Mad Men 4.05 "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" Review

Tonight’s episode of Mad Men was its Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World episode. Not literally, of course; there was no reference or anything like that. But if the production team of the Emmy-winning series had added some “booms” and “pows” to the show’s aesthetic, I can’t say I would have minded, because the episode was full of great dialogue, some of it so sharp that it carried an almost physical violence to it, if that makes any sense.

This was perhaps the first episode in which I really despised Roger Sterling. The character was really quite nasty in the episode — perhaps an understandable trait considering his war memories. However, as Pete Campbell so gratifyingly said, it was time for him to quit using his war-born racism as an excuse — he was really just afraid that as soon as the company no longer needed Lucky Strikes, they no longer needed him. I’ve largely been indifferent about Pete throughout the series, but this episode made me jab my fist in the air with glee. POW!

Jared Harris was unfortunately not very visible in this week’s episode; however, given his large involvement with last week’s episode, I find that forgivable. But come on, Weiner — he needs at least one one-liner per episode. It’s only right.

I was disappointed to see Betty Draper back as well, though I’m happy to say that she seems to be taking an almost peripheral role to that of her daughter, Sally, who is a fantastic young actress who had to do some (I’m sure) fairly embarrassing scenes for this week’s episode. The masturbating scene aside, getting slapped across the face by January Jones — WHACK! — has to be pretty intense. I was half wanting someone to slap Betty Draper right back — that is pretty horrible parenting, in my opinion. But then again, since when has Betty been a good mother?

And Don Draper’s Machiavellian plot to bankrupt his competitors was absolutely brilliant. The episode did a fantastic job of keeping us unsure of whether or not he would be successful in the end, which made watching his master plan fall into place that much cooler. We never got to see his jerkish competitor’s reaction to this loss, but I’m not sure it would have been as satisfying as Don’s semi-smug “I knew it would work” attitude. Here’s hoping for some more (sporadic) inter-agency competition. (First step: Get Ken Cosgrove back.)

The episode was the best of the season. It sparked with tension and brilliant plot resolution, bringing the first wham-bam energy of the season thus far. A

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