Stars: John Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, Christina Hendricks, Jared Harris, John Slattery, January Jones, Jessica Pare, Robert Morse, Aaron Staton, Rich Sommer, Kiernan Shipka
Writer: Matthew Wiener & Victor Levin, Series created by Matthew Wiener
Director: Matt Shakman
Network: AMC, airs Sunday nights
Original Telecast: April 8, 2012
MAD MEN is such a unique show for me. There really aren’t any other straight up dramas that you can get me to sit down and be completely glued to the TV for a full hour. Pretty much all of the other ‘dramas’ that I watch involve vampires, zombies, or some other form of genre related influence; but not MAD MEN. Other than being a period show this series is just about the lives of the people in the stories, and this show is so well written and produced; everything that happens is so compelling and addictive.
“Mystery Date” is not a HUGE turning point of an episode, but even in the quietest moments of this series, there are key things that happen, and they’re not always completely overt. First off let’s start with Joan (Christina Hendricks) deciding to get rid of her husband Greg Harris (Sam Page). It’s about damn time Joanie! Greg has not been the most likable character to begin with. He’s been insecure, dominating, threatening at times….and oh yeah…..there was that one time he raped Joan on the floor of Don’s (John Hamm) office in the old building. Wow. What a winner. And in the 60’s a guy like that is considered marriage material?!
So anywho, Joan had a baby by Roger (John Slattery) so she really doesn’t have ANY ties to Greg. Let him go off to the ‘Nam and get himself blown up. I kind of figured that his character was going to be killed off by the war anyways; this just speeds up the process a bit. Plus the big upside of this plot turn is that Gail (Christine Estabrook) is going to be more of a recurring. I think the relationship between Joan and her mom is worth exploring, and I think the two women have great on screen chemistry together. They really seem like mother and daughter.
Another character who evolves subtly in this episode is Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka). Sally is pushing the line between adolescent and teenager, and while she may not physically be blossoming into full teen-hood, she certainly has got the attitude down. Her call to Don, and then the scenes involving her interaction with her step Grandmother Francis (Pamela Dunlap) are fascinating. Sally at times really feels like the lens the camera is looking through, especially the older the character gets. Though I’m not sure her learning how to take Seconal to get to sleep is a great lesson.
Which brings me to another point. This series is so good because of the incorporation of real life events. The Richard Speck murder of the eight nurses is something that a large portion of the viewing audience didn’t live through, so it’s fascinating to see how people form that era deal with a shocking tragedy like it. The ongoing civil rights storylines, and in this episode the airline strike are all elements of history incorporated into the series to make it just that much more real and believable.
Don spends this episode sick with the flu and he has a nasty fever dream where he first has sex with a former old fling of his Andrea (TWIN PEAKS star Madchen Amick) and then strangles her and shoves her body haphazardly under the bed. Amick’s make up was so extreme that I didn’t realize it was her until I was writing this review, but she looked amazing! Hopefully this is a wake-up call for Don, and he won’t go straying off of the path in this marriage.
Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Roger have a really fantastic scene in this episode which shows just how far both characters have come since the very first season. Peggy holds her own against Roger as well as any of the male copywriters and gets a large chunk of change from him to bail him out of a tight spot. Plus she does all of this while drunk!
Last but not least…. Betty (January Jones) is clearly on thyroid medication, because she is already starting to slim down from last week’s startling metamorphosis. Sadly it doesn’t look like the Peggy padding from way back when is going to be getting much more use. Awwww….sad panda.
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Related Link: TV Review – MAD MEN – Season 5 – “Signal 30”
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Article: TV Review – MAD MEN – Season 5 – “Mystery Date”