“Shoot the Plane Down”
By Colin Hart
8.4 / 10
Mad Men is elegant, richly-textured and full of warmth and sincerity. But just like last year, season two gets off to a slow start. This will become somewhat of a trend — the early episodes of any given Mad Men season are slightly inconsequential from a plot development standpoint.
For example, in “Flight 1,” Paul Kinsey dates a black girl, Peggy Olson visits her family, and Don and Betty Draper host a game of bridge. Sounds exhilarating, right?
Yet from a character development standpoint, “Flight 1” excels. Even though the storylines don’t amount to much, the episode weaves an exquisite tapestry of introspection and contemplation.
That being said, it’s still the most boring installment since “Marriage of Figaro.”
The most notable storyline occurs when American Airlines Flight 1 crashes into Jamaica Bay, leaving no survivors. Even more notable is the fact that Pete Campbell’s father was among the fatalities.
“New Amsterdam” was Mad Men’s first attempt at humanizing Pete, formerly the show’s most insufferable character. “Flight 1” follows a similar blueprint, as Pete is unsure how to feel about the death of the man who hated him since birth. He shows little emotion over the tragedy, and doesn’t even cry when he has to console his mother. Ironically, his indifferent demeanor is what earns our sympathy.
As a matter of fact, everyone seems rather indifferent about the crash. Duck Philips sees it as an opportunity to pursue the American Airlines account, which forces Don to reluctantly drop Mohawk Airlines as a client.
Meanwhile, the rest of the employees — just a few minutes after huddling around the radio to listen to the news report, no less — make several distasteful jokes about plane crashes. Pete Campbell included.
In the season premiere, we saw Don wandering aimlessly throughout his day-to-day activities, stuck in an eternal mid-life crisis. And just as Pete is unsure how to react to his father’s death, Don is unsure how to react to … well … everything. He takes great regret in dropping Mohawk Airlines, showing how much he values loyalty when it comes to business.
The irony is that this is the only place where he values loyalty. At home, he’s becoming increasingly bored with Betty’s trivial complaints, and “Flight 1” hints that the only thing that can give Don the jolt of energy he needs is, you guessed it, another woman in his life.
It’s also exactly what Mad Men needs in order to jump-start season two’s slow start. For now, however, Don’s next affair will have to wait. When a sexy Asian waitress comes onto him at a restaurant, he politely says, “Not tonight.”
The key word, of course, being “tonight.”
Mergers and Acquisitions
- We also find out that Peggy’s baby is being taken care of by her mother and sister. However, in one of the episode’s most heartbreaking scenes, Peggy is still reluctant to even acknowledge the child’s existence. At the end of the episode, she goes to church with her family, yet doesn’t take Communion, sitting there with a crying baby on her lap. Like everyone else in the episode, she’s unsure how to react to the situation.
- The episode opens with a party at Paul Kinsey’s apartment, in which he introduces his new girlfriend to the rest of his co-workers. Joan Holloway, who previously had a fling with Paul, ridicules his choice, claiming that he’s just dating a black woman to seem cultured and progressive. Even though Joan comes off as intolerant, she’s right — Paul is as pretentious as the pipe he smokes.
- In retaliation, Paul puts Joan’s birth certificate on a bulletin board for all to see. She was born on February 24, 1931, in case you didn’t know, which makes her 31-years-old.
- The episode is dedicated to Christopher Allport, who played Pete’s father in season one. Allport died in an avalanche while snowboarding in 2008.
- The American Airlines Flight 1 disaster took place on March 1, 1962.
- “Flight 1” was written by Lisa Albert and series creator Matthew Weiner, and directed by Andrew Bernstein
- “I’m enjoying the story so far, but I have a feeling it’s not going to end well.”
- “Is it so hard to just leave everything at the door and just do your job?”
- “My father was on that plane.”