The Rejected, or ‘The Routine’

17 Aug

This week’s episode is the directorial debut of John Slattery, and ‘The Rejected’ was a resounding success. There weren’t a lot of flashy tricks, which was a good choice considering how tightly structured Mad Men is visually. What Slattery did show was a keen eye for gesture, physical comedy and juxtaposition, and I hope that Slattery gets to do another episode this season (or a guest spot somewhere else) because the thing was a joy to watch. Since there was a lot happening visually this week, there’s a lot more screenshots than usual, so apologies to any poor bastard trying to read this on 56k.

Take the opening shot pictured above. One of the odd things about Mad Men is the disconnect between the way it’s promoted and the actual content of the show, which is in itself kind of ironic. There were complaints that Mad Men was increasing the rates of drinking and smoking due to its extreme coolness. In this scene, Roger and Don have to work through the new laws regarding smoking advertising, one of which is that you can’t shoot the actors from a low angle to make them look superhuman. This occurs 30 seconds after the opening shot, which as you can see does precisely that.

This week Don gets to do something he’s never really tried before, take responsibility for his actions. The fallout from his one-night stand with his secretary was painful to watch, largely because Don was so oblivious to how hurt Allison was that every word he said only made things worse. Sure, with his encroaching alcoholism, unresolved divorce and a dying best friend he has some stuff on this mind, but his hand waving of Allison’s request for a recommendation letter was a low call. The DDFTL is now hovering at zero, and it’s probably going to stay that way until he can bring himself to finish typing that letter. While Don was dealing with the bastard he’s become (or always was), Pete and Peggy got outside the SCDP office for some good old-fashioned character development.

Things Pete and Peggy have in common: they both suck at hide-and-seek.

‘The Rejected’ put a lot of work into drawing a parallel between Pete and Peggy this week, they even went to the trouble of giving them the same colour outfit, and had them do the same action at different points in the episode. As the two youngest main characters on the show (apart from Sally), they’re the most susceptible to the effects of the  rapidly changing world around them. Pete’s dream is to be part of the old guard, the men like Roger and Don who don’t respect him because he’s a sniveling ass. This week he gets everything he wanted- Trudy is pregnant, Cosgrove (in a fun but essentially needless cameo this week) is jealous of him, and he turned through some manipulative finagling he got a big account signed to the firm, thus winning him the respect of the senior partners. Unfortunately, ‘this character fulfilled all their dream and was fine forever’ is not a compelling storyline, so expect something awful to happen to Trudy or for Pete to do something colossally stupid in the coming weeks.

Now it’s time to talk about Peggy. But first, this, because it’s hilarious.

If Pete’s mission is to become part of the old guard, then Peggy’s is to become part of the future. From that first scene with lesbian photo editor Joyce (I know this is terrible stereotyping, but her eyebrows were a giveaway, also the photos of naked ladies, that may also have been a subtle clue) Peggy reacted with confidence and enthusiasm far removed from her date with Kurt back in season two. The party scene was a good indication of how far she’s come, and at the same time the distance between her and her more avant-garde colleagues. Peggy seemed genuinely surprised that they wouldn’t be interested in having their work used for advertising purposes, which I’m willing to put down to naivety. She’s smoked a few joints and been to a warehouse thing , but she’s only part of the counter-culture on a fairly superficial level. While she’s in a much better place than Pete she’s still part of an institution they despise, and as long as that’s the case she’ll only be a very successful outside- much like Don really.

Another telling detail- Don and Peggy both adjust their clothes at the same time when the psychologist walks in the room. She’s great at her job, and that’s what makes her so dangerous to both Peggy and Don. Don rejects the conclusion she comes to as too old-fashioned, and while that might be right his defense comes across as a little too personal, much like it did when he avoided the test back in episode 1. I don’t think Don is going to ask for an appointment any time soon, but she may be around long enough to keep chipping at him until he gives something away. Now for a final piece of clever (if a little direct) composition.

Pete and Peggy, separated by a glass wall. Peggy leaves with the cool kids to go harass Warhol and discover LSD, while Pete is inside, now a member of the inner circle he’s dreamed of for so long. Careful what you wish for and all that jazz.

Next week is “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”. Maybe something about Don as a failed knight-in-shining-armour?


2 Responses to “The Rejected, or ‘The Routine’”

  1. MadMenGirl August 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    Hey there!

    I have entered a contest to win a walk-on role on that retro-licious TV show, “Mad Men”… but I need your vote to win!

    If you don’t mind taking a couple of seconds to vote for me, click the link – it will take you right to my picture.

    Thanks a bunch!

    • liamjordan August 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

      Sure, best of luck to you.

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