bestowed a gift upon this sad man.

Both Joan and Peggy have their own power issues while dealing with the freelancer Joey this episode. He is a little sexist jerk, and unfortunately during this period of time, society allows him to be so towards women. God bless Joan when she finally gets fed up with his behavior and tells him and the rest of the creative brat pack that she can't wait for them to get called to go fight in Vietnam. Joan does set in motion Joey's eventual removal from the company, but Peggy decides to take a more direct approach.

Don tells her that if she wants respect, she should go out there and get it for herself. So she fires Joey. We wouldn't bat an eye at a woman firing a man today, but Peggy lives in 1965. Unfortunately, she will be looked upon as Joan puts it "a humorless bitch". I think we're just at the beginning of seeing what could potentially happen to a woman in Peggy's corporate position during this time period. Yes, she has some power, but society is going to have its own perception on how she wields it.

Don decides to exercise his own power by saying no to Dr. Faye's advances after their dinner date. This could be seen as him spurning her in return for her previous rejections, but I think that he's trying to discipline himself. Maybe he sees a serious relationship with woman in the future and he's going to ease into it. Maybe, as he has suggested in his journal, he just really likes sleeping alone at the moment.

I certainly hope that Faye's father's mob connections do not come anywhere near this show. I cringed as soon as she hinted at them. I don't want that in 'Mad Men' and it would just be totally unnecessary. Besides, we've got 'Boardwalk Empire' premiering next week if I want some gangster goodness.

"The Summer Man" is another solid offering from an already great show. It certainly wasn't as good as last week's episode, but very few can be as excellent as "The Suitcase". Don is cleaning up and he seems to be doing it on his own terms. I hope he doesn't relapse.

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