Tag Archives: Joan Harris

Mad Men: Week 3 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: As a long-time viewer of “Mad Men,” witnessing this show’s hypocrisy and cheating, (professionally or sexually) should not phase me as much as this episode did. “To Have and to Hold” is a very fitting title for this examination of possession, success, and pursuit. Aside from having the strongest urge to yank off Harry Crane’s pretentious little sideburns, this episode really made me feel extremely angry and tired. To use one of my favorite Joan quotes: Mad Men, “you have gone from lubricated to morose.”

NAVA BRAHE: Thank you, Sonia, for reminding me about Rachel Menken. It is maddening to witness Don’s sexual attraction to women who challenge him, juxtaposed with his hypocritical treatment of the women he has chosen to marry. I’ve always hated the concept of the “trophy” wife for that very reason: the women on the arms of successful men are merely decoration, while they have to find solace in the arms of women who are already spoken for.
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Mad Men: A Little Kiss

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: The “Mad Men” that entered our homes on Sunday night was not the “Mad Men” that we have grown accustomed to for the past four seasons. The moods and energies of the worlds between and beyond the glass doors of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce have shifted in a way that history has told us was inevitable.

HOWARD MEGDAL: How wonderful to spend two hours luxuriating in Mad Men world once again-though the commercial breaks every ten minutes felt excessive (Ironic complaint given the show’s subject, I suppose). That alone was enough for me, but a number of plot points were set into motion, with new conflicts and consequences stemming from established characters promising a tremendous fifth season. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Season Finale in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: What is one supposed to do when Don Draper proposes to a brunette, his secretary, in bed, in a room that is not his one, on a coast that is not his own? Are we supposed to compare him to Roger Sterling proposing to his twenty year old secretary in Season 3, who was supposed to bring vibrancy at a time when the world around him seemed to embody an emotional wasteland? Are we supposed to feel joy and tear up at Megan’s sweet and genuine reaction? Did we see this coming? The Season 4 finale of “Mad Men” seemed overwhelming with conflicting emotions of disgust and relief, surprise and verification, distrust and acceptance.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I’ve heard plenty of discussion about what the choice of Megan over Faye represents, but not this: the choosing of Don Draper as the identity moving forward over Dick Whitman. And further, this doesn’t represent a backslide from the work Don has done on himself- it represents an embrace of it- a third way, really. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week 11 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Don Draper, what did I tell you not to do? Life is complicated enough without you sleeping with your artsy secretary in your office, who assures you she won’t “run out crying the next morning.” Faye Miller gets Draper a meeting with Heinz and asks delicately if he would just sit down with her when Draper finally returns to his apartment, mirroring Jane Sterling’s warmth as Roger comes through the door after visiting Joan Harris. “It’s the end of the world” Stan declares after he kisses Peggy Olson in her office. Lucky Strike, after 25 years, after being the subject of the very first episode of the very first season of “Mad Men” is a lost account. Bedlam erupts in Season 4′s episode 11 from the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and bleeds through the ceilings into the other compartments of its workers’ lives.

HOWARD MEGDAL: All the energy of the episode is Lucky Strike getting away, yes, but the lessons of the episode provide a huge payoff at the funeral of a longtime ad man. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week 10 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: I left this week’s episode of “Mad Men” feeling uneasy. The last shot of Don Draper’s secretary, Meagan, applying her lipstick as Draper watches with that infamous look made me cringe. A few shots before, I was reveling in the idea of Draper and Faye Miller being an item. She’s a head strong woman with the perfect garnishes of confidence, class, and care that Draper seems to need right now. They seem to have an adult chemistry to their discourse that contrasts beautifully with Draper’s previous marriage to Betty’s Coca-Cola grin. Episode 10 of Season 4′s “Mad Men” seemed to focus on the couples: Don and Faye, Joan and Roger, Lane and Toni, even Pete and Trudy who emerges so disgustingly in a maternity outfit that bares frightening resemblance to a pimple.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I want the same things for the characters in Mad Men that Sonia does, but I see their reactions quite differently.

