This is a Spoiled Bastard. It contains spoilers. That’s the point. If you haven’t watched the episode, please come back when you have.
There are two moments in the fifth-season finale of Mad Men that seem particularly important and yet don’t call attention to themselves as many others have done this season (and many others did in the finale as well).
Although Mad Men has been more obvious about its themes this year -- ever so slightly disappointing in that regard -- the episodes themselves have been, for the most part, particularly great. It’s like Matt Weiner and the writers have said, “Here’s the important thematic elements and – boom – we just completely blew you away even though you knew what we were doing.”
Let’s try a little something different this week because that’s precisely what Mad Men delivered to us. I loved "Christmas Waltz" because it made exceptional use of both Harry and Paul and Don and Joan. And had an awesome car in it.
This is a Spoiled Bastard. It contains spoilers. That’s the point. If you haven’t watched the episode in question, please come back when you have.
There were a series of gears seamlessly interlocking in “At the Codfish Ball,” an episode of Mad Men that very creatively dissected the way men talk to and interact with women and women talk to and interact with each other.
In a rousing return to form, the “Far Away Places” episode of Mad Men was its most ambitious this season and one that, given the last couple of overly-obvious efforts, would normally cause serious worry about its ability to pull off not only an LSD episode – a cliché landmine if there ever was one – but also a fractured narrative, the deepening of current motifs and subtle transformations of character spread throughout the cast.
From a critical perspective, it’s very difficult being any great series in its fifth season. It just is. There’s always a little fatigue, viewers are all in, thus more tolerant of lapses, and the necessity of change – characters growing, times changing, situations reversing themselves or disappearing altogether – create the sense that the series isn’t like it used to be.
This is a Spoiled Bastard. It contains spoilers. That's the point. If you haven't watched this episode, come back when you have.
As purely an exercise in the thematic display of fear, “Mystery Date” worked wonderfully if in an overly obvious fashion. But as a Mad Men episode, it felt wildly out of place – and not in that creatively adventurous and surprising way that some of the very best Mad Men episodes of the past seasons have turned out.
This is a Spoiled Bastard. It contains spoilers. That's the point. If you haven't seen the current episode, come back when you have.
While there’s a lot of momentum to talk about Betty’s weight – one of the more jarring images we’ve seen on Mad Men, if only because Betty’s been perfect Ice Princess Grace since we first met her – it was another character who really stood out in this episode who truly deserves the attention.
The fourth season finale of Breaking Bad did a lot of things right, course-correcting most of my worries and giving viewers not only an action-packed, satisfying episode but putting the show on the path to finish its final 16 episodes in a nearly perfect dramatic state – with Walter White far closer to Scarface than Mr. Chips, but the whole of his crazy dream and best laid plans completely upended. He may have “won” as he tells Skyler in “Face Off,” but he doesn’t have much to show for it cash-wise.
I watched the “End Times” episode from Breaking Bad twice, just to make sure it really did make the stretch I thought it made the first time I watched.
And what’s confounding is whether they had to stretch at all. The logical elongation in question is, of course, the series of events that inadvertently (and too conveniently) got Walt and Jesse back on the same page, just when it looked like an epic, rage-filled meltdown from Jesse would put a bullet or four into Walt.