Season 7, Episode 10: “The Forecast”
The last two episodes have been pretty Don-centric, but excepting two major scenes of a young ad guy and Sally (Kiernan Shipka) telling him what a washed-up failure he’s turned out to be, he was in pretty good spirits in “The Forecast.” He was peppy, not mopey and made the best of having his entire apartment emptied by a justifiably angry ex (and her awesomely evil mom) by moving the deck furniture into the living room. Don (or his stressed real estate agent) even managed to sell the lavish Upper East Side pad he bought when he married Megan (Jessica Pare), though even that made him feel creepily displaced. The final shot of last week’s episode was Don standing, confused, in his emptied apartment; the final shot here was him standing, lost, just outside of it as the new owners were signing papers.
Instead, this was a refreshingly female-centric episode, one that played with our feelings for Joan (Christina Hendricks). The women on “Mad Men” are uniformly unlucky in love, and none moreso than Joan, who has nonetheless erected an air of dignity about her that rarely telegraphs her terminal romantic distress. Here, while off at the L.A. office — yielding a brief glimpse of Lou (Allan Havey), Don’s old school (read: a—hole) replacement in the first half of season 7 — she meets Richard (Bruce Greenwood), a dashing millionaire developer who instantly clicks on Joan and likewise.
Their romance progresses quickly, and any seasoned “Mad Men” vet will watch with dread, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The shoe, in this case, is Joan’s four-year-old, which she doesn’t immediately — or even semi-immediately — reveal to Richard, who has had a major midlife crisis, retired from his business, ditched his wife and chose a life of total freedom. There’s no reason to think this one will work out any differently, even before Richard crows that he’s already raised his kids and doesn’t want to do that again — until all of a sudden it magically half-works out. We haven’t seen Peggy’s new boo since their nice first date, but I’d like to think that Matt Weiner, creator and showrunner, just can’t bring himself to curse his nicest characters to a horrific fate of endless romantic disappointments. Not that “Mad Men” will close with multiple weddings, but so far it seems to be at least introducing the specter of hope — the knowledge that Richard, when he soon moves to New York, will indeed call her and she’ll answer, and the two can live merrily on in viewers’ minds.
The episode also made room for Betty (January Jones), a character who’s often fallen by the wayside over the last few seasons. This was an episode that proved how rich she can be, and ditto Jones’ undervalued work. The episode saw the return of Glen, the vaguely creepy former boy across the street, played by Weiner’s son Marten. Glen has periodically returned (he and Sally have been pen pals and occasional IRL buds), but now he shows up in full early ’70s regalia, his sideburns hitting his neck, his hair a nest of scruff. Betty doesn’t recognize him until he announces his name, cueing one of Betty’s powerfully blank reaction shots where she telegraphs deep, existential reckoning at how much time has passed and left her in the dust, even if, as Glen notes, she looks the same. The queasy sexual tension between them is happily exploited; Glen never lost his puppy dog crush on her, while she never quite lost her whatever-it-is for him. It only gets as far as face touching, but the episode did have the balls to cross a line, if not the big line.
Alas, Glen is off to Vietnam — not as a draftee, but because he willingly signed up, much to Sally’s dismay. Vietnam hasn’t really penetrated the world of “Mad Men,” and the episode treated it to a unique take. Glen’s initial explanation for signing up was an ethical one: he couldn’t stay home and get high while black soldiers were being recruited to die overseas. His real reasons wound up a touch more complicated than that, but the episode acknowledged the privilege the scions of upper-middle-class families had at the time over their less financially secure brethren. Still, Glen could stay home, get high and protest, which would have been productive too. But when Glen makes what very well could be his final goodbye, not only from the show but from this world — and when Sally, who blew up on him upon discovery, then later hit the phone to distressingly try to get in touch with him before he left — the war came to a show that, despite the increased proliferation of late of puffing-out hairdos and mustachery, has always intentionally existed in a bubble.
Token stray observations:
— Bruce Greenwood is a fantastic actor who you’ve probably seen in a bevy of supporting roles, from “Double Jeopardy” to “Star Trek” to “Flight.” He also did a pretty sharp John F. Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis drama “Thirteen Days.” But his greatest work has been his films with Atom Egoyan, chiefly “Exotica” and “The Sweet Hereafter,” both in which he played distraught men dealing with the death of his kids. And man, his impenetrable country speak as the madman leader in “Meek’s Cutoff”? Look him up!
— Peggy and Pete’s old lovers’ tiff was fun, in part because it reminded us how Pete has gone from a major, serious player to one of the show’s comedic highlights. I remember when Vincent Kartheiser was the greasy-haired model of Generation X angst in films like “Another Day in Paradise” and “Crime + Punishment in Suburbia.” (Deep cuts!) Now he can kill a line like, “We have a peanut butter problem!”
— God, Lou was such an a—hole. Remember what an a—hole he was? What an a—hole.