Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 2

"Mad Men" is the only show I actually have a reminder in my calendar for. I'll leave the excellent Heather Havrilesky to sum up the episode.  Television Without Pity usually has great recaps too.  But here's some thoughts, just on Lee Garner Jr.'s line on receiving his present: "Reminds me of when I was a kid. Remember that, you'd ask for something and you'd get it? Made you happy", and why I love this show.

The writers pack so much into this one line: the idea that Lee's a person of privilege who always got what he wanted; the idea that he should be able to find happiness; and the wistfulness for a much simpler chain of causality: you know what will make you happy, you ask for it, you get it, and it makes you happy. Lee at best only has a good idea of what will make him happy. I don't get the sense that, outside of the Sal incident, he's tried to ask for it much. (Although reasonable people might disagree.) And I don't get the sense that he's ever gotten what he wants, let alone have the chance to find out whether that would truly make him happy. Besides which, the scene has already shown (via the Roger-as-Santa thing) that there is something attenuated about the pleasure of getting something you asked for because you have power over the other person rather than the more simple joys of giving.

Besides the terrific line itself, the delivery was great. Lee's tone changed when he said the line - all the hint of menace and power games seemed to fall away for a moment.

And this is why I love Mad Men. The condensation of so much into succinct lines - not bon mots or quips or pithy statements, but lines that, both in what is said and what is not said, convey an entire world.

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