Is Don ready to move on from Faye? Well, we have a ton of evidence suggesting that he is ready to let her in like no one before-with the identity information only a small part of that (witness the afternoon of the panic attack, for instance). And the evidence against is that he watched Meagan put on lipstick. Well, my goodness, who wouldn’t? The whole office has noticed her, but Don’s been too wrapped up in solving his own spiral to do so. I took that last moment as Don’s ability to notice beauty again, nothing more. Sonia and my wife both disagree. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week 9 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: In typical “The Trouble With Harry” fashion, Ms. Blankenship’s body is awkwardly muscled around, shifted, thrown, slammed and ultimately wheeled into the great beyond. When Don Draper mutters “poor thing” under his breath as he sees his deceased secretary face down on her desk, I misinterpreted one of the secretary’s weepings for giggles, as they happened to mirror mine. The dark humor of this event was highly welcome after the dark, deeply depressing thematic happenings of Season 4′s episodes of “Mad Men.” Episode 9, I feel, incorporated many different possible moods and tones into 47 minutes: shock, fear, excitement, glee, disturbance, and total catharsis as Joan Harris, in that infamous red dress, in a moment of passion, gives herself to Roger Sterling behind a city stoop. In one of my favorite episodes of this season thus far, my heart broke for almost everyone between the laughter and the tears.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I am in agreement with Sonia on the overall quality of (and notably, the range of emotional notes hit within) the episode, but wish to focus on a few other aspects of this week’s show. Namely: Peggy Olson’s political awakening. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week 8 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: The robust sensuality of Joan Harris stands beside the precisely whittled creation that is Peggy Olson in an elevator. Harris’s shoulders stand firm and broad and commanding as they have throughout “Mad Men”‘s reign, shading the words-on-the-tip-of-her-tongue eagerness of Olson. These women don’t fall into the woodwork of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, nor do they lack impact as they stare seductively from the cover of this week’s “Rolling Stone.” Yet what halted me mid-enjoyment of the Betty/Don drama and Draper’s sexy film noir monotone voiceovers was this cramped, complex scene in the elevator of Season 4′s episode 8, between two women in a cramped, complex society.

HOWARD MEGDAL: We see Don Draper ready to assert control over his own life- something missing from the season up to this point, but clearly an aspect of his personality we know is in the arsenal (see Draper life, from Korea until this season).

Naturally, his first attempt at swimming off the last few years leads to a coughing fit- his turnaround can’t happen simply because he decides to begin. But the swimming, the New York Athletic Club, the sunglasses and the Rolling Stones in the background- this is Draper grabbing onto 1965, rather than living in 1956 regardless of time moving forward. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Episode 6 in Review

SONIA BRAND-F When a glistening Don Draper decided to follow Roger Sterling in taking a goofy victory lap around the conference table lined with Life clientele, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Is Draper’s maddeningly depressing lifestyle and outlook finally going to be flipped around by his newly won Cleo award? Well, no, not really, but it was nice seeing Draper smiling again for the first half of the episode. Episode 6 of “Mad Men”‘s Season 4 seemed to be, like Episode 2 in a way, dominated by smaller subplots that acted as vignettes to the ever-changing tone of the episode. Starting Draper high and dropping him low, only to be shot back up again in the elevator in his final flashback depicted the rise and fall of this highly complex character who finally emerged during this episode in a showcase of all sides of the Don Draper that we have come to know.

HOWARD MEGDAL: To me, the essence of this episode was gratitude. More specifically, how often it is misplaced, and in reality, success is a combination of fortuitous circumstances and one’s own cunning. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week Five in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Well, at least Betty’s back in all of her frustration tucked deep beneath the pins in her perfectly styled hair. Errant ringing telephones begin yet another episode of “Mad Men”‘s Season 4 and the chaos continues strolling expectantly through its fifth episode, spinning a cane and stopping every so often to light up a Lucky Strike. Episode 5 of this season did not leave me floored and emotionally linked with with the characters I care about so deeply. It was almost as if someone had taken the perfectly slick hair of the anonymous man in the opening titles and messed it up, stripped him naked, and shoved him back into his sofa with his cigarette. And the audience has the opportunity to be shocked, over and over again, slapped in the face by Betty Francis and furrowing one’s brow at an off-color insult, and we’re going to take that opportunity whether we like it or not.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Clearly, this episode declared that, whatever Don Draper’s faults and weaknesses are, 1965 was filled with people who had far more pronounced versions of all of them. Once again, Don has been set up as a relative hero. Like Sonia, I thought the seams were showing a bit in this episode- very unlike Mad Men generally. Continue reading

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Mad Men Week 3 In Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: When Don Draper drives the young Californian, Stephanie, home from a night at the bar with him and Anna, she nonchalantly states that “Nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves, everyone else can see it right away.” Though Stephanie is referring to the dullness of the archetypal “first-date conversation,” the audience mimics Draper’s head-tilt and applies the thought provoking statement to the newness of Draper’s life as a divorced man. The previous two episodes of the 4th season of “Mad Men” appeared to broadly establish the confused, less elegant lifestyle that followed his, paradoxically, more care-free married years. This episode, on the other hand, forced us to begin to delve into the inner-workings of Don Draper’s loyalties through a dusty, disconcertingly domestic lens.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Like Sonia, I was unsettled by this episode. That is by design, I believe, and unlike Sonia the end of the episode didn’t feel like a resolution of this, but rather a further unraveling. Continue reading

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