Directed by Tim Hunter | Written by Bridgette Bedard | 47 min
The Generation Gap
By Colin Hart
Mad Men is as much a show about the era that was as it is about the changing times ahead. The fact that we can view it from a 21st century lens only adds to its overall timelessness.
Cultural revolution is right around the corner, yet the “fabulous ‘50s” still loom large. This is when America Was Great™, so they say.
But Roger Sterling, a veteran of World War II, would have you believe otherwise. The Golden Age of America — of which Donald Draper represents the quintessence — was only made possible by the hard work of the Greatest Generation. Everyone else is just riding on the coattails.
“Red in the Face” focuses on Roger’s P.O.V. for the first act before shifting to Don’s by the end. The transition is seamless. Mad Men, like all Great Shows, knows how to touch base with all major characters, put you in their shoes and then leave you out to dry.
Roger is jealous over the fact that young girls in the bar would rather flirt with Don than him. To make matters worse, Don’s rising star in the agency seems to be burning brighter by the day. There will be a few times throughout the series that characters will bluntly ask Roger, “What exactly do you do here, again?”
Inviting himself over to the Draper residence for dinner, Roger gets drunk and makes an aggressive pass at Betty. Just because he’s old doesn’t mean his notorious womanizing days are behind him. He takes a bottle of vodka for the road.
Last episode gave us more insight into Roger’s character (mainly through his affair with Joan) but “Red in the Face” is his first true spotlight. John Slattery delivers an excellent and underrated performance, imbibing Roger with a casual, charismatic and comfortable whogivesafuck attitude. He may not be as introspective as Don, but he always remains entertaining. If nothing else, he is Mad Men’s greatest source of humor.
He says it best in his half-assed apology: “When a man gets to the point where his name is on the building, he can get an unnatural sense of entitlement.” Roger never regrets what he says and is malleable in whatever he does. That’s why he’ll soon become one of the series’ best characters.
Don, on the other hand, isn’t going to let himself be outgunned by a silver lion who doesn’t realize his best days are behind him. The morning before an important sales pitch with the strategists from the Richard Nixon campaign, Don takes Roger out for all-you-can-eat oysters and all-you-can-drink martinis. He also bribes the elevator operator to say it’s out of order upon their return.
23 flights of stairs later, Roger pukes all over the office lobby. Don gives him a pat on the back: “Are you alright?” Roger’s dumbfounded expression gives the episode its title.
While Don and Roger spend the episode big-dicking each other, the rest of the characters go about their daily struggles. Pete Campbell has problems adjusting to married life and goes on an unlikely odyssey trying to return a Chip-n-Dip that was gifted to him and Trudy at the reception. He buys a rifle with the money and later ends up in the doghouse.
Meanwhile, Betty is also having marital problems of her own, stemming from her increasing isolation. She feels lost in the supermarket, giving divorcée Helen Bishop a well-deserved slap in the face, and has taken to drinking wine in the daytime.
While her storyline may seem dull to the untrained eye, her plight is getting more sympathetic by the day. Sure, Don is charismatic, but is he not one of the shittiest TV husbands of all time? He’s currently juggling three different lovers and he gets furious at Betty when Roger flirts with her.
All in all, Mad Men is settling into a groove unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The ability to make these happenstance inconsequentialities into sublime, prestige television is truly a remarkable accomplishment.
Old man eats oysters and vomits on office floor? Depressed wife slaps a bitch in the vegetable aisle?? This is prestige TV???
Of course it is. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mergers & Acquisitions
- I’ve recently been running the stairs from the ground floor to the level 26 (humble brag) in the building where I work and, let me tell you, I’d be puking my brains out too after being full of vodka and oysters.
- Don begins the episode by checking in with Betty’s therapist to see if she’s making any progress. He tells him that, “Basically we’re dealing with the emotions of a child.” Big yikes. But does it mainly stem from Don’s neglect?
- Don doesn’t want to talk too much about his experiences in Korea, while Roger is more than happy to share his WWII air force stories. Once again, the generational divide is obvious.
- Why doesn’t Don want to talk about Korea? Or any aspect of his past, for that matter?? What did Dick Whitman do???
- Sign o’ the times: The Nixon campaign! Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz divorce, again!! Norman Mailer novels!!! Russian dogs in outer space!!!!
- “Stop smoking so much, it’s a sign of weakness.”
- “I’m a vegetarian sometimes.”