by: L.P. Hanners
A business-centric ensemble episode forever changes the landscape of SCDP. “For Immediate Release”….
This week’s episode of Mad Men was an unadulterated barnburner. The first series of scenes felt like a dream sequence, thrusting us into the action so swiftly we hardly had a chance to strap in for the ride. So much has occurred since last week’s episode ((When we last left off it was early April, and now we’re in mid-May.)): SCDP was preparing to go public, Peggy and Abe are settling into their new Upper West Side digs, Roger – finally thrust back into the spotlight – is carrying on like a horny teenager with a stewardess (and invaluable informant!) ((Danielle Panabaker)), and everyone’s favorite mother-in-law is back in town. This was merely the beginning, as last night’s episode was easily the most deliberate episode of the current season, not to mention the flat out sexiest.
“For Immediate Release”, the episodes title, refers to the press release Peggy finds herself writing in her office in the late hours of May 17th,1968. This release served as an announcement to the world that SCDP and CGC ((Cutler Gleason Chaough)), two bitter rivals, have merged. Yes, the evening’s climactic development occurred after sparks flew between Don and Ted and, in order to land Chevy, an elite and highly sought after account ((Chevy is on the verge of releasing the XP-887, which will eventually be dubbed the Chevrolet Vega)), they decided to combine forces. Tension soared to new heights in this perfectly executed ensemble performance. Written by Matt Weiner alone, the episode pops even harder than last week’s as heightened levels of impulsive and penetrating decisions were made, on par with a grandiose season finale.
When Peggy left the agency last season, we wondered if it was the end of her arc on the show. To our relief, we caught back up with her in last season’s season finale, “The Phantom”. Her character is vital to the show due to the reach of her talent, and influence of her character. She has played a leading role in the evolution of SCDP, and was thriving at CGC. Don, in last year’s “The Other Woman’, said that he was going to spend the rest of his life trying to get her back upon her resignation ((It could be suggested, especially in light of this week’s episode, that Peggy, herself, is a ghost that haunts Don, with her level of talent.)). Last evening, Don’s wish became a reality. When Peggy walked into Ted’s office as the episode waned, after touching up her makeup ((Another crucial reveal in this episode is that Peggy has a thing for Ted!)), she is confronted and then spooked by a tidal wave the size of Don Draper. In what could be the defining moment of her lifetime, Peggy is suddenly made the most important copywriter on Madison Ave. upon the revelation that SCDP and CGC have merged.
“Just once I’d like to hear you use the word “we” because “we’re” all here rooting for you from the sidelines, hoping you’ll decide whatever you think is right, for OUR lives.” -Joan Holloway, to Don Draper
Roger has apparently been hard at work staging his comeback ((Welcome back Roger! It was good to see that he is still fully competent, a notion that was driven home by the fact he laid of the sauce when trying to win over Chevy.)), and we soon realize that his fooling around with a stewardess, Daisy, in the beginning of the episode was actually a business strategy. While Pete ((Who displayed a knack for physical comedy as he gracefully plummeted down the office stairs before unleashing his fury upon Don.)) was floundering about, losing Trudy for good along with Vick’s, and Joan was finding out her tryst with Jaguar was all for not ((“Honestly, Don, if I could deal with him, you could deal with him.”)), Roger was busy getting his groove back. We even had the opportunity to experience a nostalgic moment with Don and Roger, as it’s been awhile since these two have taken us with them on that always entertaining ride when they are passionately pursuing business.
In a classic Don moment not to be overlooked in the scheme of this very busy and bipolar show ((Filled with so many highs (going Public!), and lows (losing Jaguar) and highs (a shot at Chevy) and lows (losing Vicks) and more highs (merger!).)) Don fires Jaguar. Herb Rennet from Jaguar is fed up with Don’s lack of cooperation, and Roger has insisted the two of them have dinner, presumably to hash things out. Don’s ego comes out in full force at dinner when Herb tries to put Don in his place ((The Draper family/Rennet family dinner scene that led up to the moment was comically delightful thanks to the welcome return of Marie Calvet, played by “legendary” Julia Ormond. Marie packs her best French one-liners to express her disgust in Herb’s wife, who seems to be unraveling in an obsession with her dog. Marie’s disgust continues when Roger calls later on back at Don’s apartment. She feels contempt for him now since he stood her up AND had her meet such gross people.)). What is fun to think about in this scene is that Don carries a business card around with him, of a fellow employee who will be handling business for him if he decides he doesn’t want to work with a client anymore…..thus, giving him the opportunity to fire someone in this dramatic fashion. Awesome.
The scene where Ted runs into Don in a bar in Detroit could prove to be the defining moment of the season: two enemies come together and become each other’s savior. Everything we’ve seen so far this season would hint at another pissing match to happen here, but not this time. Instead, they’ve dropped their defenses, exposed their vulnerabilities, and had an elegantly transparent conversation assessing the situation, and each other. Mutual respect is acknowledged, and an alliance is conveniently formed. The entire episode could be summed up with one word: merger – For business, and for pleasure.
Mad Men, after what many deemed to be a slow start, appears to have hit its stride. Every scene seems to be ahead of its time, constantly thriving in character development. Season 6, at this point, has exhibited more ambition than previous seasons in regards to quantity. Roger’s igniting of the Chevrolet situation was definitely the backdrop of the episode. It was nice to see Roger up to his old tricks and it will be nice to see the gang back together again. Pete looks to be out of Trudy’s life, and the fall of Dr. Rosen has began. “For Immediate Release” continues the trend of titillating story arcs revealing themselves one after the other. Each episode has been better than the last. Usually, the head writer of a show writes the season finales by themselves in order to tie up loose ends and produce satisfying lead space into the next season but Matt Weiner waved his magic wand all over this episode and unleashed a classic.
In the end, it was all about Peggy – arguably Mad Men’s most vital character ((She is told when drafting the press release to describe the new company as one she would want to work for.)). It’s hard to not look at the season thus far as an impressive set up to reunite Peggy with her former co–workers, and particularly Don. Matt Weiner decided to give the audiences the reunion they were waiting for ((Matt mentioned 2 years ago that he plans to end the series at the end of its 7th season. Are we experiencing the show’s decent now? If so, this could explain the urgent pacing of the season thus far.)) and an episode devoted to American Business at play – something Mad Men does so very well. The world of Mad Men just got bigger, more complicated ((Peggy, Don, Ted – the birth of the strangest of love’ triangles. Polyamory, in the form of a merger.))…and imposingly more interesting.