Mad Men Recap: “Time Zones” (Season 7, Episode 1)

This season of Mad Men is its last; in all senses of the word, time is running out. Time is running out for the Madison Avenue lifestyle, the clock is ticking on the 1960s, and time is running out for our characters to fix what they’ve broken. As Freddy Rumsen remarks in the opening scene of Season 7, “This is the beginning of something,” but in fact this episode is the beginning of the end.

Despite their leaps forward in seasons past, Peggy and Joan are both struggling. Don’s drowning again, and Kenny Cosgrove is totally flipping his shit. Everybody’s dozing off, waking up late, remaining stagnant when they should be moving forward, and checking their watches as they do it. Time is of the essence in this episode, and it sets a distinct (and distinctly depressing) tone for the season. Last season launched the latest fan theory: Megan Draper as a doomed Sharon Tate, the late wife of Roman Polanski and victim of the Manson Family in 1969. Matthew Weiner is rarely so transparent, and as such I doubted the veracity of the theories – but this episode seems to give them more ground.

Rumsen still blends into the background. Photo credit AMC.

Rumsen still blends into the background. Photo credit AMC.

In the first scene, we get a close-up of none other than Freddy Rumsen, briefly studying some notes then launching into an earnest, thoughtful pitch for Accutron watches. The protagonist of the commercial “looks like Steve McQueen,” but wears a suit and tie. “This is a business man,” Freddy tells us. It’s “you, late 20s, shaggy, the youthful colleague. Staring at his watch as muffled conversation swirls around him.” Weiner films the scene as we’re used to him filming Don Draper – close, intimate, addressing the camera and thus, the audience. We’re the targets of this pitch. The Accutron pitch pits the Youngs against the Olds, an adept reflection of the cultural shift in the late 1960s. It’s on point, which is far more than anybody expects from Freddy “I pissed my pants” Rumsen. “Accutron: It’s not a timepiece, it’s a conversation piece,” he finishes, his eyes narrowed, face glowing. Peggy, of course, wants what Peggy wants. She ditches Rumsen’s brilliant pitch in favor of her own work: “Accutron: It’s time for a conversation” sounds more elegant to her.

I would wear everything Peggy is wearing here. Photo credit Jordin Althaus/AMC.

I would wear everything Peggy is wearing here. Photo credit Jordin Althaus/AMC.

And here we leap into the fray with Roger Sterling. A telephone phone rings, the sound reverberating about a darkened apartment as various nude people pass the phone to a duly naked Sterling. It’s his daughter Margaret calling, of course; no one else would be in touch with Roger – and he’s not terribly thrilled to hear from Margaret, either. When you’ve severed all your ties, being summoned makes you suspicious. He agrees to a brunch, but only if there’s vodka. After he hangs up, a naked girl about Margaret’s age props herself on her elbow, smiling. “I feel like we really got somewhere last night,” she says. All the drugs.

Lou Avery, the new Creative guy who replaced Don, is pretty deplorable, as it turns out. I mean, Don is deplorable, but he’s our antihero. A gent who comments on the race of his secretary by asking derisively, “What do we have here, Gladys Knight and the Pips?” is not someone we are built to like in the 21st century. He nitpicks Dawn (a woman of color in a sea of white folks), ignores Peggy (a woman in a sea of penises), and is generally a dick to everybody else.

Ken Cosgrove, he of the science fiction novels and the ability to compartmentalize, to stay out of the Madison Avenue fray, is wearing an eye patch (I assume due to the car accident with the Chevy team last season) and screaming at his help while Clara looks on sheepishly. He sends Clara to get him a buttered roll (really? a buttered roll?) and invites Joan into his office. He’s popping a pill direct from his shirt pocket; wonder what it is? Joan brings him the Avon file and says they’ve got another one to attend to: Butler Shoes. Kenny, who’s totally bogged down and upset, tells Joan to “make it go away.” It’s notable that in the first scene she’s in, Joan is walking up the stairs, wearing her power color of regal purple. She’s always walking up the stairs in this episode. Read more

The Walking Dead Recap: “A” (Season 4, Episode 16)

First things first: did the writers really think a corny, Western-style one-liner like that was going to satisfy us? Rick Grimes is no Walter White, and Andrew Lincoln and the showrunners are frankly not capable of making something like “They’re screwing with the wrong people” into the stuff of legend. It is no “Tread lightly,” that’s for sure. The finale as a whole was clumsy and unsatisfying. Everyone in the episode was asking “Who am I? Who are you? Who are we?” But the age-old existential dilemma doesn’t power the action; it hinders it. And as they’re all wondering who they are, they don’t stop to think about whether they’re walking straight into a trap.

Walking Dead Rick

Monsters all. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

“A” bounces us from past (at the prison) to present (on the road), as the writers are wont to do these days. This episode’s jumps from past to present and back are effective; they reinforce the point that nothing gold can stay. In the opening sequence, we flash back to the halcyon days trapped between the chain link fences of the prison. Hershel’s still alive and Maggie’s smiling as they return from a run. Everyone’s content, pleasantly calm as the prison crew pokes the walkers through the chainlink with crowbars. A jarring cut to the present focuses on Rick’s bloody hands and face; he sits with his back against a truck, staring into the space beyond the camera. The last time we saw him like this, it was after he beat the hell out of Tyreese. He crouches in silence, and the camera lingers long enough on his face for us to wonder where Michonne and Carl could be.

