Since McCann’s acquisition of SC&P each of the principles, with the exception of Peggy, are by most earthlings’ standards stinking rich. And as John Dos Passos warned in his USA Trilogy (featured in Diana the waitress’s pocket in the second scene), this has come at the cost of their humanity. The episode’s most gruesome severing of all, and I think the one Matthew Weiner really intends for us to reflect on, is an internal one. All the characters are alienated from their own personal stories, the progress they made over the last two seasons abandoned and left to rot.
In no particular order:
Ted Chaough, the family man who once fled New York to escape an affair, now has an apartment in the city where he hosts cocktail parties for Vogue models.
Don Draper, who up until last episode appeared a reformed man, is on fuck overload. His life is emptier than ever.
Roger Sterling, “Leader”, has consigned his predecessor’s example to the rubbish heap, firing long term colleagues without batting an eyelid. This was the man who described his old nemesis Jim Cutler’s plans for SC&P-as-it-was as “Everyone goes”. An insight which spurred Roger to sell the company to McCann in an effort to protect it. Now he couldn’t give a shit.
Joan Harris, a woman who was learning to trust other women and to play the business game on her own terms, is drowning her sorrows in dresses and demeaning other women along the way. (Many fans will be glad to see that she and Don have resumed an at least cordial relationship, but I can’t help wondering if this is cash related too. From Joan’s perspective – something I may go into at a later date – she still has good reasons to be angry with Don. The relatively pleasant scene between both of them is, I’m afraid, probably indicative of yet more unfinished business. More karma yet uncleaned.)
Peter Campbell describes his current situation thusly: “I thought I was really changing my life when I went to California. Of course, now it sorta feels like a dream, but at the time it felt so real. [....] Look, here I am!”
That’s because it was real Pete, not like the reality distorting bubble of money you’re currently floating around in.
While Kenny’s story, its resolution as grim as any of the above, felt a bit pat this time around, I applaud its unpleasantness. It doesn’t just illustrate how having power can see people acquiesce to their baser urges, but demonstrates exactly what can happen when you sever or deny a part of yourself, as SC&P has just done – it comes back to bite you on your ass.
Much has been made of Roger’s ridiculous moustache, but it’s key to the whole thing. Mr. Sterling isn’t a serious man on the path of self actualisation, but a comedy general straight out of a Carry On film. And this along with all the other bad taste 70s accoutrements the show’s wearing right now, all that lurid grotesquery, is in the end not funny but disturbing. It’s a warped world, with a rupture running right through it. It was a violent, horrible episode, its totem product one of the world’s most successful razors – the kind of account that can split your soul in two.
It’s made Don Drapers of them all.
*PFC Dinkins, A Tale of Two Cities
April 19th, 2012
Botswana Beast: A lot of folk seem to be wetting themselves about the quality of this episode, which – I mean, I liked it obviously, Pete Campbell being a prime turd and getting an unlikely comeuppance, but it didn’t seem so tightly structured or to have so much of an “aboutness” to it? I guess last ep was maybe – arguably – a bit too on the nose for some of it, this was more about just the characters? (My favourite MM ep is still the first season’s closer, just for frame of reference).
Amypoodle: Oh The Wheel is a very good episode. Very sad, amazing ad pitch, etc. So people are getting excited over this one? I can see that. I mean, I preferred last week’s (despite on the noseness), but that’s a personal thing to do with liking ghost stories/Joan, but Signal 30 was still pretty bloody good. In some ways it was very traditional fare with its alcohol greased dinner party in a suburban dream home and Pete Campbell acting like an ultra dick (which is of course going to be the main focus here, isn’t it?), and it came complete with lots of nods to the past, particularly the first season, so it’s exactly the sort of episode someone who likes Mad Men should like.
But it very definitely was about something: Status. Status and Power.