06 February 2011

Ending of Season III of Mad Men

Cicily and I continue to work our leisurely way through Mad Men episodes.

Season III ended not with one but with several "bangs".

Episode 11 takes place in October 1963 and focuses largely on Roger Sterling, one of the name partners of Sterling & Cooper, and the son of one of the founders.

An old flame re-enters Sterling's life, trying to get him to help her sell her dog food, without changing either the product or the name. This is difficult, because the product is made from horse flesh, and that fact has become public knowledge, making the name notorious. (The title of this episode, "The Gypsy and the Hobo" seems to refer to the younger and wilder days of this woman, Annabelle, and her dalliance with Roger.)

But an important sub-plot in this episode, one that I see as the first of the season-ending "bangs," involves Joan, formerly the head secretary at Sterling & Cooper, now the wife of Greg, a medical resident at a New York hospital.

Greg didn't get his coveted job as a surgeon there. His back-up choice was psychiatry, but in this episode he returns from an interview for such a position very ticked off. Greg and Joan argue. She smashes a vase over his head. This induces Greg to a drastic career move -- he's going to join the army, which needs surgeons, won't be picky about him, and will make him a captain. (I can see his demise in Vietnam on the story-arc horizon.)

Episode 12 takes place in November 1963. Roger's daughter's wedding day is rather rudely interrupted by news from Dallas that the President has been shot. We follow the characters through the day and evening and see the breaking news through their eyes, all the way up to the moment Jack Ruby shoots Oswald. Now THAT should logically have been not just the end of the episode but the end of the season, too. What could possibly follow that?

Episode 13 takes place in December. The final go-out-with-a-bang moment. All the principal characters arrange to get themselves fired so they can start a new firm in a hotel room. Pryce, the fellow the Brits who bought Sterling & Cooper had sent to New York to ride herd over the place, learns in a very indirect way that the mother corporation in London is itself on the trading block. He's shocked by how out-of-the-loop he is, and cooperates in the plan.

Pryce fires Sterling, and Cooper, and Don Draper, all at their request, and on a Friday afternoon. He is aware of course that London is five hours later, so nobody there will read his telex informing them he has done so until Monday morning. This gives the coup plotters the weekend to get everything they'll need for the new firm out of the offices of the old one.

In the course of that weekend they inform other members of their inner circle, including Peggy and Pete, mother and father of the unacknowledged child from season one.

They learn, too, that they don't know enough about the mechanics of running an office to pull this off, and they have to bring Joan back. She is thus with them in the hotel suite that constitutes the improvised new offices of "Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Pryce," in the following Monday, and nothing is heard for now about Greg.

Love the corporate intrigue. It all almost made me forget that through all these three episodes Betty was getting closer to Henry -- Governor Rockefeller's aide -- and learning a somewhat sanitized version of the deep dark secret from Don's days
in Korea. Betty and Henry are planning a quickie Reno divorce as season three ends.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.