TV Review: Mad Men 4.5: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword
A team of three is beginning to become very plainly clear to be the real heart and minds behind SCDP and one of those three doesn’t even have their name on the sign.
Don, Lane, and Pete are clearly the movers and shakers of the firm and if anyone doubted Pete before they can not say anything to take him down now. Marching into Roger’s office and cutting off Don he dressed down Sterling and wasn’t even being unfair. That scene, woo, what a moment for Pete as he cemented himself as the accounts force of the present, and future, of the firm with no plans to look back. And credit is due to Weiner and company for perfectly setting up this moment without even showing their hand. Looking back on the season, I can’t really recount any scenes that Sterling was in that didn’t involve Lucky Strike and his absence over the last two weeks made Pete’s knock out blow that much more affective. Sterling is fading, and fast, and when Pete calls him on his slow fall into uselessness to this firm he has no rebuttal and can only try and silence the nay saying voice with his fists. Hopefully Sterling can use these moments of embarrassment to light a fire under his ass and make his name mean something again to the firm but his racial tirade against the Japanese clients at Honda was about as low as the man has fallen on the show; even if it was a bit understandable, though, not remotely right.
The other brilliant bit from this episode was Don’s playing with CGC’s ambitious creative head, Ted Chaough, who likes to think he is in the same league as SCDP. It started with the hilarious “on the record” quote from Don, “I’ve never heard of him,” and eventually turned into the gigantic ruse to try and sink CGC by making them think they needed to sink a ton of money into a commercial for the Honda pitch. The commercial will probably end up being financially devastating to CGC, since they didn’t get the Honda business they were never giving away anyways, and allowed Don to play a brilliant move by resigning from the pitch competition. Since one of the competitors broke the rules, hence making the competition unfair, Don politely gained the respect of Honda by gracefully returning their pitch money and calling them on breaking their own rules of the competition. Just some great work by the creative team, both behind and in front of the camera, to show how innovative and surprising this group can be while interjecting some great humorous bits along the way. Peggy riding in circles was hilarious, and a quite beautiful shot I might add, while Don “accidentally” interrupting the director’s meeting was a cute and funny moment as well; especially like the director’s line, “Is that Draper?”
The last big plotline worth getting into is the whole Sally/Betty debacle that is incredibly interesting but I just can’t figure out where this is going with Sally. She is too young to go to Woodstock or to be a part of the sexual revolution/hippie era right? She is going to be 11 in 1965, and while I guess they could throw a 15 year old into that role in the late 60’s maybe that will be her send off at the end of the show. Regardless of where they are heading, the Sally bits of acting out actually turn out to be far more revealing for Betty and where she is at as a character. When Betty sits down with the child psychiatrist we, in a moment perfectly set up through the conversation between Gwen and Faye about people “needing to talk about everything” in the previous scene, along with the psychiatrist, see that Betty is just itching to talk about things openly and get everything off her chest. Her relationship with Henry is veiled with politeness and Betty is acting how she thinks she is supposed to act with him and not what is really inside her; and right now Betty is angry. Whether it is lashing out, literally, at Sally over her hair or just the instant on edge attitude she gets when talking to Don she is losing it. Betty needs to get her real feelings out there and maybe she can find some catharsis and become the woman she truly is meant to be. I think the most revealing moment for her was they way she discussed Sally’s incident at the sleep over with the two men in her life. With Henry she is very timid and tries to be so very proper and polite. While with Don she just comes right out and says Sally was masturbating and speaks very openly and plainly about life with no filter. And I hate seeing people work with the filter, what good does it get us? You can be polite and proper without throwing up a filter on yourself and the Betty we see with Henry is definitely hiding behind said filters. Betty might think she is happy but I think there is a truer version of happiness for her to find.
-Can’t say enough how great it was to see Pete stand up to Sterling and assert himself as the man of the company when it comes to accounts. His line about having a child, though, struck me as a bit odd, I think they were just trying to convey Pete has a lot to lose if the company fails but it seemed out of place.
-Also, Pete and Don have come so far haven’t they? I mean, Pete was as gung ho as Don in putting the financial future of the company at risk to pull out all the stops for Honda. Don also taking Pete’s side with his comments about Roger irrelevance was something that would never have happened before this season.
-The door has been busted wide open for Faye and Don as her marriage is shown to just be a clever prop and I think that only makes Don more attracted to her.
-Bethany from the season opener is back and this isn’t their first date since either. Where Don has failed at his lame passes at quick hook ups it is very interesting to see that he is actually putting in the time and trying to possibly make something out of this relationship. Intrigued to see where it goes.
-Don was a little harsh to his neighbor Phoebe over Sally’s hair I must say; hopefully he can apologize down the line.
-Don’s new secretary continues to bring the laughs, but her incompetence has to signal a not too distant departure for her.
-Cooper’s role has been sadly dimmed as well with the company and the only reason he has anything to do this week is because he knows Japanese culture. Cooper was kind of already on the way out when SCDP opened up, but I don’t know if he has anywhere near as good a shot to become relevant again as Sterling does.
-The prospect of SCDP becoming the home of Honda’s car division is signaling the end of Lucky Strike’s stranglehold on the office. I can’t imagine what that blow up is going to be like down the line.
-“They aren’t all that subtle are they,” uttered by Joan over the Honda execs pouring over her breasts with their eyes was the best line of the week for me.
-Also really liked how they kind of expanded Draper’s levels of brilliance by showing how subtle it can be with the resigning from the competition bit instead of doing a big flashy commercial. Also, the legend of Don Draper is everywhere it seems, from Smitty at CGC or the director almost being in awe of his presence.
-Finally, great work by Weiner for somehow creating this slimy little villain in Chaough/CGC with little screen time and no appearances by him before hand. Just from that simple line about him being in Don’s rearview mirror we instantly got a laughable picture of who the man thinks he is and a joke that shouldn’t work as well is it does for a character we don’t know, “I’ve never heard of him,” hits like gangbusters.
That’s it for this week, see you next Monday!