Monday, October 18, 2010

Review - Mad Men Season 4 Episode 13 Tomorrowland

Going into Mad Men's fourth season finale, I had a couple expectations. In my mind it would be about the salvation of Sterling Cooper Draper Price, an offer from a big company that would set right a season of financial woes. After all, Don's ad about cigarette companies was the lynchpin of last week's episode and seemed to be leading somewhere. Boy was I wrong. For better or worse, Matthew Weiner is a master of misdirects and delivers a doozy no one saw coming.

The first quarter of "Tomorrowland" wanders around without a clear end. Glen shows up again, Don meets with the American Cancer Society, but it all heads towards Don's trip to California. Because Betty had to be a bitch and fire Carla, Don brings Megan to help with the kids. Incidentally, Megan is amazing with the kids and Don instantly recognizes that. One thing leads to another and they end up in bed together, but then, Don proposes, using Anna's ring. This is Don using drugs Midge gave him, right?

Although Don is engaged to Megan, we can't help but remember all the women he's tossed aside before. There's Betty who he ignored, Bethany Van Nuys who is barely mentioned, Allison who mistreated, and lastly Faye who receives the cruelest kick of them all. Don is a terrible person. But is Dick a bad person? He tells his kids that Dick is a nickname, one step closer to embracing who he is. Can marriage to Megan turn over a new leaf?

It's too early to make any firm judgments, but my gut reaction is that Megan is not as genuine as she appears. We know that the first time they slept together, Megan did a bit of manipulation, Don Draper-style, on Don himself. After Don finishes his call to Faye, Megan enters his office and towers over him as he sits in his chair. She caresses his face, and quite literally has him in the palm of her hand.

The discussion between Peggy and Joan is about as perfect as one can get. Clearly disappointed in Don's decision, Peggy vents to Joan while Joan tries to stay composed and detached. Peggy has an excellent point. As far as she and Joan have come, here's this secretary who comes along and is instantly elevated above them due to looks only (as far as they know). Peggy, singlehandedly, just got the first account in a long while, and does she get any notice? Nope. It's all about Don and his secretary. Yeah, kind of sucks.

From an overall story standpoint, how will Don's engagement affect the relationship between him and Peggy? Will it destroy what was forged in "The Suitcase" and set off more dissension?

We see Joan take some of Peggy's anger and use it in her conversation with Greg, repeating what Peggy said earlier. And we learn that Joan is pregnant, the second biggest revelation of the episode. (I didn't take a stance on whether she was pregnant or not since it seemed like 50/50.)

OK... now it's time to say a few things about Betty. To start, I was mostly neutral about her until this season. She was never likable in previous season, but we could feel sympathetic towards her in certain cases. In the fourth season, however, with less screen time, Betty turned into a pathetic, single-minded character unique to Mad Men. It was either yelling/hitting her kids or being totally helpless, neither of which were pleasant to watch. Her behavior in "Tomorrowland" initially follows the pattern: Betty is acting like an awful, awful person, firing Carla without so much as a warning and then acting belligerent afterwards. It's hard not to hate her.

But then the second to last scene rolls around. I really felt sorry for Betty. It's Don and Betty alone in their old house. They talk and it's as if there's never been any distance between them. They're comfortable and at ease with each other, discussing their old life. To Betty's chagrin, Don also informs her he's getting married. While Betty's current marriage is on the rocks and likely to fail, her ex-husband, who she clearly wants to get back together with, is moving on. Seriously great job by January Jones to make Betty seem human again. For a split second, I wanted Don and Betty to get back together.

Looking months ahead toward the fifth season, the status quo has once again changed. After what I'm guessing will be a lengthy (several months) time skip, Don will be married, Betty will be living far away, Joan will be well into her pregnancy, and SCDP will be doing fine. Yeah, maybe overspeculation on my part, but it sure sounds good.

"Tomorrowland" is one of those episode which will divide fans. The focus is not only on Don, but also this new character Megan, an unknown factor as of now. In the season finale, the whole world is turned upside-down and in a fashion no one expected, with Don's new fiancee instead of a new account. Personally, I'm very interested in where things are going.

Well, that's the end of another excellent season of television. Unfortunately for us, Mad Men isn't coming back for almost a year, so we'll just have to wait to see what happens.

Score: 8.9/10
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