After a quality dip in the second episode, the third episode of the groundbreaking series shows us what Mad Men is best at doing and will in time prove to be one of the finest episodes. It is the end of the year and 1965 is looming, Don plans a trip away to Acapulco for the New Year. On his travels he takes a detour to Los Angeles where he catches up with Anna Draper, Mad Men fans will know that this is the wife of the man whom Don stole his identity, hence why when he spends time their they refer to him as Dick.
They have an profoundly decent relationship, in fact a more fitting man and wife team than he and Betty ever were. They are visited by Anna’s niece Stephanie who after a night out reveals to Don that Anna is dying of cancer which she isn’t aware of. This leads to exceptionally heartbreaking scenes between Don and Anna, which are brilliantly acted. Back in New York, the office manager Joan Harris (formerly Holloway) is struggling with balancing her work with her workaholic husband who rarely see each other due to inconvenient working times. She is also wanting to have a child, but is also nervous about her husband being drafted into the army and therefore to Vietnam. Joan is easily one of the best characters in the show and nice to see her become a bigger part of the storyline, who does show a genuine humanity and warmth underneath the veneer of being a hard edged, sexually charged working woman.
After learning of Anna’s cancer, Don has to leave and cancels his trip to Acapulco and returns to New York, where Lane who we have believed to be going back to the UK has remained. Don learns that he is also divorced, and in a similar situation as Don. Prompting them to go out for a night on the town, where they get fantastically drunk and spend a night in with a couple of prostitutes. It’s nice to see the usually, and actually stereotypically, stiff Lane let himself go. The scenes are great and very funny, unlike last weeks episode where the humour was oddly unbalanced here the comedy bits between Don and Lane work very well. Even when it passes over into the ridiculous, such as taking a trip to see a Godzilla film.
It is a strange episode but a classic one, again reinforcing the idea about surfaces and contorting them. If the season continues with this quality it will be a great year.