Friday, May 30, 2014
The other two important characters are the Lady Katherine, who is on the island hiding out from charges of high treason and her husband (?) who doesn't have a name yet, but is working with Blackbeard. Lady Kate (as I shall now call her) thinks her husband an invalid and in a wheelchair but he's faking that apparently. Didn't expect that either. There is also Selima, and if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say she and Blackbeard have a thing going. Selima like puzzles, that's all we know so far, but since that's her first character trait, it's an important one.
Over all, I'd say to check it out. The pilot held my interest and was good fun but also left me wanting more.
--Really nice set and costume design. Felt very tropical and pirate-y.
--Malcovich's accent took a bit of getting used to.
--A wee bit violent but nowhere near the blood and gore of Dracula
--Despite having a potential thing with Selima, Blackbeard also has a harem.
--Any good spy must have an assistant but I do hope Fletch doesn't become too comic relief-y.
Monday, May 26, 2014
His lack of power coupled with the issues of the past, coupled with Jim Culter's somewhat bizarre desire to move away from creative and into computer-based advertising sets us up for the metaphorical battle of Waterloo. Like in all good battles, first an issue of war is declared. The day the team is due to fly out to Indiana and pitch to Burger Chef, a letter comes across Don's desk informing him that he is in breech of contract and that he is going to be fired. A few episodes back, Don walked into a big tobacco meeting and proceeded to undermine Jim and Lou by pitching himself, not an ad. The move was a way to save his career, as the meeting was a set up to in force Don out in the first place. But, Jim now feels it is adequate grounds to dismiss Don. So long as Don is around, SC&P will always be a Don Draper company. The clients, for now (we'll get to to why only now), flock to Don to hear Don's ideas and Don's pitches. So long as Don Draper can still burst into meetings, Jim will never have the kind of company he wants. I must say, I'm a little shocked at how little regard Jim has for creative. His closest ally and partner is Ted, who is exactly like Don: creative first, business second. Does Jim think there is really a place for Ted in this new sterile, technology driven agency? What's more shocking are the way the votes go down when Don summons the partners together to vote on if he should stay or go. This scene was laced with tension. The scoring of Mad Men is always important, but unless it's an actual lyrical song, the music is never in your face and is often muted or very low. The music as Don calls the partners, his comrades in arms as it were, together was much louder and intense than anything we've heard in awhile. It created a sense of drama, but it also created a sense of fear. Don's on edge and almost takes a swing at Jim (which Jim deserves for throwing Don's "impoverished childhood" in Don's face), everyone is angry at one another and angry at Jim. Like civilized men (and woman) they first attempt a vote. Not surprisingly Jim (and apparently Ted who is absent in more ways than one this season) wants Don out of the company.
Until next year...the moon and the stars belong to everyone. The best things in life are free.
--I know I skipped over everything with Sally but in short: despite her being a bit of a Betty clone this episode, she's still Sally and she still went for the nerdy boy in glasses instead of a the hot stud. Props to the actress who managed to embody bot her parents: forging her own path like her father, but dressed exactly like Betty. And check out how body language when she takes a drag on her cigarette: January Jones to a T.
--Meredith is officially my favorite secretary in the history of ever. That incredibly awkward attempt to hit on Don was deliciously silly.
--Can we have Nick come back and woo Peggy?
--"That is a very sensitive piece of horseflesh. He shouldn't be rattled"
--"I don't want to go to Newark!" "No one does..."
--"We have no liquor!"
--Harry Crane once again misses his chance to become a partner because he waited too long to sign the papers. He's now out several million dollars.
--I really need this show to not go off the air.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Often times on Mad Men, the pitch presented in the episode is working to demonstrate the overall themes found within the hour itself. Sometimes the pitch strengthens whatever is happening to the characters, and sometimes it's a ironic nod to how different the "real" world works. In this weeks episode, "The Strategy," the pitch is the latter. This pitch, which will be presented to Burger Chef, is way too complex for a TV ad and has an almost overly romantic (read: old fashioned) quality to it. Burger Chef (which my mom tells me was a real place) wants to get more moms to visit the franchise for their dinner, but the housewife of 1969 feels guilty for not cooking dinner that night. As Peggy says later on, "mom's job is to make dinner and Burger Chef's job is to stop her." The pitch, then, revolves around the idea that moms can get permission from their husbands to pick up Burger Chef for dinner instead of having a home cooked meal and it will be a special treat served with love. As Lou says in the middle of the presentation, "it's nice to see families happy again!" Because that's the great irony of this episode--there are no families like this anymore. Don doesn't go home every night to a roast and a waiting wife and dutiful children. Peggy isn't simply passing time until she gets married and has babies. Joan is a single mother who's ex-husband is not her son's father, and Peter is getting a divorce and his own daughter barely recognizes him. The episode walks us through just how unhappy these supposed families are until Peggy (drunkly) stumbles onto the right idea: family is what you make it.
