It's amazing how everybody is expecting some sort of affection and/or appreciation from Don Draper (Dick W) and even though we may find him extreme and completely compelling, one can only accept that he has coming. His marriage has been on the rocks since forever and he has repeatedly cheated on his wife, Peggy has been there for him always (as he once did) but she doesn't see opportunities to grow under his shadow and of course, she is looking for a father figure, and the latter is the same situation for Pete Campbell who needs to hear some praise from him. He keeps on doing that throughout the whole episode after being rejected by Hilton. The most impressive thing for me is all that it is not said with words. I love how Peggy and Pete are going to "share a space" and I loved Peggy's face when Trudy came by the new place with the cake. What's going to happen with this 3?
My only complain is the casting: Maxwell Huckabee was weird to look as the Drapers' son but Jared Gilmore doesn't make his job any better and he's nothing like them...but of course we have to deal with that ourselves.
Anyway, they didn't need a plain crash, an earthquake, a wedding or a funeral, they built the momentum and just by letting us see their lives and their emotions, we are already hooked to see what's next for all the characters.
It perhaps engineers a bit too much stuff to happen but generally it has a good narrative flow to it at both the Agency level of the story and the personal level of the main characters. Don is the key to all of it and the season makes good use of his identity while also not playing all of the cards at any point. The stuff with Conrad Hilton didn't always work for me because it did seem to come out of nowhere, likewise some other aspects seemed to happen very quickly the fate of the Englishman's foot was funny but I felt it robbed me of some interesting competition with Don within minutes of introducing it. The period is not ever really forced upon us as it was in season 1 but rather it is shown in changes in the characters and in their situations. OK we have MLK's speech and JFK's assassination within this season but both of them are best played out through the characters rather than being something done to set a period for the viewer.
Beyond Don the degree of narrative spread among the second tier of characters is better again and I didn't feel the show was all on the shoulders of one or two characters. Betty may have finished being our "fresh eyes" as she was in bits of season 1, but she remains an important character. Her time is limited but her role as a progressive woman is solid but yet not pushed down our throats to make a judgement or to have others make a judgement on her. Likewise Sal's preferences are nicely revealed and are "dealt with" in a manner that unfortunately suits the period, without overdoing it. This is the way the season plays out with the narrative making good use of the "second tier" characters through, filling the show with more energy and allowing social observations to be made without them being too obviously inserted.
The direction continues to be good, as are sets and costumes the whole thing looks very of the period throughout. The cast benefit again from having stronger (in my opinion) material than they did at the start. Hamm is still a strong lead but the cracks and pressures spreading across Don's life are well shown. As with season 2 Jones improves by having material to do more with. Moss has a little less to do but she is still an engaging character and her upward struggle is neither forced on us nor allowed to fade into the background and be forgotten. Below these everyone else plays their part well, having moments of focus and background across the season. Hendricks, Kartheiser, Slattery, Sommer, Morse, Batt, Gladis and many others all stick in the mind.
Overall season 3 of Mad Men continues the standard I felt it achieved in season 2 over the worthy but rather less engaging first season. The narrative threads all engaged me whether they were business or personal and I thought it did them in a good mix while also balancing comedy and drama well too. Season 4 is just finishing on the BBC at the moment and I'll watch my recordings of it once I've left a gap from season 3 however 4 will be the last season freely available as Sky, as usual, has come in and done what they did with 24, by outbidding for the remaining seasons and putting them into a channel bundle that you have to subscribe to all of even if you only want to watch Mad Men for 12 weeks out of the year. Essentially Sky will be holding the established audience to ransom to watch the show for however many more seasons they do; and yet this is the same Corporation that complains about the growth of online piracy / file-sharing without a hint of irony or self-awareness about their part in encouraging it.
Update - this is the best episode of the series, it went down hill after this one.
I think of this one as a second part of the Mad Men hangover because this is set at the end of 1963, just after the JFK murder which was in the previous episode. Where the previous show had it's downs plus the occupation with the Dallas events perfect, this show goes beyond and brings us back up to a high never seen before in this series.
One great thing about this one is how the dry British wit is brought into this one. This humor in this episode is priceless. The amazing thing to me is how Don & Betts even though both are obviously mad at each other for different reasons, settle on a divorce they both can agree too. I have never seen this done in real life. She gets custody of their 3 kids but he will have visiting rights. This goes with the 1960's as back then the wife almost always got custody.
The only weak point but a point that I hope will be further explored is the business relationship between Draper & Olsen. There are some dynamics about their relationship developing though the conversation in this episode really just touches the surface.
The plan of attack and the way they chose to move forward was just great.
I loved when he said, I suppose gentlemen that you're all fired.
I don't know what else to say. I need to keep an eye out for encore's of that episode because I could watch it over and over. The Color Blue was another intriguing, captivating episode to look for.
I was tempted to use a couple other titles for this review as well. They included "Dethrones "Nixon,"" and "A Rare Happy Moment." And they're both true. Don Draper has never been happy before, and he is now. Everyone (except the unlucky members of Sterling Cooper who weren't picked) is happy. It's like a reunion of all the characters -- but only the ones we like. And they're all there. Don, Roger, Bert, Peter, Pryce, Peggy, Kinsey, and best of all, Joan. We all love Joan. The only one missing is tragic character Salvador Romano, who I still miss.
But what makes this episode so good? After all, television is usually better in tragedy than in happiness. But here, happiness works very, very well. We have everyone we like, they're back to their own thing, which Don is more importantly a part of. But what keeps this from being sappy?
For one, there's Don's startling altercation with Betty, something we knew was just -this- close to getting really, really bad, and luckily it didn't. There's the goodbye and good riddance to that annoying British teenager who I can't remember the name of, and there's the "awwwww" moment where Don tells Peggy that if she says no, "I'll spend the rest of my life trying to hire you."
The writing is fantastic, the directing is great, and the acting is spot on. I'm so glad the season ended on a happy note. And for the record, they said "Shut the door. Have a seat" three times. I counted.
A great show at its greatest.