Thursday, 3 May 2012

TV Review: Mad Men Season 5 Episode 7 'At the Codfish Ball'

It’s hard to know where to begin with Mad Men. It’s an anomaly of the television landscape. A show that gets better with every season and delivers honest to god 5 star episodes every week, the show is so good that sometimes I have to just thank the TV gods that Matthew Weiner created this amazing show.
I’ll start by saying that I loved this weeks episode even if, and this may sound strange to say, it wasn’t as good as last week (an episode which stands tall as one of the series’ greatest). The focus of the action of this week’s episode ‘At the Codfish Ball’ centered on stories from Don and Peggy.

Don, having mended his fractured marriage to Megan at the close of last weeks episode is under pressure when her parents come to town for a visit, Megan’s father is a communist writer who despises the capitalism represented by Don who in return seeks only approval. It is clear from the outset that Don and Megan’s marriage is not the most tumultuous under that roof as Megan’s parents have been waging a cold war upon each other for years. As Don is scheduled to receive an award for the article about quitting tobacco he penned in the previous season the extended family have to shelf their issues to attend the ceremony accompanied by the always hilarious and smooth Roger Sterling.

Don reads Megan's father's socialist book in order to impress him.

The writing was top notch as always with this week’s episode, especially for Roger who had a number of memorable quotes that made me crack up because of just how smoothly they were delivered, John Slattery has always brought a special air of nonchalance to the role of Roger but he has really stepped it up this season, (particularly with last week’s episode which should earn him a nomination at this year’s Emmy Awards) his meeting with Mona showed real growth for the character and it was great to see him interact with Sally in such a “cool uncle” way. Mad Men is known for its shocker moments and the scene with Sally discovering Roger and Megan’s mother this week mentally scarred me as much if not more than it did Sally.

I have to say I really felt for Don in some scenes in this episode, he found himself between a rock and a hard place most of the time. First his wife’s crazy in-laws turn his apartment into a battleground leaving him to play mediator, then he narrowly avoids being fired by a client whom he had invested a lot of time and effort with and finally he is left to take care of the kids whenever their grandmother breaks her ankle. Even Don’s special night isn’t perfect or even a good distraction, he has to put up with more fighting between his in-laws before a bombshell is dropped on him by an acquaintance; whilst everyone in the room loves his work and admires him, none would dare work with him because of his article frightening them that he would just as easily turn on them as he did tobacco companies.

The most unhappy dinner table in the World.

Last week’s episode showed Peggy reaffirm her relationship with her boyfriend Abe, this arc continues this week as Peggy and Abe reach a critical point in their relationship and have to decide if they are serious enough about each other to commit.

When you really think about Peggy has had a one hell of a tough season so far; she’s lost her cool and blown an account, been reckless with her relationships and is slowly beginning to hate her life at SCDP. Peggy’s arc from season 1 has seen her change from a very introverted secretary to a copywriter on par with the rest of the guys (well, except Don), she’s even started drinking heavily and smoking, one has to wonder how far down the rabbit hole she has fallen, and whether or not she can return to her true self.

A few great moments from Peggy this episode include her finally gathering her own voice to stand up to her overbearing, traditional mother and her scene with Abe at the restaurant. As Peggy learned from Joan earlier in the episode it is highly possible that Abe is about to propose marriage to her, by the time Peggy shows up at the restaurant it is clear that she has been thinking about it all day (even purchasing a new dress for the occasion). When it is revealed that Abe only has plans to ask her to live with him Peggy silently and gracefully reorganises her expectations, as Abe asks her “Do you still wanna eat?” she uses the response that she had been preparing all day “I do”.

Peggy is struggling in both her professional and private life.

I can now honestly say that season 5 is the greatest season of Mad Men so far and I can’t wait for what next week’s episode will bring.

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