I’ve had to start almost every review for this season’s episodes with a reminder that Mad Men is more about texture than plot. It’s all about the small moments between the characters. The nuances of the filmmaking. The artistry of character.
That being said, I’m happy to report that the sixth hour of the sixth season of Mad Men is one of those rare episodes that gets things done. Like “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.”, “The Summer Man”, and “Commissions and Fees” before it, “For Immediate Release” is an episode engineered to bring change and progress to the world surrounding our characters. It serves to liven up the setting, change things around, and give something all these people can talk about again.
Following last week’s “The Flood“, a spellbinding episode that weaves its way through the suffering of every major character, this week’s hour was mercifully light by comparison. That doesn’t mean everything is okay, but we’ve also been spared the apocalyptic tone of last week’s dirge.
The episode takes off right from the first shot. Pete, Joan, and Cooper speak with a banker about taking the company public. They’re laughing and counting the money they’ll earn. SCDP is finally striking gold. Pete, in his never ending struggle to reach the top, is almost cartoonishly excited by the prospect of twelve dollar shares.
It’s too bad, then, that Don’s ego loses the Jaguar account, causing Pete to nearly stroke out in front of the entire office. “Why would you care about the company?” Pete screams at Don. “You’re already rich.”
This, of course, is coming from a man who has a beautiful home in the country, an apartment in Manhattan, and a car he bought before even getting a license. Pete’s hostility toward Don mirrors a similar fight from last week, where Pete publicly scolded Harry in front of all the secretaries. It’s becoming a regular thing–Pete publicly shaming one of his equals. What strikes me as interesting about Pete’s anger is not how quickly it’s spiraling out of control, but that everybody is so wrapped up in themselves that they’re not thinking to ask if he’s okay. The man’s obviously unraveling, but nobody is interested in helping him out.
Some of you might argue that Pete doesn’t deserve it. After all, isn’t Pete responsible for the loss of the Vick’s account? Where’s his public shaming? I’m anticipating a serious reckoning for Pete this season, but it’s hard to imagine what his rock bottom will even look like, judging from the trajectory he’s now taking. Perhaps it’ll have something to do with the merger?
Speaking of which, where did that plot twist come from? All this time, I just assumed that Peggy’s storyline would be more-or-less separate from the pack. I actually admired how compartmentalized the series had become. But now I release we’ve just been played the long con. Weiner had no intentions of totally compartmentalizing the show. He knew that somewhere down the line, in another desperate attempt to represent a car, SCDP and CGC would merge, bringing our heroes back into the fold.
But what does this mean for the show? Where does everybody stand? What will the management look like? Will there just be over fifteen partners?
I assume the questions will be answered next week, followed by another list of questions, but I can’t help but wonder how things will be changing going forward. It’s amazing how little foreshadowing there was leading up to this decision. In the third season, when Sterling Cooper was gutted by Don and turned into SCDP, we expected some sort of change because of the climate of the show, but this change is extremely surprising. Our feelings, I’m sure, will be reflected in Pete’s reaction next week.
“For Immediate Release” brought some potentially major changes to the status quo, but it lacked the finesse of other plot-heavy episodes in the series.