Maybe an excess of cultishness will just always disgruntle me. It's not like I've read every last online analysis of last week's episode of Mad Men—of course not, because I'd still be at it at age 90. But I got irked anyway when I couldn't turn up any heretics willing to opine that the big shock of Christina Hendricks's Joan consenting to be pimped out by her bosses at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for the sake of landing the Jaguar account was kind of, how you say, jiveass.
Even recappers who acknowledged that the point being made was on the sledgehammer side —wow, life in the advertising world is really all about prostitution? You don't say—did a quick 180 to praise Matthew Weiner for making it work. (That's the advantage of having a rep for subtlety; even turning crude looks clever.) And Mad Men fans are so invested in the damn thing, myself not totally excluded, that it's no fun to wonder if last Sunday's ep amounted to Fonzie donning his waterskis to jump the you-know-what. The whole hat trick of Mad Men is that it's a morality play that asks us to reserve judgment on the characters, but so much for ambiguity.
No doubt, I'm in the minority in thinking that this whole season—so eagerly anticipated, not only because of the long layoff but because 1966 was the cusp year between the Swinging '60s and the counterculture—has been at once too pleased with itself and too disjointed for its own good. Weiner may have gotten excessively enamored of tailoring every element of an episode to reflect that week's Big Topic at the expense of character continuity. Since there's seldom much carry-over once a given theme's been dealt with, my wife says it reminds her of one New Yorker special issue after another: "Look, it's Race Week! And now our gang is starring in Serial-Killer Week! Whoa, here comes Prostitution Week!" Can Shark Week be far behind?
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