Monday, January 05, 2015

Re-watching ‘Mad Men’: S2/Ep3, “The Benefactor”

This episode starts off whimsically, with more one-liners than you can possibly remember (no matter how many times you’ve heard them). But it takes a decidedly darker turn midway through when Don meets Bobbie Barrett, wife and manager of comedian Jimmy Barrett. Everyone is going to react differently to a show, I understand that, but I respond negatively to the entire Bobbie Barrett storyline that runs throughout Season 2. Couple that with way too much time spent on Harry Crane along with a dull plot thread about Betty taking horseback lessons, and this entry ranks toward the bottom of the series for me.

Worst Scene: The final minutes of this episode feature the scene I hate the most in the entire series. It occurs during the “apology dinner,” where Jimmy is supposed to make amends with the UTZ executive’s wife. Jimmy isn’t behaving, and when Bobbie leaves the table, Don follows her shortly thereafter. In a back room of the restaurant, Don gets extremely … aggressive with Bobbie, physically, and tells her Jimmy must apologize now or the deal’s off. The action Don takes here stands out in all the wrong ways. Weiner learned at the feet of David Chase, and this scene to me feels like when Chase would “rub our noses” in the fact that we liked and rooted for a degenerate criminal like Tony Soprano by having him do something egregiously horrible. It feels like Weiner is doing the same thing here, and as a result I’ve always hated this scene. Don is an anti-hero, sure, but this is out of character even for him—introducing a violent component that is occasionally revisited in later episodes—and serves only to disturb the audience with a cheap, easy, baiting tactic. I understand the sex-and-business power play happening between these two characters, but in this instance the series lowered itself to trolling for reaction.

Best Line: Bobbie Barrett: “I like being bad and then going home and being good.”

Grade: D+