Monday, August 18, 2014

Re-watching ‘Mad Men’: S1/Ep10, “Long Weekend”

Going back through these episodes after so many years, many of them reveal long-forgotten treasures—a great line or a well-crafted scene that slipped beyond the capacity of my memory. Most of this is great, as you get to rediscover all the little threads this show has woven together over six-plus seasons. “Long Weekend” doesn’t offer the same satisfactory experience, unfortunately. In the moment, it was a big episode, one that felt like it would be a turning point for so many characters in the show. Roger suffers a heart attack that sends him literally weeping back into the arms of his wife. Don seems to have a hole cut right through him watching Roger cling to life. But instead of turning to Betty he winds up at Rachel Menken’s front door and opens up to her about his childhood, giving us another tiny glimpse into the circumstances that turned him into this mythological Donald Draper.

The trouble is, “Long Weekend” is the first in a series of like-minded episodes that, ultimately, don’t impact these characters in any permanent way. With the benefit of hindsight, we know Roger and Don and all the rest soon forget about the moments of enlightenment they had here in the face of death and go on about their lives like nothing happened. That’s probably Matthew Weiner’s point, that people don’t really change; depressing and cynical, sure, but also all too easy to believe if you take a look around the real world. There are more episodes like this that follow, purported breakthroughs for one character or another, but that actually cheapens “Long Weekend” a good bit. It’s hard to go back and take this episode too seriously because we know the events depicted here don’t ultimately lead to much of anything. So rather than retaining the emotional power it had originally, “Long Weekend” winds up now feeling a touch melodramatic and rather hollow.

Best Scene: In the final moments, Don lays on Rachel’s chest and shares an abridged story of his horrible childhood. He is more honest here, with this relative stranger, than he’s ever been with just about anyone in his adult life—it’s certainly more than he’s ever shared with Betty. It also serves to establish that, as much as Don Draper may do some deplorable things, his upbringing offered him absolutely no moral foundation on which to build.

Best Line: Joan: “These men. We’re constantly building them up, and for what? Dinner? Jewelry? Who cares?”

Grade: C+

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