Mad Men Review by Henry Tran

Mad Men 7.07: Waterloo

Mad Men 7.07: Waterloo

Written By:
Carly Wray and Matthew Weiner
Directed By:
Matthew Weiner

Achievement is at the heart of this episode, both in the micro and macro sense. Within the show's world, there are a lot of big events going down. Jim Cutler goes after Don by drafting a breach of contract letter to force him out of the agency. It was a move that was expected, yet unwisely timed. As a result of the attempted ouster, Don gives the Burger Chef presentation to Peggy so that his now-sullied name isn't firmly attached to the new business. Then Bert Cooper dies unexpectedly.

That spurs on Roger's move to attach the firm to McCann Erickson, a former rival agency, so that the partners can all get a lucrative financial windfall. Now, the competition has achieved its goal from long ago: Swallow up the agency that was at the top of the heap. Meanwhile, the world is celebrating one of the greatest achievements in human history with the Moon landing. It's an event that unites all of mankind, yet there is the inescapable feeling that everything is about to fall apart.

That feeling is due to the general tone of the entire series. There have been some upbeat moments here and there, but the truth is that Mad Men is a rather dour show. It's pessimistic and sad, filled with characters who started out (both the show and the 1960's) feeling good, only to slowly get beaten down by the tumult of the advancing years. They are in the grip of the fear of being replaced. Don was given notice to watch himself and curb his maverick tendencies near the beginning of the season so that he could keep his partnership. The truth is that he's had a target on his back ever since he signed the contract and the repressive stipulations.

It looked like he was working his way back towards regaining the respect of the partners. The breach of contract letter essentially gives the company cause to fire him. It blindsides him, and puts everyone on edge. This is done, in part, by stylistic choices that the episode employs. When Don confronts the partners, his anger is reflected in a chilling background score that might be mistaken for being in an action film. This is a show that normally uses a music cue sparsely. It uses silence very well. So this is clearly an episode outside the norm.

Don forcefully shoots down the letter, yet I think a part of him knows that he's still going to lose his job. All the good that he does for the company matters less and less when the other partners don't respect him. I think that mindset influenced Don's pitch to Ted at the end to convince him to stick with the new business arrangement. They both need the work and would be lost without it.

Ted could easily be replaced there. He's disillusioned by the constant glad-handing of the clients involved in the job. The easiest solution is to eliminate all of that. Pete enjoys that aspect more than Ted. Don is now secure in the new arrangement with McCann (because the executives only want the men responsible for Chevy) so he can tell all those things to Ted.

Until the revelation at the end of Roger's agreement with McCann, it's left up in the air as to how everything will land. (Conveniently, many of the characters are so worried that the Apollo 11 astronauts would be able to land safely on the Moon.) The presentation to Burger Chef is getting finalized, and Peggy frets over every aspect. It's a nice continuation of the ending to "The Strategy" and this has Don finally letting go of the pitch to the client. She nails the presentation. It's the culmination of events from the very beginning of the series, when Don personally picked Peggy out of the secretary pool to make her a part of creative.

Her pitch to Burger Chef smoothly combines the fluid, modern nature of the nuclear family with her own personal situation (Julio is moving away from her apartment) and also incorporates the recent news of the Moon landing as inspiration. It's a pitch that Don would nail in his sleep. Only, he's clearly distracted by his impending job loss and then the sudden death of Bert following the historic Moon landing broadcast. That the company was going to land Burger Chef as a client was never in doubt after Peggy's clear, confident presentation.

The end of the episode has this great dichotomy that builds momentum into the second half of the season. The Moon landing was one of the few times in all of history that united humanity. Everyone who had access to a television was sitting down to watch it happen. It's supposed to inspire, pushing the boundaries of what man can do and to fulfill our potential. That feeling only lasts for so long. The news of Cooper's death in the immediate aftermath of this event tempers that enthusiasm. Even the announcement of his death to the company has warring moods: Somber upstairs as the staff is informed, brighter during the odd musical number in place as Cooper's sendoff of sorts that only Don witnesses.

His death gets Roger going, putting the buyout with McCann into place, yet there remains this feeling that it will be the last big corporate move to be made. One big swing for the fences to stave off the inevitable. Before that power play, it really looked like Jim Cutler was going to get his way and the agency would be broken apart, piece by piece. It seems that the struggle will continue without end.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Good use of historical analogy
  • Bert's death propels events in unexpected directions
The Bad:
  • Jim Cutler's ambitions are irritating

Henry Tran is a regular contributor of review for Critical Myth; The Critical Myth Show is heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @HenYay

Mad Men by - 5/28/2014 8:01 AM232 views

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