Don: Don't you like it?
Peggy: No, I do. I'm just absorbing it
I was ready just to like this series, no more, familiar now as the characters and the style are, then suddenly it rushed up on me, like a loaded cookie, and I didn't know what to think, except I loved it more than is healthy for a TV programme. This happened round about the episode Lady Lazarus.
There is a lot to analyze, yet, conversely, as with a good poem, one is afraid to break it down into elements. A post trip sense of having seen and learnt a lot, yet unable to express it well. I will say: the colours are bright in this series and the themes dark. This is maybe the most romantic Mad Men, with all the darkness that true romance brings. Eroticism and death: twin tattoos on someone's arms. There are also episodes exploring the freeing of the mind (through LSD) and conversely the wiping of the brain (shock treatment). Heavy stuff, right? Well, it is the 60s!
It is rare to find a series where there are so many well-drawn characters almost jostling for time and space in each episode. The characters are handled with great sympathy, understanding, care and intelligence. The parallel development of Roger, and Pete, is a perfect example: the older, wiser man growing younger, freer through (a druggy) experience; the younger, less enlightened man becoming more successful, the 'adult' in the firm,in business terms, if not emotional ones, but also anxious and care-worn. Age and youth are also pitched against each other in a surprising conflict between Pete and Lane, age winning out, if only, sadly, for a moment. Great episode too with Harry Crane, very nicely acted by Rich Sommer and a re-appearance of Paul Kinsey. Quite often it is the 'minor' characters who provide some of the best episodes and moments.
Every viewer will no doubt have his or her favourite character. Maybe for you, like me, it has always been Peggy. As the Kinks say 'You Really Got Me!' Her tough, rational, career persona puts her at the sensible heart of the madness all around. Yet she is full of feeling and courage and, practical though she is, not immune from reckless behaviour herself. As for her relationship with Don....well, what kind of fool is he!'
Music, as with the Kinks, is always well-chosen in Mad Men and I read the producers paid $250 000 for use of the Beatles song `Tomorrow Never Knows', but, of course, it's the right song, used in the right way, perfect in its lyric, its relation to characters, its unique sense of disorientation in the episode Lady Lazarus. One thinks of the many ways a Beatles song could have been licensed and cheaply used as a barely-considered soundtrack to a 60's set drama, then considers the way this was used in Mad Men. It's this attention to detail and excellent sensibility of the artistic team that makes the show very special.
Is it giving much away to mention one particular image that stays with me? The breathe on the car side window, the lady's fingers tracing the heart, the unhappy faces, the winding down of the window and the disappearance of the heart. But I could have chosen the Jaguar that didn't start, the rutting dogs outside Peggy's window, Roger's buttocks in their spiritual splendour or a myriad of other memorable images. Ah well, something to think about til the next series!
Mad Men 5. At last, something beautiful you can truly own.