We cannot discuss this episode, in which the ramifications of "The Other Woman" continue to affect our world as clients are gained and lost because of prostitution, without serious spoilers.
As Linda Holmes notes, this season went from slow to fast in a hurry:
[I]t can feel a lot like nothing happens. It can feel like watching a lava lamp: it's an exploration of the line between mesmerizing and stultifying.The AV Club's Todd VanDerWerff seizes upon how Don's bold moves can be fun to watch, but are awfully frustrating for the rest of his world:
That's why, from time to time, it's great fun when all of a sudden, a lot of things happen, as they did in Sunday night's episode. At first, it looked like the episode would be about an SCDP public offering, and then it looked like it would be about Roger landing Chevy, and then it looked like it would be about Don losing Jaguar, and then it looked like it would be about Pete losing Vicks, and then all of a sudden it was about the merger of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler Gleason and Chaough. That's kind of interesting just because it's a merger, and then holy moly wait a second — that means Peggy is working with/for/around Don again.
Oh, and also: Pete and his father-in-law caught each other with prostitutes, Megan tried to put the va-voom back in her marriage (which she knows is in trouble, even if she doesn't know exactly why), Ted kissed Peggy, and Joan finally exploded over both the anger she feels at Don's eternally distant know-it-all-ism and the fact that she was put in the position of sleeping with a client to get an account. And Pete fell down the stairs, which was really just a metaphorical free beer for everyone who doesn't like Pete.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, in a couple of weeks, Bobby Kennedy is going to be assassinated. This euphoria, it is temporary.
When Mad Men is slow, it's really slow. Then when it gets moving but good, it's like Ocean's Eleven, with the jazzy score and the jaunty angles and the wisecracking.
Don simply sees a problem, the most likely solution to said problem sitting next to him, and an escape hatch all at the same time. Then he plunges on through without another look.This wasn't the first time, of course. Think of the tobacco letter. Or as Jamie Poniewozik put it in under 140 characters:
While this may seem sort of fun and charming in the moment—and, believe me, it’s damned dashing when he’s running the idea by Ted, then reluctantly roping everybody else into it—it can seem vaguely monstrous whenever other people are forced to clean up after him. Last season, when “The Other Woman” aired, Don going to Joan’s apartment to tell her she didn’t have to sleep with Herb was played at least vaguely heroically. The show has also treated Don getting one over on Herb the times we’ve seen the character this season at least somewhat triumphantly. But what if you were the woman who had to sleep with that man, who had to put up with him for a night? And what if that relationship were dissolved almost as quickly as it had been formed because some jackass you worked with found the guy a pain to deal with?
What’s fascinating about “For Immediate Release” is how often people just aren’t happy to see Don. This is the guy who’s supposed to be our hero—or at least our protagonist—and he’s like a horror movie villain, particularly for Peggy, who had already moved on to a new thing, a new life, only to find that her old life came and forcibly merged with her new one, then made her write a press release about it. Joan tells off Don for taking a horrible decision that she, nonetheless, made with the long-term benefit of her son and herself in mind and throwing that decision away almost callously. The others who work at SCDP see Don as a sort of spoiled man-child, going out of his way to mess up their lives, then acting like it was all a big plan when things work out because of work Roger did. (“You’re just Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine!” Pete cries, and it might be the most accurate description of Don in a while.) Don’s a rich, callous jerk much of the time. He can afford to do stupid things, to take big chances, where someone like Pete or Joan, counting on that extra capitalization to secure their future, simply cannot.
But as Matt Zoller Seitz points out, this may be particularly bad for Peggy:
Liked last night's MAD MEN, but sorta meta-proves the ep's point that people fall back in love w Don bc he swings into studly action.— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) May 6, 2013
Don’s been compared to a penny that just keeps showing up in women’s lives. Now he’s back in Peggy’s as well, appearing at Ted’s office like a David Lynch phantom and trying to make the merger sound like a great opportunity for Peggy while congratulating her on buying a sketchy apartment with Abe on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Problem is, just a few scenes earlier, a distraught Peggy got an unsolicited kiss from Ted, who’s previously been a charismatic but platonic boss like Don used to be, and she liked it. The notion of Peggy having to work for both Don and Ted is fascinating because she never had a romantic relationship with Don (who was more like a powerful yet emotionally vulnerable big brother at times), but she’s thinking about having one with Ted. Romantically she’s in a tricky spot. Poor Abe is a sweet man, but he talked Peggy into a living situation that’s already making her unhappy, and he’s just not enough of a star to be her equal; at various times this seems to have bothered both of them. This new work situation is going to cause all sorts of trouble for her, romantically as well as professionally.Reality check:
- We're dealing with May 11-20, 1968. The first heart transplant took place in Houston on May 3, 1968.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson did not write a book called Something. I like how Peggy's imagination doesn't bother to fill in the details. (I don't like with whom she's imagining it, given how happy she seemed to be with Abe last week.)
- Can anyone determine what model Chevrolet would have been so excited about in May 1968?
- The Graduate was released at the end of 1967 and was a massive box office success -- inflation-adjusted, bigger than The Avengers. Yes, Teddy Chaough, it featured an Alfa Romeo. [HT: Grantland.]