Bob! Who knew we'd cheer when seeing Bob Benson again? Bob has been in Detroit handling the car account but has come home to see his "family," which mainly consists of Joan, her mother, and Joan's son Kevin. I love the irony here that Peter shows up at his former house to see his biological daughter and treated coldly, but Uncle Bob comes in to a warm welcome and hugs from Kevin. Note that they are both wearing plaid jackets and a tie, but that Pete's is decidedly more "cold" in color, while Bob's jacket and tie is sunny and warm. He's the one being greeted with joy. Perhaps it's because Bob is no threat to this family; he doesn't seek to upset the balance. At least, Joan doesn't suspect it of him. He's just Bob--her gay friend who keeps his life to himself for fear of persecution. There is little doubt in my mind that Joan knows plenty of gay men. She lives in the Village, right around the corner from where the Stonewall Riots will occur (and it's no coincidence that they brought Bob back at this moment; the Stonewall Riots are, if our calender is right, about a week or so away from happening literally right outside her door). If there is one thing to remember about Bob, it's that he's much more comfortable than our previous gay character, Sal, of the earliest seasons. Sal was totally closeted, deep in an unhappy and arranged marriage, fighting who he truly was. Bob knows he's gay, is fine with it, but also knows that he has to keep it to himself for fear of bodily harm and professional harm. In 1969, you could be fired for being gay, and as Bob is about to be reminded, the cops weren't going to take pity on you if they caught you trying to have a gay liaison.
--I can't believe we only have one more episode this half. Then we have to wait almost a full year for the conclusion.
--"Say what you want you will, but he's very loyal." The entire boardroom was just BURNED by Don Draper.
--"When we grow up, we're going to kill you and marry your wife."
--I'm not quite sure what is going on with the car companies. The actual business aspect of Mad Men, outside of the pitches and their relation to the themes of the show, never held my interest for long.
--I love how happy Don gets at the idea of being able to pitch.
--One quick costume note: very interesting that Joan is wearing a purple dress in the her opening scene. Purple is her heartbreak color (she was wearing an abundance of purple when Greg raped her). Not only is she decked in a color that signals doom and gloom by episode end, but she's also decked out in gold jewelry, emphasizing her new wealth and status as partner. But by the end of the episode when she learns that her company has lost the car and now Harry Crane is going to be partner? Only one small piece of jewelry to be found.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
We're introduced to Vanessa Ives fairly early on; she's a sort of female Sherlock Holmes, able to deduce characteristics of those with whom she interacts simply by noticing tiny little minutia. Vanessa has a deep connection to the spiritual and supernatural world; she seems to be a sort of occultist, though I think she would scoff at the notion. She obviously has a thing for cards and games and mystery, though the writers have created an interesting dichotomy with her as she is also fervently religious. Twice we see her in an almost trance-like state of prayer, praying in Latin rapidly as if the hounds of Hell are hard on her heels. There is an air of mystery to Vanessa, as both times she is seen praying, bugs literally explode from the walls and crawl on her. The second time, the cross of Jesus is turned upside down, normally a sign of evil or the Devil. We're given very little in way of character history for Vanessa; for example, why are she and Malcolm Murray so close? Does she work for him? Are they partners who reside in the same house? How did Vanessa get involved in all this? These are questions that keep me coming back, so well done writers.
We meet Ethan Chandler as he is performing a gun show in London. He's a trained actor who is good at telling lies and shooting straight. But Vanessa sees through all this and it's fairly obvious that his acting is just that--an act. He is sentimental, carrying a watch his father gave him and if there isn't a big story there, then I give up watching TV altogether (Chekov's Gun never lies). When he's introduced into the world of the supernatural, he doesn't blink so much as react and then blink. He's a good shot and has a good chemistry with Vanessa. Chances are we're looking at a pair of lovers before long, and Vanessa's cards tend to agree. Like Vanessa, Ethan's history is wide open and we know very little except that he's obviously drawn to the world to which he was introduced very quickly. The air of mystery isn't as heavy around Ethan as it was with Vanessa; at a stab, I'd say Ethan comes from a loving family but he lost them, went on the run, became a gun-for-hire, before giving it up and becoming part of a travel show. His main story will be in the acceptance of the supernatural and what he can offer that world that he cannot offer the "real" world.
