Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I’m Watching: Mad Men (Season Finale)

Mad Men: Season 3, Episode 13 “Shut the Door, Have a Seat” (A)

A stellar season with all great episodes goes out with an extraordinary bang with this, the best episode of the season and the series itself. The British invasion which could have been troubling for the show turned out to be the best thing that could ever have happened. A good old-fashioned conspiracy brings out the most interesting and entertaining characteristics of all the show’s mainstays, as well as witling down the cast to the bare essentials (sorry, Ken and Paul). Closing the door on Hilton before undertaking this new endeavor was smart, and now Don can really focus on what’s best without having to worry about contracts. The fact that Don, Roger, and Bert turn to Lane for help in their plan is a sign that they really do like him and that he’s been a positive force, and he has been an asset this year. Jared Harris deserves commendation for his strong performance, and his new role in the firm, and the show, should be great. This episode showcases a particularly fine performance from Robert Morse, as well as John Slattery, whose character finally gets right with Don after a season of feuding and generally ignoring each other. Roger’s casual mention of Henry Francis truly catches an unsuspecting Don off guard, and it’s jarring to see Betty finally take the step to officially divorce him and move on with Henry. Don’s better off focusing on his work, and he and Roger make a magnificently intimidating and effective team. It’s wonderful to see Pete and Peggy take a stand when they’re initially approached, and their different reaction to the pitches are both spectacular in their own ways. It’s nice to see Trudy’s support for her husband, especially considering the shaky way their marriage started out and the not much improved way it’s been going recently. Having Joan back is absolutely fantastic, and the manner in which she’s called in and arrives is perfect. Her sarcastic yet excited answering of the phone in the new office is brilliant, and the future of Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce looks promising. It will be great to see them get back off the ground, and this episode really seals everything up nicely, highlighting every character’s great strengths, while still setting the show up for an altogether different direction in the fourth season, which AMC is already advertising as starting next summer. If there was any doubt that “Mad Men” is the best show of the season, it should be put to rest after this amazing finale.

Season grade: A
Season MVP: Jon Hamm


Greg Boyd said...

It appears as though I may have to start watching this show on DVD. I've been planning to at some point. I think this is one of the first episodes of any show you've given an A. Quick question though: as I recall, you've given almost all of the "Mad Men" episodes this season a B+. Even if the finale is an A, how does the whole season wind up with one if none of the other episodes have received an A? Just curious. It sounds like a really good show.

On an unrelated note: the last six episodes of "The Office's" third season (beginning with "The Negotiation") were simply brilliant. And so far, the fourth season has been almost as good.

Movies with Abe said...

I haven't quite an A in a long time, that's true. It's a good feeling.

When I grade seasons, I try to do it on a bit of a curve. Perhaps it doesn't make sense, but I can't imagine any show having solid A episodes for an entire season, and I think it's worthwhile that a show that doesn't have a single remotely bad episode should earn an A.

I assure you, you won't be able to zoom through Mad Men like you're going through The Office. It's just a different kind of show - still great, but not as short or addictive necessarily. You also feel immensely satisfied after one of these episodes and, while it's great, you're not necessarily craving more the same way The Office makes you do that.

I love "Beach Games" and "The Job," and "Product Recall" had the best opening scene ever. I'm not sure if you're there yet, but "Dunder Mifflin Infinity" is one of my favorite Office episodes. In case you weren't aware, my online reviews for The Office actually date back to "The Negotiation," so if you're interested, feel free to browse through the archives, though my reviews back then were considerably shorter.

Greg Boyd said...

I'm well past "Dunder Mifflin Infinity", which was very good. My favorite episode of season 4 has to be the one I just finished, "Dinner Party". Great stuff. I didn't quite understand the C grades for "Survivor Man" and "The Deposititon". "Survivor Man" was not that great of an episode, but it still had some big laughs. And I enjoyed "The Deposition" a lot. I already miss the hour-long episodes that started season 4. Half an hour isn't nearly a long enough time to spend with these terrific characters. I also really liked when the show did forty minute episodes for a while. It's still really good. Any scene with Jim and Pam is a treat. I also love the way the Dwight-Angela-Andy triangle is taking shape. And Michael is still hilarious. I think I'll probably give "Mad Men" a shot once I'm done catching up with "The Office". I've heard nothing but good things about it.

Greg Boyd said...

Oh, and there actually has been a season of a show in which almost every episode was either an A or A-: "Battlestar Galactica's" final season (at least in my opinion). Also every season of the classic "Dick Van Dyke Show".

Movies with Abe said...

It's funny that you mention "Dinner Party" because, as I was watching Glee on tape tonight, that very episode was airing on FOX. I did love "Dinner Party."

Regarding the final season of BSG, I was abroad so I didn't review it. While some episodes were mind-blowing, like "The Oath" and "Daybreak, Part 1," I didn't love every installment. This season of Mad Men ranks with fantastic first seasons of shows like Dexter and Rescue Me - those were the days.

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