Smart Mad Men Recap: S3E2, “A Day’s Work”

SPOILER ALERT: It’s Valentine’s Day on Mad Men.

Mad Men

Don (Jon Hamm) and Sally (Kiernan Shipka) discover their french fries are cold. So are their feelings.

“Just tell the truth,” Sally tells Don. And then, miraculously, he does.

A lot can happen in a day’s work, and a lot does in “A Day’s Work,” the second installment of the penultimate season of Mad Men. (I’m calling bullshit on AMC’s seven-episodes-this-year, seven-episodes-next-year crap. It’s seasons 7 and 8, smartass.) The show’s writing is in top form, and seems poised to show off each cast member’s unique talents. This week we were served high-stakes office politics, petty office politics, and a whole lot of kickass character development in one of Mad Men’s most fascinating and crucial relationships.

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Smart Mad Men Recap: S3E1, “Time Zones”

SPOILER ALERT: Mad Men is back.

Mad Men season 7 episode 1

Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) wears an adorable beanie-like beret in the Season 7 premiere of MAD MEN

Something about the way Peggy tilts her head, lifts her hand, and says through a slight squint, “That’s a home run,” is startlingly Draperesque. Mad Men has drawn parallels between Don and Peggy before (remember Peggy’s handjob in the movie theater?) and as we embark on its final chapter, it appears this show ultimately isn’t Don’s story, nor twisted to become Peggy’s. It’s about both of them, how an ad man and his secretary relate to each other, are related to each other, and relate to a time in history when all the rules were changing.

Matthew Weiner has dabbled in tongue-in-cheek self-awareness before, but I don’t know if we’ve ever gotten as blatant a meta moment as this season’s opener:

“Are you ready? Cuz I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something. Do you have time to improve your life?”

Everything before that last line feels intentionally direct, from Freddy addressing the camera to the tone of finality inherent in the assertion that this is a “beginning.” Self-improvement is Weiner’s season 7 thesis statement; he’s situating the time we have remaining with these characters as a period of possible redemption. Is there a difference between improving your life and reinventing it? How much of starting anew means saying goodbye? Continue reading