Since when am I not hot enough to sell Coke?
One week after the heights of “The Hobo Code”, we’re back to the sterile, un-affecting, version of Mad Men. I might even go a step further than that and say that not only does “Shoot” fail to capitalize in the good work done in “The Hobo Code,” it undermines it by letting Don find some measure of integrity in his life at Sterling Cooper. Don, like most characters, is most interesting when he’s conflicted and giving him such a clear victory over an even slimier businessman provides a moral certitude we didn’t need. The journey there isn’t even particularly interesting as “will he or won’t he” is never in any real doubt. The “real” drama may be in the fact that Betty’s ambitions are also hanging in the balance but her domestic angst just isn’t resonating with me. Continue reading
The cement's still wet, just lean forward!
What’s this? A character driven episode of Angel? A good character driven episode of Angel? “Rm w/a Vu” certainly isn’t the best of Whedon, but it’s the first quality episode of Angel to rest squarely on the shoulders of the core characters. I’ve complained before that the AI team needed some attention and, looking at this episode, I think I understand why they’ve felt short changed. Angel’s format, helping a different helpless stranger each week, lends itself to a lot of intriguing diversity. It also means that the characters we’re supposed to care about are forever helping other people with their problems while giving us little insight into their own. We care more about Cordy than we possibly could about any random guest start and the fact that she’s the one with the problem this week means that the stakes are (finally) real. Continue reading
More like Episode Bad *zing*. Sorry, it seems that “Beer Bad”’s painfully unfunny script has rubbed off on me. Ever seen a comedian unwilling to stop a bit that’s not working? They just press on, seemingly oblivious as the audience grows quiet, then restless, then angry. The Emmy-nominated “Beer Bad” is such a comedian, unaware of how poorly conceived its central gag is and unwilling to stop before the train wreck’s complete. Couple this with yet more of Buffy pining whining over Parker and you’ve an episode that doesn’t work from end to end. Continue reading
I think it's finally working
What’s this, an affecting episode of Mad Men? I wouldn’t go so far as to call “The Hobo Code” moving, but for the first time in this series I caught myself actually caring about what would happen to the characters. That’s a pretty low bar when you get right down to it and moments like these have me thinking I’ve been a bit too forgiving of this series thus far. Great narrative needs to command our investment, not just our admiration and this is first time that Mad Men has been able to draw me in rather than simply display some technical excellence. Part of the problem is what an enigma Don is; it’s difficult to care about a character you don’t really know and this episode addresses that by peeling back some of Dick Whitman’s pretensions and showing us how much they weigh on him. Continue reading
Do we have to watch this?
Ugh. I mean… ugh. Angel’s been pretty lackluster thus far but this is the first truly bad episode it’s thrown at us. AI’s battle with Mr. Potato Head is proof that the series (thus far) has little to fall back on when the case of the week is a dud. Yes, we get another mention of Wolfram & Hart, but we already know they existed, and that they’re bad. What we don’t get is much development of the characters that need it or any better sense of exactly what this series is supposed to be about. Continue reading
This kind of awesome doesn't need a caption
Leave it to the ever bankable Halloween episode to pull Buffy’s fourth season out of its tailspin. That’s not entirely true, as there are plenty more rough patches to come, but “Fear Itself” is the first solid episode since graduation day, delivering a character-driven story peppered with solid humour, action, and scares. The only significant complaint I have is that an exploration of the gang’s various fears was already done back in season one’s “Nightmares,” but the characters and the series have come a long way since then, so it doesn’t feel like too much of a retread… except for the ways that it does. While the format may be familiar, it does provide an interesting opportunity to see which fears have stuck with these characters, despite how much they’ve grown. Continue reading
Who invited this guy?
It’s getting harder and harder for me to appreciate Mad Men for its technical excellence when the emotional component just keeps missing the mark. It’s very odd for me to think of an episode as “weak” because it hinged more on character relationships than on plot development, but when you don’t care about those characters their feelings aren’t particularly compelling. Still, the execution was its usual solid self and there was some good comedy in Don’s revenge on Roger. Beyond that, I continue to be baffled by Pete; not remotely liking him but not being able to think of another character anything like this on television. Continue reading
You'll never catch me being soulful and mopey
Three episodes is hardly enough time for the word “best” to mean much, but “In the Dark” at least has the virtue of being fun. It may be unfair, but backhanded compliments are about all that I can muster at this point. After the blistering awesomeness of Buffy Season 3, “fun” episodes like this one tend to be met with a shrug. It doesn’t help that most of the credit for making Angel watchable this week goes to the guest star rather than the ensemble. While there’s still a bit of goofiness in how he ends the episode, Spike’s in good form throughout most of it. If only he’d leave some of that mojo behind. Continue reading
A love to echo through the ages
Twelve years later, in full hindsight of what a heel he’s meant to be, even remembering the “toilet seat” comment a few episodes from now, I still find myself pleased as Parker seduces Buffy. Much of this feeling is personal, I’ll admit (never wild about her approach to relationships, I take some callous satisfaction in seeing her illusions shattered) but that’s only part of the problem. The plight of the other women in “The Harsh Light of Day” leads me to believe that Buffy’s responsible for her own relationship woes and there’s little here to make me feel sympathy for her (or Harmony’s, or Anya’s) self-deception. Continue reading
This show's supposed to be good, right?
As I recall, this was about the point in my first viewing of Mad Men that I began to get truly frustrated. “Babylon” is significantly better than “5G” in nearly every respect, but I still found myself glancing at the clock during its latter half. Don reconnects with Rachel for help on an ad campaign for Israeli tourism and their discussion of Utopia, the ideal and illusory place, makes a fascinating metaphor for the world of Sterling Cooper. The introduction of Roger and Joan’s relationship and Peggy’s “promotion” to copy writer shows that Don isn’t alone in chasing things that don’t actually exist. It’d be amazing, if only I care about the characters. Continue reading