Remember back when I blogged Dracula? Well here we go again. I seem to remember constantly questioning where Mina's father was--he would appear at random moments to prove that there was, in fact, a father, but then vanish in order for Mina to have her sexy dance time with Dracula. In Penny Dreadful, however, the father takes center stage. Malcolm is a former African explorer who has lost his daughter Mina to the vampires (I guess we can call them that, no one on the show has yet to utter the world "vampire"). I can't help but wonder what sort of things Malcolm saw in Africa and, perhaps more importantly, what he brought back. It would make for an interesting story line if Malcolm's hubris is the reason for Mina's disappearance and, I suppose, vampire-ism.
This was my one annoyance with the show so far. They tried to dance around the question of "who was the mysterious scientist with all the dead bodies?" The writers kept him from saying his name until the very last possible second, even though they wrote this poetic speech about how the only truth is the veil between life and death. I mean, it was a giant flashing neon sign that said "hello. I am Victor Frankenstein and I like resurrection." You don't need to hide that he's Frankenstein; it's painfully obvious.
However I do like the character. Too often Frankenstein is emotional and crying over his bodies and his failures as a scientist. This is a new twist. This Frankenstein is cold, speaks rapidly, and is a bit of an asshole. I like it. And at least I was spared a, "he's alive!!" when the monster came to.
--Not sure if I'll be blogging each and every single episode (it's a Sunday show and I already have on of those..)
--Gorgeous costumes and really good make up.
--Very bloody, so beware if you have an aversion to violence.
--Overall, check it out if you have time. I think it will only get stronger, or at least I hope. There is a danger of it going super campy because it is essentially a monster show, but with the mystery surrounding everything, I think it might escape the campy nature of other supernatural shows.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
When the humming and the conspiracies and the invasion get to be too much, Ginzberg packs up and heads to Peggy's, where he becomes the invader. This scene was supposed to set you on edge, especially when Peggy wakes up and finds Ginzberg starting at her. Turns out, he thinks the computers are turning everyone into homosexuals and he must mate with Peggy in order to cure him. The invading force is turning him into someone else, another sign of his eventual psychotic break. If he can find some sort of relief from the pressure to conform and become another person, then he'll be back to being okay. And this leads us to one of Mad Men's more bizarre and shocking moments. When Michael enters Peggy's office he says, "can't you tell? I am myself again." The fear of change coupled with the pervasive invasion lead to this moment: nipple in a box. I'll say this for Mad Men, I never saw this one coming. By removing a piece of himself, Ginzberg managed to be himself again, only this time his self-mutilation was out there for the world to see. It makes me wonder if he has ever self harmed before, trying to get back to being a calmer version of himself. And poor Peggy. She knows that his life is now over; he'll be carried off to the ward where he'll be mistreated and mishandled and potentially misdiagnosed. We're still a ways away from understanding and sympathy for the mentally ill in the 1960s, and this is probably the last we'll see of Ginzberg. However, this whole situation does cause Peggy to see the computer in a newer light: it's the enemy.
--I didn't touch on Betty's role this week because frankly, I've talked about Betty once this season and once is plenty. But I suppose a few observations can be noted here. Betty's failed party is a contrast to Megan's party. Both don't exactly go according to plan, but they are contrasting each other in what sort of party they are. Betty's is so conservative I half expected her to be serving apple pie. And even Betty's costume for this party reflects that: demur, pink, floral, trendy but somehow still stuck in the 1950s. As the world gets more liberal around her, Betty will plant heels and become part of the neoconservative movement that springs up in response. Not only is Megan contrasting Betty, but so is Sally who arrives home, broken nose and all. As Betty gets more conservative, Sally will get more liberal. Sally might miss some of the counterculture experiences (like sex and drugs) because of her still young age, but she's not going to miss the effects of counterculture, namely liberalism and feminism. Sally will be the girl who burns her bras in protest, while Betty will be the woman who scoffs at the young generation as a bunch of uniformed and ignorant hippies. Betty wants her daughter to be exactly like her ("It was a perfect nose, and I gave it to you!") but that's never going to happen.
--Some really great acting from Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm this week.
--Please fire Lou
--Not enough Joan in this episode.