05th May2015

‘Mad Men 7×12: Lost Horizons’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“We all know that man, because there are millions of him.”

You know you’re in trouble when your descent into Hell begins with Meredith standing in for Virgil.  In the windowless labyrinth of McCann-Erickson’s corporate belly it seems as though Don Draper has finally, fatally given up.  “I expect you to bring things up a notch around here,” Jim Hobart tells Don just moments before genially ordering him to conform to the McCann business casual dress code.  Don smiles faintly, acquiesces to Hobart’s request that he introduce himself as “Don Draper from McCann-Erickson”, and leaves for a meeting.

mm-712-1

Don’s new office smells like fruit and Air-Wick.  The wind hisses in a poorly-sealed window, an echo of Pete’s leaky faucet, and even the prospect of a new apartment(furnished solely with a bed, thanks to Marie’s vengeful antics) fails to elicit much of a reaction from him.  People tell him where to go, who to talk to, what hours to keep, and for a while it looks like that’s it.  Then, in a crowded room where men in shirtsleeves eat lunch from identical white boxes, he meets with Miller Beer.  Miller’s pitch man is Bill Phillips, a clean-cut nega-Don who probably stepped out of a mirror in the men’s room after someone said his name three times.  When he paints an eloquent(if deeply trite) picture of the interchangeable million-faced man, a man who prefers dogs to women and yearns for bygone glory days, who will drink Miller’s new diet beer, Don knows that another minute in that board room and he’ll be the man in the monologue: faceless, inert, generic.  For all Hobart’s praise, Don is nothing special in the mediocre-by-design McCann.  He stands up, walks out, and blows town.

mm-712-2

“You like playing the stranger,” the ghost of Bert Cooper tells Don as the latter drives cross-country to a hoped-for rendezvous with Diana, and it’s true.  Don has been an outsider all his life, and while he struggles to form connections because of this remove it has also become an element of his identity.  Outsiders are, by dint of circumstance, keener observers of the mechanics of the world than those comfortably accepted by society, and with the loss of that status comes the loss of Don’s angle, his viewpoint, his unique creative sensibility.  There’s also safety, allure, and mystique in remaining something inherently unknowable.

Elsewhere, Roger and Peggy linger in the increasingly barren wreck of the old SC&P office where Peggy’s frustration over there being no office for her at McCann turns into a chance for the last two rats on the ship to bond.  The two come together when Peggy hears organ music echoing through the office and pursues its source, leading to a delightfully slasher-esque scene featuring Peggy creeping past discarded logos and empty offices and surprising a half-drunk Phantom of the Opera.  Neither Roger nor Peggy really wants to leave their old digs, even with the lights off and the ceiling coming down around their ears, so despite the fact that they don’t really know or like each other all that well, they crack a bottle of vermouth and settle in.

mm-712-3

What emerges as the two spar, jaw, and enact roller-skate ballets accompanied by organ, is a meditation on what comes next and how to face it.  Elisabeth Moss and John Slattery have an unstoppable chemistry that’s been rolling since Peggy refused to fetch coffee for Roger way back in season 3, and watching them pick at one another’s problems is engrossing.  Peggy instantly skewers Roger for pretending he had no say in the move to McCann, forcing him to confront his own actions instead of playing the victim and slinking in among all the employees he was meant to look out for.  Roger, for his part, derides Peggy’s belief that she’ll have to conform at McCann in order to be accepted.  By way of enabling her rebellion he sends her to her first day of work late, hungover, and with an antique print of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife under her arm.

“Oh my God,” Peggy asks him, aghast, when she first sees the print.  “What is this?”

mm-712-4

Roger replies succinctly: “It’s an octopus pleasuring a lady.”  If he and Peggy have to consign themselves to corporate purgatory, the least they can do is go in with their middle fingers held high.

Joan, meanwhile, faces not the crushing boredom and ennui of losing her identity or the anxiety of embarking on a new journey but the grinding frustration of workplace harassment.  Man after man, what feels like half of McCann’s corporate hierarchy talks shit to her face, propositions her, and generally refuses to acknowledge her as anything but a pretty face servicing some girly accounts.  Chief among them is the odious “Ferg,” a Shrek-like clod of a man who makes it clear that they’ll be doing a lot of traveling together and that he expects more from Joan than just accounts work.  When Joan goes to Hobart and threatens a lawsuit if the matter isn’t dealt with, he scoffs and claims McCann is untouchable.  He gloats that McCann buys so much ad space in the New York Times that “we could get them to print Mein Kampf on the front page.”

mm-712-5

At first Joan, whose stare at Hobart suggests a deep-seated urge to put a claw hammer through one of his eye sockets, seems determined to fight.  She invokes the name of Betty Friedan, avenging legal angel of first-wave feminism, suggesting to Hobart that the downtrodden women of McCann will rise up and plague him with court cases.  The fight ends, though, before it begins.  “You started something that could leave you with nothing,” is Roger’s warning, and it sticks.  Joan can see the writing on the wall.  McCann’s smug complacency is backed up by actual clout, by limitless resources, by a literal stranglehold on the world’s perceptions of reality(their motto is “Truth Well Told” for Christ’s sake).  She folds, walking away with half her net worth.

Don’s quest for Diana leads him to another dead end, and even his fast-talking routine with her unpleasant ex-husband and his amiable, if browbeaten, wife gets him no closer to the woman he’s looking for.  Anyway, what could she do for him?  “You think you’re the first one who came looking for her?” her ex-husband sneers at Don after penetrating his first false identity and its follow-up.  “She’s a tornado.”  Diana isn’t an answer to Don’s problem, she’s just another person in pain.  The haunting shot of her last surviving daughter, hidden by a door and then revealed in shadow with horrifying suddenness, is a stark reminder that Diana’s past, like Don’s, is freighted with baggage.

Adrift, Don picks up a hitch-hiking hippie on the side of the road and asks the other man where he wants to go.  It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s somewhere else.

mm-712-6

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Off

Comments are closed.