Monday, July 23, 2012

Mad Men

Mad Men
Episode 5: 5G
By: Carlos Uribe

Mad Men is a show about people who work in the advertising agencies in the 60's. It currently airs on AMC.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The first few episodes of the series had been exploring the life of Don Draper. He's a top advertising executive with a family. When this episode begins, he has just won an award for doing an excellent job. He lives in the suburbs but he finds his home life to be dull and mundane. He's cheating on his wife. He has a life and he seems rather content with it. While he probably wishes that his home life was more exciting, it does give him a place to rest. The question isn't just who Don Draper is but who he used to be. This episode starts to explore that by revealing bits and portions from Don's old life. He used to be known as Dick Whitman, who had a step-mother that didn't like him very much. He joined the army and led the people in his old life to believe he was dead. He changed his name and and began a new life. A life that he actually liked. He wasn't happy with the circumstances that he started with, so he moved to new circumstances. This adds a whole new layer to the character and it's one that's actually for the better. A lot of the background information is revealed through his brother, who pops in his life. He doesn't want his brother to be in the present and he pays his brother off to disappear.

His brother isn't developed that much. For the most part, we learn that his brother really wants to be a part of Don's life and is a janitor. It's implied that he looked up to Don for his entire life. While these elements set up the groundwork for an actual character, he never evolves beyond just being a man who is looking for family. The brother is more used as a catalyst to explore Don's background than to actually be a character whose decisions and will influence the plot. This might change in the future, but Don's brother is left undeveloped. The character's desperation to be in his brother's life feels more hollow than anything and in the end hurts this episode. The viewer never really feels for Don's brother and we're never really given a reason to want to get to know him. If the series had spent time trying to make the brother more human then this episode could have had the emotional punch that it was hoping to also have.

That isn't all that happens in this episode. A character named Ken publishes a short story in the Atlantic. Ken is an accountant and he waited until the Atlantic was out before telling anyone he was getting published. This made all of his male co-workers jealous of Ken. They might have even been a bit threatened since his writing clearly meant that he had a lot of creative energy. Pete is so annoyed by his colleague's success that he decides to use his wife to get his own short story published. His wife had previously dated an influential publisher and Pete was hoping to use that connection to his advantage. His wife agreed to help him out but wasn't willing to sleep with the publisher. This meant that Pete's story was going to get published in Boy's Life, a publication aimed at youth. Since he was aiming for something with some prestige, Pete wasn't happy. It's not made clear if Pete understands the price his wife would have paid to get him on a more note-worthy magazine, but he clearly would have liked her to pay it. This story develops most of the office staff, including as Pete, as a whole bunch of jealous men.

This was a pretty good episode of Mad Men. The only problem I have with it is that Don's brother was woefully undeveloped. Don's past is intriguing and the whole publication story was pretty good. The account of the week was interesting as well, and I would have still liked to spend more time with it. Peggy's discovery of Don's affair might be important later on, as this is clearly a seed for a future storyline. This was an episode that largely kept me interested throughout and actually made me want to see what was going to happen next-a first for the series.

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