Written by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)
If it's a known fact that grass increases creativity from eight to eleven times, how many extra times do you get when a balding doc pumps your ass full of speed?
That's the question asked during "The Crash," last night's Mad Men, the eighth episode of the sixth season. In a moment of crisis (a Blue Velvet-esque joy ride and car crash with Ken Cosgrove, a no-go on the latest pitch to Chevy), the creative team at SCDPCGC turns to drugs for energy.
'I know you're all feeling the darkness today,' Don tells his staff, high out of his mind, heading back to that special version of D.D. we'll call Hawaiian Suicide Draper.
Jim "Let's Get Everybody Fixed Up" Cutler calls in his special doc to administer shots of vitamins and uppers directly into the butts of those on staff who need something extra to put in work over the weekend. How do the boys like the results?
Roger Sterling: What drugs? Roger's body is so well preserved with vodka, his brain so expanded by acid, and his heart so rugged and prostitute-tested that he took his shot and left the episode. Not a peep heard.
Stan Rizzo: Beardo is an artist—how much did he find his creativity increased? What'd you say, Stan? 666 times? That's quite the boost. And you say it also gave you the gumption to kiss the neck of Peggy Olson, reveal a troubling story about a family member killed in the Shit, and compliment Peggy's great ass after she wisely walked away from your raging drug-boner? Sounds like you had a fantastic night, buddy. But no good ideas? Weird.
Ken Cosgrove: If anybody needed a pick-me-up, clearly it was Kenny. The boys at Chevy party hard, what with the drinking and the emasculation and the gun waving. They were good neighbors to him, and nobody wants that. With a scratched-up face, a show-business cane, and a limp, Kenny just screamed out, "Pass the drugs, please." Once tweaking, he dances a jig—is Matthew Weiner writing scenes knowing that they'll be turned into GIFs?—for Don, before getting at one of the central confusions of the episode: Are women mothers, or are they whores? None of the men in the office could seem to figure it out. Did Ken's mother teach him to dance, or was it his first girlfriend? Certainly Don needed help in this department.
Don Draper: Thank you, Don. Turns out all your dull sulking and sniveling and raging this season has been a build-up to your drug-induced peak and subsequent crash. It's glorious. The nonsense spouted off by Don last night is among the funniest writing this season, and maybe in the show's entire run.
"I know you're all feeling the darkness today," Don tells his staff, high out of his mind, heading back to that special version of D.D. we'll call Hawaiian Suicide Draper.
Yes, tension is high at the office, but things are extra bleak for Don. He's been creeping nightly outside Sylvia Rosen's apartment, smoking squares and feeling sorry for himself. Basically, he's stalking her, as she explains to him over the phone. "I'm afraid of you," she says.
The trouble at work (and the shot to the rear) send Don into his childhood memories, like a Miami Vice go-fast boat borne back ceaselessly into the past on crystal white waves of speed, bruh bruh. We're in the whorehouse now, and it's just like the office, as the episode couldn't help but remind us.
Please, Matthew Weiner, don't tells us what you're already showing us. It doesn't work when Nas announces that he feels like a gun at the beginning of "I Gave You Power," and it doesn't work when you make Don announce that the office turns into a whorehouse whenever the company has a car account after you've already established this through the editing and mise en scene.
But Weiner should keep pushing the show in unexpected directions. The atmosphere of unpredictable dread and likely violence cultivated last night felt like season five's "Mystery Date," one of the show's greatest episodes. The scenes with Sally and the thief felt dangerous, as did the tracking shot into Don's face as he stood on the stairs, looking ready to fall (that moment was particularly cinematic as well, another element this season has lacked). As a viewer, there was no stable footing. After last week's plodding hotel room scenes, this was especially necessary.
Revealing Don's past is a way to put us on stable footing, and it undermines the thesis of the show. The show is about the divides between people, how we are essentially unknowable to one another. Letting us into Don's past, connecting his encounters with prostitutes to his recklessness today lets us know Don in ways that don't work. They feel too obvious, plain as a connect-the-dots puzzle.
There are five episodes left. Sally was reading Rosemary's Baby last night, and remember that miscarriage from "The Collaborators"? Here's to things getting much, much worse.
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