Television Review: Mad Men, season 4, episode 3 — “The Good News”

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It's New Years, and Don goes to California for his holiday, leaving the office again this season in what seems like an attempt by the show to define Draper outside of his work. This time he visits Anna Draper, former wife of the real Don Draper, in California. He is known here to Anna, her sister and her niece as Dick Whitman. There is always something very sweet about the interaction between Don/Dick and Anna. She is 100% the opposite of Don's former wife Betty: fully accepting of who Don is, encouraging and proud. She even tells him at one point that she knows everything about him, and she still loves him.

And then we find out she has cancer. Her family is choosing not to tell her. Don is clearly distraught. This is perhaps the one and only person who knows who he really is. He ends up leaving without telling her, per her sister's request that he "do the decent thing." Maybe losing her will make Don want to open up to more people about who he truly is? (Doubt it.) Their best scene was the one in which they discuss truth, and how flimsy all that you know to be true just might be.

[image-1]Don's visit to California also introduced us to another neat relationship: Don and the 20-something-year-old college girl. In one of the first strong nods to 1960s politics this season, we find out she goes to Berkley, supports the hippie sit-ins but doesn't partake in them because, "someone has to go to class." The witty exchanges between her and Don were great, and an insightful look at two very different generations butting heads (but in true Mad Men fashion, also managing to conjure up some blatant sexual tension). Don definitely represents the show's beginnings, the old '60s, while the girl represents the new '60s, and maybe where the show is headed. I loved when Don told her that she is in charge — I assume he meant of the world of advertising, as the most targeted consumer, but I think he also meant of the country's future as it too heads into a new era.

Don returned to the office on New Year's Eve, and him and Lane got in some quality buddy-buddy time. They bonded over their miserable marriages, a silly movie (were they watching Godzilla?) and a lot of good liquor. "You know what's going on here, don't you?" Don said to Lane in the dark, sparse theater. "Hand jobs." Don ends up buying Lane an escort/prostitute (only $25 in 1964) for the night, and goes to bed with his escort of choice, Madame S&M. Favorite line: "We're not homosexual, we're divorced!" Lane, to a comedian who spots him and Don sitting together by themselves at a comedy club. Their interaction did little for me personally, but it was nice to see Don making friends with the office Brit, and also finding some comfort in the loneliness of his status as a divorced man in the 1960s.

I liked the balance of characters in this episode a lot. I did miss Roger, and I sure hope they find something interesting to do with Betty. We haven't seen her for about two episodes now, and I'm not sorry to say that I don't miss her one bit. I do love January Jones' take on the infantile woman though, so I'd be sad to see her character phased out.

Next week: "The Rejected." Hoping for some Pete/Peggy/Roger action and more of Don in the office doing what he does best. (No, I don't mean drinking copious amounts of alcohol before noon; I'm referring to being a creative advertising genius.)

What exactly was the good news in Sunday night's episode?

Was it that Joan wants to start a family before Dr. Husband ships out to Vietnam who-knows-when? Or perhaps that the most good person in Don's life, Anna Draper, is dying of cancer and no one will tell her about it? That the ad agency is still under "precarious" conditions but they had a good year? Lane's rocky marriage? His uneven relationship with Joan?

Or maybe it was that we got an episode featuring characters who haven't had much to do plot-wise lately: Joan, Lane and Anna Draper.

My favorite, of course, is Joan. After two years of marriage, Joanie's ready for a family. I loved the subtle references to birth control and past abortions during her visit to the doctor. But the more I thought about it, the more I don't want her to start a family with her creepy, pretty-boy husband. (Remember when he sorta forced her to have sex with him in the Sterling Cooper offices?) I expect more of Joan than just what is expected of her. Women's lib, Joanie! Burn that large bra of yours! In any case, I have a feeling she's not going to choose/be happy with following a traditional marriage/kids/stay-at-home-mom path. (Her altercation with Lane being one indication; she does not like being treated like someone's fragile pet.)

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