The first two episodes of Mad Men‘s fourth season have been oddly uneven. While “Public Relations,” had the season off to a good start, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” suddenly jerked the breakneck pace begun with “Shut the Door, Have a Seat,” to a grinding halt. So the question remained: which suit would “The Good News,” the third episode of the season, follow?
Neither is the answer. “The Good News” was a happy medium between the two previous episodes, and managed to mix plot with character development for one of those episodes that will probably be nominated for an Emmy next year. It was a lot of self-searching and sitting around and talking, but the character development was deep and meaningful. Don learned a lot about himself through Anna Draper and her family, and we might just be witnessing a bit of a turnaround in Draper.
The episode also had genuine laugh-out-loud moments, in typical Mad Men fashion. Once again it was Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) who stole the episode, along with Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) in one hilarious scene involving a floral mix-up. It might be one of Mad Men‘s all-time funniest moments since the foot and lawnmower last year.
Lane also had some great developmental moments in this episode; it was honestly the most we’ve seen of the character, and that was very welcome. My love of Jared Harris’s acting was the only reason I liked Lane up until this episode, but we saw such a different side to his character that I now have a reason to like him on his own merits. His interactions with Don throughout the second half of the episode were very interesting; as a recent divorcÃ©, he suddenly eased Don’s loneliness. Despite their being mistaken for a gay couple by a comedian, the two hired prostitutes as “welcome distractions,” and seemed to form a bit of a support system for each other.
My only regret of the episode is that we saw so little of Roger and Pete. The two usually prominent characters were reduced to two nonspeaking appearances in the final scene of the episode. However, their lack of an appearance probably means that they’ll factor in more prominently in upcoming episodes. In any case, their absence was hardly noticeable until they popped up in that last scene. The rest of the episode was so strong I had forgotten that they weren’t around. (The lack of Betty on the other hand? So not disappointing.)
The episode was definitely the best this season, and a return to form for the series, which had begun to seem a little lost in earlier episodes. If Mad Men can continue this delicate balance between plot and character, this year will be an Emmy winner for sure. A