Episode 8 - The Summer Man
6 March 2012
Mad Men - 408 - The Summer Man
In this episode Don starts to try and bring his drinking under control. Part of that process for him is the decision to keep a diary of his thoughts. We hear what he is writing and so get a Dexter style internal monologue from Don. It makes Don very much the hero of the show in a way he never quite has been before. His decision to exercise more and drink less. His decision to ask Faye out properly and not sleep with her straight away. His decision to put aside the awkward scene to spend time with his son. All of it is very mature and admirable. It took Don falling from grace to make him the hero of the show in a way his immorality never allowed him to be.
So I rather enjoyed this opportunity to hear his inner thoughts despite the rather sudden change of direction for the show. We also got a couple of moments where we followed Don's internal state through the camera lens as he fought the habit of drinking at work. Again I liked it because this is one of those key moments in his life. He is trying to change and not end up as someone he doesn't like. The decision to visit his son was the most significant of course but his desire to make a real connection with a woman is up there to.
In the office Joan was forced to remember her lowest hour (when she was raped by her husband) while dealing with male abuse and the constant irritation of a difficult vending machine. The vending machine was very clever writing. It achieved dual aims of reminding the audience about the 1960s lifestyle at the same time as ramping up the emotional tension already bubbling. It was interesting to see Joan slap away Peggy's hand of friendship just when she is about to be completely alone in the world. The difference between her approach and Peggy's was fascinating and the show did a good job once more of showcasing the gender issues of the time.
I liked Don's comments about swimming and how he felt weightless and didn't sweat. That was a new way to look at something familiar. I also very much liked that he kept drinking a little. It's still a part of his life whether at work, on a date or having dinner at home. For now it's just about moderation. I also like that he kept smoking despite evidence from his swimming that giving up that habit might help him feel even better. Some habits are harder to kick than others. Betty still has feelings for Don at this stage but I don't doubt her interest in Henry. I do doubt whether she will be happy once his political career starts taking more and more of his time.
Solid character stuff for Don and Joan.
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