Mad Men Review: “A Day’s Work” (Season 7, Episode 2)

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The unloved train continues in L.A. as well, where Pete gets annoyed when the Manhattan office meddles in the accounts he is signing. (Meanwhile, it annoys me that Vincent Kartheiser has never received an Emmy nomination.) He takes it out on a sedate Ted Chaough, who is probably too busy shrugging off Peggy’s inane messages to care much for his boy Campbell. How the calls between the coasts kept cutting out or being interrupted was a clever creative choice by episode scribes Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner, echoing the disconnect between Pete and the rest of the staff.

It is great to see Pete being Pete again – a hard-working career builder who always gets aggravated when things do not go his way – and the about-face from his sunny demeanor in last week’s premiere is a good indicator that he will remain a vividly drawn character until the series’ end. Igla and Weiner, in small ways, compare Pete’s life to Don’s, from the aggravation over the choices at SC&P to his quick escape to his fawning lover, Bonnie (who looks eerily like a younger Betty), when something goes amiss.

Director Michael Uppendahl should also get credit for turning this second hour into such a laugh riot, especially after last week’s weighty opener. “A Day’s Work” is filled with amusing one-liners (thanks, Stan and Ginsberg) and deadpan line readings from Hamm and Shipka. (The young actor’s flat, unamused monotone while talking about school at the diner was sublime.) Meanwhile, Kartheiser’s chipper Pete acting out at Ted, doubled with Moss’s fuming Peggy acting out at Shirley, created some fantastic instances of Schadenfreude.

Another interesting thing to note this week is that “A Day’s Work” returns us to the simmering politics of the less privileged. While sexist jokes used to be the norm at Sterling Cooper in the early 1960s, now any comments about the African-American secretaries, Dawn and Shirley, are kept hush-hush. Cooper suggests – sorry, requests – that Joan move Dawn from a position near the elevator because of her skin colour. His cowardly remarks flummox Joan, but she has no choice. Let us hope we see more of Dawn and Shirley as the season progresses.

As Dawn tells Shirley this week, “Keep pretending. That’s your job.” A fitting choice of words for anyone working at an advertising firm, too. However, although the colour red pops up in everything from the wardrobes to the roses to the upholstery in Don’s car – you know, to fit the calendar – everybody is in a blue state. The characters are too stubborn and miserable to conquer their own domain – except for Joan and Dawn.

Joan helped Ken last week in an exceptional way, proving to be a stellar accounts woman, and ends up with a promotion. She witnesses Dawn stand up to a controlling, condescending Lou – and then moves the ex-secretary to fill her old desk. For an episode filled of nastiness, and considering the bitter cold that the series closed on last week, Mad Men ended on an especially happy note with two promotions. (Three, if you count Sally’s “I love you” to her father as a promotion of his character.) The rest of the characters probably went home and, it being February 14, masturbated gloomily.

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