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Mad Good

I’m just going to put this one out there. While I’m still squarely in the camp of The Sopranos, last Sunday’s episode of Mad Men – “The Suitcase” – was as good as anything I’ve seen on television in a very long time. Much mention was made of the strong writing for female characters on HBO’s mob series, but I’d now officially take the waspy, buttoned-down, sexually dominant and functionally psychotic Peggy Olson over former (and pre-Carmela) First Lady Rosie Aprile in a twelve-round contest any day. If TV is still the most prominent marker of popular culture, Feminism has stepped to plate in a manner that makes Gloria Steinem look like Morganna The Kissing Bandit. Interestingly, it’s done so in a 1960s-based series created in the 2000’s. Of course the two shows share many common ties, but that’s another matter.

Speaking of twelve-rounders, the ’65 Ali-Liston fight provided appropriate backdrop for this episode, and one can imagine how the writers – and in this specific case creator Matthew Weiner – began with this simple premise and expanded on it. “Suitcase” (and this is quite literally what Don Draper has become – a case in a suit) was as subtle and nuanced as an Ali jab and as punishing as a Liston uppercut. In the end it was Draper filling the Liston position, looking up from the mat at Peggy Olson’s Ali and offering an uncharacteristically and strongly feminine hand atop hers as appreciative gesture. As brilliantly as this played out, the show – much like The Sopranos – never settles for simple or contrived resolution. Olson may have been the last woman standing, but nobody cleans up from a fight like Draper.

There were at least another dozen outstanding points worth mention. The underlying, under-played, and almost completely unstated sexual tension hung over the episode like a looming thunderhead. The all-trumping, and again Soprano-reminiscent theme of maternal power (in this case Peggy’s over Don) was executed beautifully. And the show continues to portray alcoholism in all of its nuanced, falsely seductive, and retching glory. To cap it all off, we learn in this episode that Bertram Cooper quite literally has no balls – at the same time as the plot is deftly unveiling that none are necessary to dish out a serious ass-kicking. As good as the acting on this show has been, the players would be well-advised to slip a little something extra in the writers’ pockets come this Christmas, if only for this latest effort.

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  1. Cookie Rojas wrote:

    Well done sir, but functionally psychotic? hmm. seems to me Peggy may now fill the roll of Don/Dick’s deceased friend in cali…also like the fight between the drunken duck and don in that one it seems like liston wins

    Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    Thanks, Cookie. (If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that ..)

    And I’m standing by “functionally psychotic” if only in the sense of my own loosely-defined vernacular. Love that chick.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

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