Post-credits, we return to earlier that same day. On the tracks, Carl wonders aloud if they’re going to be able to tell the folks at Terminus who they are, like, really. Rick understands exactly what he’s asking, but he can’t answer that. How do you say who you are when this is who you are? None of them feel like they’re good people, and how could they? Read more

The Walking Dead Recap: “Us” (Season 4, Episode 15)

Last week’s “The Grove,” a harrowing vignette if ever there was one, led us full circle. Having contemplated separating, having daydreamed of making simple lives in safe spaces, all of our characters were on their (not-so) merry way to Terminus, poor Lizzie and Mika excluded. This week, the writers had to pick us up, brush us off, and pat our metaphorical backsides so we’d keep on marching. So they took us back to the various other splinters – namely, to everybody’s favorite estranged lovers, Glenn and Maggie.

As they trudge along the tracks, Dr. Eugene Porter talks at Tara, who remains largely silent, her brow furrowed. “You cannot say for certain,” Eugene tells her, that the zombie plague “isn’t what killed off the dinosaurs.” The idea of undead dinosaurs is pretty rad, I’ve gotta admit. However, Tara is not and never was Porter’s kind of nerd. She also doesn’t swing that way. Once the sun sets, Ford and Tara stay up to watch over Eugene, their precious package, who snoozes next to Rosita and Glenn on the tracks. This scene calls back to the one in which Carol and Lizzie watched over Tyreese as he thrashed from a nightmare of Karen. Ford notes idly that Tara hasn’t slept at all yet. He’s curious why she’s here, and he thought at first she was in love with Glenn. “But I saw the way you were lookin’ down Rosita’s shirt when she was serving you dinner,” he continues mildly, to which she apologizes, equally softly. She ‘s running ragged paying her penance, and she asks Ford, a military man, “What do you do when the mission’s over?”

Rick, Carl, Michonne Walking Dead

It’s all fun and games. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

Meanwhile, Michonne and Carl play “who can balance on the track the longest” while Rick thinks pragmatically about water supplies. Despite himself it makes Rick grin to see Carl happy and laughing. They bet on candy bars, and in an attempt to startle Carl, Michonne loses her own balance. She hands him the last “Big Kat” bar, and Carl gives her a piece of his winnings. In this scene, civilization prevails. It’s such a rarity anymore in the series that it’s duly sweet. They’re cute together. Everybody’s forming their own little families. Read more

I’ve redecorated. Help warm my (metaphorical) house!

Big things are afoot. In the last few months I’ve decided firmly to take my own happiness, my few belongings, my space (both physical and online), and my work, and shape it into something that makes me feel proud and comfortable.

Needless to say, I’m a little extra antisocial and more depleted than usual. On top of moving and assembling actual furniture, figuring placement of decorations and lights, and deciding (yet again) to renew the lease with my less-than-ideal landlady, I’m also studying for a huge exam that’ll help me obtain a three-letter title (and hopefully more mobility and more money). Finally, I’m revamping this place (which has a much better landlord). The redecoration process has been lengthy and unexciting – but it is nearly complete.

Just in time for the final season of Mad Men, I’ve archived all of my recaps of seasons 5 and 6 (and holy shit, do you guys remember just how trippy season 5 was?). Likewise, all my recaps of The Walking Dead are up, starting from a blog after the series premiere and continuing all the way through to this Sunday’s episode. Finally, use the navigation up top to browse through old movie reviews; they’re loosely categorized for search purposes. I only put up the ones I want to show you. It’s kind of like rearranging my downstairs bookshelf so that the pretty hardcovers, the “sophisticated” Salinger, Oates, and Chabon are on display. The Charlaine Harris and Stephen King books reside upstairs (and are dogeared because I love them).

I’m no graphic designer, but in preparation for Mad Men I’ve pasted up some temporary wallpaper that’ll make your eyes twitch (like so many of the color combos of the 1960s did). I also made my hair purple, because you know what? I feel purple.

Settling is for suckers.

Settling is for suckers.

So come in, please, and make yourself comfortable. Make yourself a martini. Do take a tour. It ain’t much, but it’s home. For now.

The Walking Dead Recap: “The Grove” (Season 4, Episode 14)

Well. This week’s episode of The Walking Dead was a doozie, eh? When I woke up on Monday morning and googled The Walking Dead, the first few headlines to appear were “Did AMC go too far?” and “Was last night’s episode a misstep?” Due to some Facebook and Instagram spoilers I was pretty certain we were going to see Lizzie bite the dust. Following Alanna Masterson (@lucytwobows), as it turns out, led to following Lauren Cohan (@laurencohan), and their creepy Instagram fans (“PERF!” “Ugh WHY CAN’T I BE HER?!?!?!”) gave some stuff away. If it’s any consolation to those of you who think the show “overstepped,” it also fell short of what the books did here.

Tyreese, Lizzie, Judith Walking Dead

I can’t be the only one who cringed EVERY TIME they left Judith in her arms, right? Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

The episode opens on a seemingly serene scene (I’m feeling onomatopeoic today, apparently): the camera watches from inside a dusty window as two girls scramble about in the yard; a staticky record croons, and a kettle crescendos to a boil. I dunno about you, but I spent this scene squinting at my screen, trying to decide if this was play or chase – or some combination of the two. How right I was.

After the credits, we cut to Carol and Lizzie watching over Tyreese as he sleeps on the railroad tracks. Lizzie matter-of-factly tells Carol she could take Judith if there’s trouble…urgh. When Lizzie asks, Carol tells her about Sophia (remember Sophia, the reason for shitty, terrible season 2?). “She didn’t have a mean bone in her body,” Carol says. “Is that why she isn’t here now?” inquires Lizzie. This kid who’s so out of touch with humanity somehow hits that nail right on the head: only the mean survive the apocalypse. Read more