Monday, September 20, 2010

Review - Mad Men Season 4 Episode 9 The Beautiful Girls

With an episode titled "The Beautiful Girls," the women (and one young girl) took the reigns of a surprisingly bubbly episode, and pushed Don out of the way, making his troubles a mere afterthought in their own battles.

Peggy's early conversation with Abe, after Joyce's quick switch, initiates the larger discussion: He complains of Fillmore Auto Parts in the south not serving blacks, and Peggy counters, saying she can't do many things men do either, and few speak out. And historically the facts back her up. When it comes to achieving equal rights, women's rights and racial rights have come hand in hand, at least in partnership to reach certain goals. When a racial rights goal is met, however, say, blacks being able to vote after the Civil War, women don't also follow, and their right to vote didn't come until about 50 years later, despite having an overwhelming number over blacks in numbers.

In 1965, though, things aren't as simple. Do we ever see blacks working beside whites? In a managerial position? Nope. But there are plenty of women in higher positions. In this sense, Mad Men can never really tackle the civil rights movement without a character to lead the charge (unless one is introduced).

The event that sets everything in motion is Miss Blankenship's abrupt death. Until now, I don't think I've even mentioned her in a review, despite her being a fairly significant new character. Unlike many character who could simultaneously be funny and have something else, Blankenship was pure comedy, blurting out silly lines at the wrong times. Sure it was funny, but very, very one-dimensional, to the point where she didn't really belong alongside the myriad of layered, intricate characters. Her death ever so slightly put her in a different perspective, as Burt says, she's an astronaut, though I'm still not accepting her for her general uselessness in previous episodes.

Once her body is wheeled out discreetly, things start moving. Peggy wonders whether it's right for Fillmore Auto to refuse service to blacks, but Don shoots her down. I don't see how she has a choice, even if she wants equally for all and herself.

Seeing Roger reel from Blankenship's death and having her husband deployed to Vietnam after boot camp, Joan goes to dinner with Roger at one of their old haunts. Outside, they're mugged at gunpoint, losing all their possessions. In the heatof the moment, realizing how close their lives were to ending, Roger and Joan let go of inhibition and have sex, presumably outdoors where everyone can see them.

Sally's unexpected arrival to SCDP due to her extreme displeasure with Betty, exposes Faye's cracks. Faye is pretty, successful, and powerful. However, she has no family or kids, and if her reaction to Don is any indication, after failing to show she knows how to handle kids, she's tinged with regret but becomes prickly over the situation.

The final shot, like many this season, is one large symbol. As Joyce walks off in her own hippie direction, Peggy, Joan, and Faye enter an elevator together. Three women, equally strong, have reached a crossroad in their lives, but what direction will they go? Will Peggy continue down the path and pressure the Fillmores? Will Joan continue on with Roger? Will Faye continue on with Don?

Lastly, there's that other woman, Betty. Yeah, her. I liked her fine last week, but she returned to her usual antics--yelling at Don and ignoring Sally.

I'm tired right now, so I'm not entirely sure what I think about "The Beautiful Girls." I enjoyed it, as I do every episode, but the light tone to the episode left it without much bite in the end. And maybe that's how a feminist episode is supposed to be.

Score: 8.9/10
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